Department of Social Development on Budget Allocation: briefing

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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


1 April 2003

Ms L Jacobus (ANC)

Document handed out:
Department of Social Development Presentation

The Department briefed the Committee on strategic overview and policy developments, budget priorities for the next three years and breakdown of the budget allocation, changes in the budget structure and key challenges facing the department. Issues discussed included the capacity of the Department to extend the child grant; backlogs in processing applications and registration of potential beneficiaries; child headed house holds; under spending in provinces; lack of delivery by service providers and facilities at paypoints.

Ms Jacobus (ANC) said that there had been a change in the programme: Statistics South Africa was to have given a presentation on Aids deaths in the country. She said that this presentation was postponed until the 15 of April 2003.

Ms Jacobus informed the Committee that the topic for the upcoming debate was on the role of social grants in pushing back the frontiers of poverty.

Ms T Nwedamutswu (Deputy Director General for Integrated Development, Department of Social Development) expressed apologies for the absence of the acting Director-General, who had previous commitments.

Mr C Pakade (Chief Financial Officer, Department of Social Development) briefed the Committee. Please refer to the presentation attached.

Ms Jacobus referred to the financial figures under the heading "Widening the Social Safety Net". The Select Committee represented provinces; a provincial breakdown would be far more helpful than the global figure given. A further breakdown of the figures in terms of grant type would be useful.

Regarding the one million children under the age of seven still not registered on the system, Ms Jacobus asked what problems were being experienced to cause such a backlog. In their provincial visits, Committee members had found that lack of correct Identity Documents (IDs) was the main reason.

Ms Jacobus asked if the Department had the capacity to roll out the grant extensions. It appeared that the Department was lacking in human resources.

Lastly Ms Jacobus referred to the issue of child headed households. Their fate could not be left to the good will of their neighbours, especially since many people would not take the children in as they had HIV.

Dr P Nel (NNP) asked for clarification on whether the National Agency would be taking over all the payments of grants from the provinces. Would they therefore also be dealing with complaints about non-payment and delayed processing of applications and would they have the necessary capacity to do so?

Responding to Ms Jacobus's request for a financial breakdown, Mr J Selwin (Department of Social Development) said that Ms L Pietersen (Parliamentary Officer) would provide this for her.

Mr Selwin said that the number of unregistered children was now less than 1 million. The areas most affected were the Free State, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and Limpopo. 400 000 of the 1 million were in the Eastern Cape. He confirmed that incorrect IDs was the cause of many problems but that lack of registration was also due to lack of processing capacity in the provincial departments, for example 200 000 applications which were submitted and captured had not been approved.

Mr Selwin added that the people's lack of knowledge about the grants and their entitlements was severely lacking as they had recently found in a door-to-door campaign in Kwazulu Natal.

Mr Selwin said that there was not enough capacity to roll out the child grant extension to the fullest extent. However the legislative and IT system were ready. Most of the children to be registered were attending school in the mornings and they were not expecting the queues to be too bad. They were working with the Department of Education to help them.

He added that although the number of beneficiaries of grants had doubled the human resource (HR) capacity had decreased. Mr Selwin said that they had fewer officials than four years ago. In addition he said that even if more staff were to be hired, they did not have the physical infrastructure to deal with the extra staff.

Mr Selwin said that they were still assessing the needs for improving capacity and would be in communication with the Committee.

Mr Selwin said that by July 2003 they would be fully ready to roll out the extension. Gauteng and the Western Cape had better infrastructure than other provinces.

Mr Selwin said that they were looking at regulations to better provide for child headed households and the new Social Assistance Bill was to help in this regard, for example so that a child could arrive with almost any care giver to receive her grant.

Mr Selwin said that the National Agency was taking over the payment of grants as well as the management and administration of the system. The take over would be a phased in process. They experienced many problems due to the discrepancies and uneven standards between the provinces. National Agency was intended to create uniformity and standardisation.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that the Integrated Plan for Community Based Care had a specific focus on orphaned and child headed households. The Poverty relief Programme specifically targets these children. The Food Emergency Programme acknowledged that some children did not even have the means to make themselves a meal and the Programme therefore had a number of initiatives such as soup kitchens and drop in centres that the children could make use of, as well as the school feeding project. Ms Nwedamutswu said that the foster care grant was intended to enable the children to stay in their community by being cared for by other members of the community.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that one of the biggest challenges they faced was in identifying the chid headed households. The department had approached schools to help them in this regard.

Mr A Theron (Chief Director of Welfare Services, Department of Social Development) said that the new Child Care legislation, apart from providing for conventional foster care, would also provide for kinship foster care in order for children to remain within their communities or families. It would also provide for cluster foster care where children would be linked to an adult in the community for support.

Regarding the financial capacity for the extension of the child grant, Mr Pakade said that the provinces utilise a portion of the money for administration and implementation and that the financial capacity was fine.

Mr H Sogoni (UDM) referred to the outsourcing of grant payments to Cash Payment Services (CPS) and AllPay in the Eastern Cape. They were not delivering on their contracts: arriving late, not processing forms, using technology that constantly did not work. How far was the department in addressing this lack of service delivery.

Mr J Tlhagale (UCDP) referred to the alignment of local government IDPs and asked what the specific problems were. In North West they had experienced problems in this regard.

Ms Jacobus referred to the slide in the presentation showing the Integrated Social Security System (ISSS) spending for 2002/03. It appeared that the allocated money was divided equally between the provinces. What was the rationale behind this given the provinces differing capacities and populations.

Ms Jacobus asked what the rationale behind the allocation of the HIV/AIDS budget per province was. Why had KwaZulu Natal spent so little of its HIV/AIDS allocation.

Dr O Baloyi (IFP) asked why the proportion of monies spent was always the lowest in KwaZulu Natal.

Dr Baloyi referred to the target of being able to pay grants to beneficiaries within four months of application. Why had they decided on this time frame and asked what the current time period was so he could make a comparison.

Mr Pakade said that with regards to the under spending in some of the provinces, they had initially been alarmed by the lack of spending and capacity. They had visited the provinces and seen different dynamics at work. The eastern cape for example had been completely confused about the allocation of monies, and there had been miscommunication between the provincial department and provincial treasury. The department did not realise that there were conditional grants built into the allocation of funds and had spent the money on other things, not on the grants and support.

Mr Pakade said that in KZN there were capacity problems. They had found that there were a number of internal management problems, and critical posts had not been filled. They still had no Chief Financial Officer. Money had been spent, but misallocated. They had also spent money on physical infrastructure. Mr Pakade added however that they had seen an improvement this year.

Regarding Ms Jacobus's question about the rationale behind the financial allocation to the provinces, Mr Pakade said the money was not split equally and Limpopo received a large amount and spent all of it. Last year a decision was taken with the National Treasury and provincial departments that if money was not spent it would be rolled over.

Mr Pakade replied to Ms Jacobus's question on the criteria for allocating the HIV/AIDS budget, and said that the criteria included the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the area (primary criteria, based on Statistics SA findings) and the number of existing support / complementary programmes in the province.

Ms Nwedamutswu added that the province of greatest HIV/AIDS prevalence changes. It was KZN, but is now in the Free State.

Responding to Mr Thagale's question, Ms Nwedamutswu said that the IDP had their own plans and therefore the department had invited them to participate in departmental forums. They were still working in parallel in some areas and not together, and that this was a challenge.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that this financial year (2003/4) was the final year for the Poverty Relief Programme to work in its current form. As the department exists, the Programme would graduate to being run by the provincial departments and local councils. However, they were not yet ready for this stage.

Mr Selwin addressed the question of service providers in the Eastern cape. They had many problems, but that these were partly due to the department not having given the service providers the necessary information to work effectively. In addition the service providers did not adequately prepare to deal with the huge numbers and the rural nature of the Eastern Cape.

Mr Selwin said that AllPay, which started sooner, was improving its service. They had continuing problems with CPS and were dealing with them. Mr Selwin said that the Department's legal advisors were unpacking the contracts to make them clearer. Penalties had been instituted against CPS last month. If CPS did not arrive at the paypoints they would have money deducted form them. Some areas would only be handed over to CPS once they were fully organised.

Regarding the time frame for processing applications, Mr Selwin said that the national average was 54 days. In the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KZN it was 90 days and in the Western Cape, 25 days. The slow turn around time was not only capacity, but also budget related. The National Treasury was now providing more specific allocations.

Mr Selwin said that since the December 2001 amendment that made grants payable from the application date and not the approval date, departments had a greater interest in processing applications as soon as possible.

Mr Selwin said that nothing in particular informed the decision to make the turn around time 43 days. It was based on improving the national average.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) said that she was from the Limpopo province where they had spent all of their allocated money. This amount did not even cater for one third of the population. Were there strategies for dealing with provinces that spent their allocated budgets and needed further financial assistance.

Ms Mashangoane said that in her provincial visits she had seen piles of unprocessed applications. Was the current fund allocation enough to cater for the backlog as well as new applications?

Mr Tlhagale asked Ms Nwedamutswu if she was satisfied with the pace of registration for grants.

Ms Jacobus referred to the report the Department had given the Committee, dealing in detail with the matters referred to in the presentation. There were expenditure trends of 2.2 billion in 2001/2. Was there any of this left?

Ms Jacobus said that the Committee had visited the North West as the NCOP and had a day of public hearings on social grants. One of the main problems highlighted was the difficulty they experienced with Home Affairs in getting the correct documents. Very poor people were forced to travel great distances in being sent backwards and forwards between Home Affairs and Social Development. Ms Jacobus asked why they could not combine facilities. Ms Jacobus said that the mobile Home Affairs did not appear to be working, as they did not have electricity in many areas.

Ms Jacobus said that the provision of shelter and water at paypoints should be a basic part of the tendering process of service providers.

Mr Sogoni asked if the Department had a contingency plan for dealing with the back payments (due to backlogs) of grants to deceased members of the public.

Mr Pakade replied to Ms Mashangoane's question. They had looked at the Division of Revenue with the Treasury regarding non-performing provinces. They had at certain times withheld money from such provinces. Perhaps if a province had spent its allocated budget appropriately, it should receive ten percent more the following year. He believed in penalising and "incentivising" provinces' spending.

Ms Nwedamutswu said that regarding the difficulties people were facing with Home Affairs; some communities were taking initiatives, such as setting up rosters and getting Home Affairs to come to their community. However the issue of Home Affairs was a battle for the Department.

Mr Selwin said that the budget allocation for provinces should be based on demand. Treasury's allocations were beginning to reflect this.

Referring to the Limpopo province, Mr Selwin said that 0.2% of their social assistance budget was spent on personnel and that they had an inadequate staff to beneficiary ratio. In addition they had spent very little on infrastructure. Until Social Development was separated from Health, this province would stay behind, as it had to compete for resources. KwaZulu Natal experienced similar problems and that the National Agency would hopefully help with such problems.

Me Selwin said that they still had a lot of work to do to register all the beneficiaries. If a person had waited the provincial average time for an application to be processed, they would be paid programmatically. If they had waited longer than the average, their files were verified for back payment. All this work had to be done with already stretched HR capacity. Mr Selwin said that they had hired contract workers, but they did not know the system very well.

Regarding the back payment owed to a deceased person, in the next six months they would be trying to contact the necessary people to receive the deceased's entitlement (many people did not come forward). They aimed to complete this in the next six months and then report to Treasury.

Mr Selwin said that Home Affairs was part of all their initiatives. At local and provincial level they were working together. Social Development Department was subsidising them on transport and food. Some officials were even volunteering to work on weekends without pay to decrease the backlog.

Mr Selwin said that sharing resources and facilities with Home Affairs as Ms Jacobus had suggested, made sense. However, the problem was due to the intergovernmental system, as they could instruct Home Affairs.

Mr Selwin referred to facilities at paypoints and said that it did not make economic sense to spend millions on upgrading facilities that were used for one or two days a week. In the Western Cape and Gauteng where community centres were often used, upgrading facilities did make sense.

Mr Selwin said that they were working with the South African Council of Banking Research Institute to help address the issue of paypoints.

Ms Jacobus said that she was not necessarily referring to permanent structures at paypoints, but paypoint conditions could be improved by providing facilities such as temporary toilets, marquees or other temporary shelters.

Mr Pakade said the role of local government could also be explored in addressing this, as well as the role of other departments, such as the Department of Water Affairs.

The meeting was adjourned.


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