The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) responded to an invitation from the Committee to report on progress since the court ruling that both SASSA and Cash Payment Services (CPS) were under a constitutional obligation to make sure that payment of benefits took place as required on 1 April. The current contract between SASSA and CPS had been extended for a further period of 12 months, and the court had uplifted its supervisory role in the matter in order to make sure that SASSA made good on its obligations. It had been ordered to start the procurement process to ensure that by 1 April 2018 there was an alternative payment service provider to CPS. Also, SASSA and the Minister, on a quarterly basis, had to report, in the form of an affidavit to the court on their progress on meeting the deliverables. The first report was due on 17 June 2017.
The Minister of Social Development said that previously the system had been “hacked,” and the wrong people would get grants. The Department had begun removing names repeated in the system, and an advisory committee was looking into the issues on the ground. The ministry had made the payment system user-friendly, and this would help people escape the cycle of poverty.
The DSD said its budget vote and annual strategic plan for 2015-2020 was informed by the National Development Plan (NDP) and aimed at making social security a basic right and ensure that by 2030 everyone enjoyed an adequate standard of living. It would strengthen social welfare service delivery through a review of the social welfare white paper, and the amendment of the Older Persons Act 2006, among other initiatives.
Welfare services for social crime prevention and victim empowerment would focus on the objective of reducing the incidence of social crime and substance abuse. This would be achieved through legislation on victim empowerment support services, such as the South African integrated programme of action against gender-based violence. There would be strengthening of the child protection services to improve the quality of early childhood development (ECD) services by 2019 through the amended Children’s Act and the strengthening of child rights, governance and compliance systems. There would be expansion of the child support grant (CSG) to orphans and vulnerable children, the development of a mandatory cover for retirement, disability and survivor benefits, and the development of an effective, efficient and accessible appeals service for the beneficiaries of social assistance.
The Department’s 2017/18 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) baseline allocation amounted to R160.7bn. This would increase to R173.2bn in 2018/19, and to R186.1bn the following year. The major components of the allocation were social assistance (R151.6bn) and social security and policy administration (R7.3bn). The social assistance component would grow by over 7.5% a year in both 2018/19 and 2019/20. Old age grants would account for R64.4bn in 2017/18, increasing to R70.3bn and R76.8bn over the next two financial years. Child support grants would grow from R56.3bn, to R60.5bn and R64.7bn. However, grants to war veterans would be reduced from the current level of R2.9bn, to R2.1bn and R1.8bn. Disability grants would increase from R21.2bn, to R22.2bn and R23.4bn. The other categories of support were foster care, which would receive R5.3bn in this financial year, care dependency (R2.9bn), grants in aid (R793m) and social relief (R600m).
Members of the Committee noted with concern that there were incidences of social workers on strike due to unpaid salaries by the government. Some of their grievances included the lack of support from the Department and their impoverishment due to the inadequate funding of social projects resulting in them having to pay out of their own pockets. It was also noted that cooperatives were failing and that the Department needed to take a keen interest by establishing a monitoring unit in order to resolve the core issues.
The Department said that it was doing the best it could with the available resources at its disposal. It faced huge challenges since its work required it to go to the communities and try to teach and empower them to sustain themselves.
SASSA briefing on implementation of court judgment
Ms Zodwa Mvulane, Payment Transition Project Manager: South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) said that in terms of the court’s judgments delivered on 17 March 2017, both SASSA and Cash Payment Services (CPS) had been told that they were under a constitutional obligation to make sure that payment took place on 1 April 2017. The current contract, between SASSA and CPS, was extended for a further period of 12 months. The court had uplifted its supervisory role in the matter in order to make sure that SASSA made good on its obligations and deliverables.
SASSA had been ordered to ensure that it started the procurement process to ensure that by 1 April 2018 there was a payment service provider any other than CPS. Also, SASSA and the Minister, on a quarterly basis, had to report, in the form of an affidavit to the court on their progress on meeting the deliverables. The first report was due on 17 June 2017.
In the report, SASSA should give a detailed framework on the timeframes. A technical committee should be constituted by all stakeholders, which would oversee SASSA’s work. The technical committee would review the affidavit before its submission to court in order to verify if the information contained therein was true. The constitution of the technical committee was to happen within 40 days after the delivery of the judgment. All parties had since then made efforts to nominate members, but SASSA was yet to receive a report from the constitutional court as to who of the nominees had been appointed.
After the expiry of the contract in 12 months’ time, SASSA should appoint external auditors to audit the books for CPS to check if CPS had made any profits over the invalid document. In the event that CPS wished to revise its fees, it would have to engage in talks with National Treasury. By 1 April 2017, payments had been made, despite some difficulties occasioned by robberies at the ATMs.
Timeframes had been established regarding the appointment of the service provider for payment as at 1 April 2018. The affidavit must also include the in-sourcing plan, which would be in twofold. The first would deal with how SASSA would replace the current service provider after the interim period and secondly, when and how SASSA would in-source all the services that were to be done by CPS. SASSA had engaged all relevant government departments, such as the South African postal service offices and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).
The Chairperson asked whether the laid-out plan and intentions of SASSA had been written down anywhere.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked in which capacity in the DSD Ms Mvulane was addressing the Committee.
Ms Mvulane introduced herself and her position at SASSA. She apologised for not presenting the relevant document to the Committee, and said that copies had been sent for.
The Chairperson expressed her displeasure with SASSA’s presentation without documentation, and advised that presentation documents should be sent to the Committee prior to a meeting, and not after.
Ms Zwane expressed her concern that the Members were under the impression that the Committee was engaging the Department, and not a departmental agency, since the Committee oversaw the Department and not its agencies.
The Chairperson clarified that the Committee was indeed engaging with the DSD, and it was only because they had not had enough time before that prompted her to request the Minister to brief Members very briefly on the agencies of the Department. The Minister had delegated this opportunity and that was why Ms Mvulane was briefing the Committee. The Committee would still have an opportunity to engage with SASSA directly at a later time. She asked the Minister to give a political overview.
Ms Bathabile Dlamini, Minister: Department of Social Development (DSD) requested that the Committee allow the Department to send representatives, who may not necessarily be the project managers, to brief it on the progress of the Department’s projects.
SASSA had been formed with a mandate for paying out pensions. However, this had not been happening. Previously there had been ‘hacks’ in the system, and the wrong people would get grants. The Department had begun removing names that were repeated in the system. An advisory committee had been established to look into the issues on the ground. A report had later been drafted regarding the matter, and the ministry had engaged the European Union to collaborate on the project. The EU had drafted a report which had informed the formation of the work stream. The report of the advisory committee had been presented to the management of SASSA whereby some areas had been identified as important, such as the establishment of an information technology (IT) unit in SASSA.
Regarding the financial management, the ministry had made the payment system ‘user friendly,’ and in effect it would help the people escape the cycle of poverty. The money allocated should always go to where the people were. Most of the grant money went on travel expenditure and basic sustenance of the people until there was nothing more to take back home. The Department had ensured that the payment systems had been extended to get closer to where the people lived, for more convenience.
Regarding the work streams, the Department had professional people working in the work stream. Members of Parliament (MPs) had complained that all the people in the work streams came from the advisory committee, but although all members of the advisory committee had been given an opportunity to sign up for the work, many had passed it up, citing various reasons.
After the report by the advisory committee was given, the legal advisors had advised that the work could not be completed within the specified timeframe and that the Department needed to go to court in order to get an extension of time. Since the extension by the court was given, there had been progress and the Department had ensured that there was a buy-in by all stake holders despite the existing challenges. However, some of the work would be done by the Department, some by other departments and the remainder would be offered to other institutions through tendering. The DSD had ensured that there would be a transfer of information. It had begun to work with the DHA on the biometrics and the storing of the information with the South African State Information Technology Agency (SITA), and in science and technology with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee needed to move on in the interests of time, and that the Members should postpone their questions until after the presentations.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) proposed that the Committee should deal separately with the issues relating to SASSA and then deal with the Department’s APP, since they were different issues.
The Chairperson expressed her concern that proceeding with the SASSA issue would come at the expense of the time allocated for the DSD’s APP presentation.
Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) proposed that the Committee should proceed with the APP presentation.
The chairperson allocated 45 minutes for the Department to present its APP.
Annual Performance Plan (APP): Briefing by DSD
Dr Maria Mabetoa, Acting Director General (ADG): DSD: said the Department had consulted internally in the sector when coming up with the strategic plan. The Committee would see that some of its advice had been incorporated in the plans regarding the scholarship programme and how it had absorbed the social workers and the infrastructure of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) facilities. The conditional grant received had been dedicated to the maintenance of the ECDs.
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Head: Monitoring and Evaluations, DSD, said that the presentation was a result of rigorous consultation conducted across the sector. The APP was informed by the National Development Plan and provided the strategic priorities and the 2017 DSD MTEF baseline allocations. The strategic plan aimed at making social security a basic right and ensuring that by 2030 everyone enjoyed adequate standards of living.
The medium term strategic priorities were reforming the social welfare sector and services, improving the provision of early childhood development, and strengthening integrated community developments interventions.
Regarding strategic plan on welfare services for older persons, the DSD would strengthen social welfare service delivery through the review of the social welfare white paper, and the amendment of the Older Persons Act of 2006, among others.
The welfare services for social crime prevention and victim empowerment would have the objective of reducing the incidences of social crime and substance abuse. This would be achieved through legislation on victim empowerment support services, the South African integrated programme of action on gender- based violence, and the implementation of the integrated social crime prevention action plan, among others.
The DSD would aspire to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and empower them through the implementation of the 2016 white paper on the rights of persons and the development of an inequality index.
There would be strengthening of the child protection services to improve the quality of early childhood development (ECD) services by 2019. This would be done through the amended Children’s Act and the strengthening of child rights, governance and compliance systems.
Regarding the social assistance and social security policy, there would be an effective and efficient social security system that protected the poor and vulnerable people against income poverty by 2019. This would be achieved through the expansion of the Child Support Grant (CSG) to orphans and vulnerable children, the development of a mandatory cover for retirement, disability and survivor benefits and the development of an effective, efficient and accessible appeals service for the beneficiaries of social assistance.
On community development, the DSD would facilitate and coordinate community development efforts by building a vibrant and sustainable community by 2019. This would be through a regulated uniform community development practice, developing guidelines on community mobilisation through outreach programmes, among others.
The annual performance plan had five programmes dealing with administration, social assistance, social security policy and administration, welfare services policy development and implementation and social policy and integrated service delivery.
The administration programme involved the administration of the ministry, strategy and stakeholder management. This would be achieved by trying to enhance stakeholder engagements and the DSD’s participation in international engagements.
There would be the development of tools to measure social protection outcomes. On the social assistance programme, there would be social grants dedicated to old age recipients. The DSD IT sector would be improved by the development of a knowledge management system and also the integration of all support systems.
Regarding the social assistance, with the exception of the foster care and the social relief of distress grants, all other grants would not be decreasing towards the outer years. The foster care grant decrease could be explained by the children growing up and moving out from foster care, among other reasons.
In the current financial year, in respect of social security policy and administration, the DSD would submit the policy for the universalisation of benefits to older persons for approval. The expansion of CSG to orphans and vulnerable children would be effected by introducing the bill to Parliament so that it would be implemented in the outer years. There would be development of a policy on pregnancy and maternity benefits. There were ongoing discussions on the white paper dealing with the policy framework.
With regard to professional social services and older persons, there was a review of the white paper on social welfare. Currently there were ongoing consultations with stake holders on its implementation. There were also ongoing consultations to develop a demand and supply model for the Security Service Providers (SSPs) developed. A recruitment and retention strategy for SSPs had been developed, to ensure the retention of professionals in the sector. Legislation on the professionalisation of SSPs would be submitted to Cabinet for approval and gazetting thereafter for public comments. There would also be the introduction of the Older Persons Act 2006 Amendment Bill in Parliament in this financial year, to be implemented in the outer years.
The national integrated implementation plan on ECD policy was awaiting approval, and would be implemented onwards in the outer years. It would also provide subsidies to over 50 000 children through the ECD conditional grant. The programme would enhance the registration and protection of adopted children and amend the Children’s Act to build the capacity of the provinces.
Regarding social crime prevention and victim empowerment, the implementation of the Child Justice Act would create the policy framework and include nine provinces in the policy framework. There would also be an integrated social crime prevention strategy and a bill submitted to Parliament on victim empowerment support services. The programme would engage the provinces on teenage parenting programmes, conduct national anti-substance abuse Awareness campaigns, and would facilitate the submission of a draft National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) to Cabinet for approval.
On HIV and AIDS, the programme would strengthen the psycho-social support services to orphans and vulnerable children among other target groups, through training programs designed for organisations and implementers.
The DSD would strengthen the legislative and policy framework regarding the rights of persons with disabilities through the submission of a policy for Cabinet approval in this financial year. This would be supplemented by a white paper on the rights of persons with disabilities that would be developed towards the outer years. Regarding non-profit organisations (NPOs), the registration and information management system would be enhanced through national road shows in 90 local municipalities. There would also be capacity building through the training of 3 000 NPOs on governance and compliance
In the fifth programme on social policy and integrated service delivery, there would be training on policy making for officials from the present year onwards to the outer years among other training and knowledge sharing programs. The national NPO compliance monitoring system would be enhanced to have a 95% rating of reports processed within two months of receipt. The DSD would submit its sector financing policy for approval in this financial year, which would be implemented onwards to the outer years. It would also submit the partnership model for state-civil society to the Cabinet for approval.
There should be community and youth development programmes to facilitate the implementation of the community development practice policy and the social development youth strategy. In this financial year, the DSD would engage about 600 cooperatives to participate in training and workshops. There would also be the implementation of the food and nutrition security plan, with the target of ensuring that at least 80 000 people per year had access to food.
Ms Zwane complained that some of the documents received by the Committee members had a only few pages similar to those of the DSD.
The Chairperson asked why the Committee did not have the same presentation, and asked that Members be handed the correct copies of the documents.
Mr Clifford Appel, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): DSD: said that the Department’s 2017/18 Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) baseline allocation amounted to R160.7bn. This would increase to R173.2bn in 2018/19, and to R186.1bn the following year. The major components of the allocation were social assistance (R151.6bn) and social security and policy administration (R7.3bn).
The social assistance component would grow by over 7.5% a year in both 2018/19 and 2019/20. Old age grants would account for R64.4bn in 2017/18, increasing to R70.3bn and R76.8bn over the next two financial years. Child support grants would grow from R56.3bn, to R60.5bn and R64.7bn. However, grants to war veterans would be reduced from the current level of R2.9bn, to R2.1bn and R1.8bn. Disability grants would increase from R21.2bn, to R22.2bn and R23.4bn. The other categories of support were foster care, which would receive R5.3bn in this financial year, care dependency (R2.9bn), grants in aid (R793m) and social relief (R600m).
Minister Dlamini said that, as much as the DSD was grateful about receiving a grant (R57bn in 2017/18) to deal with alcohol and substance abuse, it faced serious face challenges in this area. It had been trying to evaluate and come up with solutions for drug trafficking, and was concerned with the continuing increase of youths involved in trafficking drugs. There had to be a radical change towards fighting alcohol and substance abuse.
The DSD, together with the NCOP, was looking into ECD grants to provinces. There had been discussions with the provinces to ensure that the money was used in the correct manner. The Department was focusing on feminism, and trying to make a change for single mothers. It would create a special programme for children with single parents to help them grow with values useful in the society.
Regarding the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), they were heavy affected by the government budget cuts, yet they took up most of the social welfare responsibilities. The issue of financial constraints affected everyone, but the NCOP needed to come up with new ideas on how to provide more services to the people.
Ms Zwane agreed the budget issues affected all departments due to the heavy cuts on the baseline allocations. She asked how the DSD planned to cut down on its compensation base and still employ more social workers. On the ECD, the Department should be congratulated on the beautiful structures developed, but the services were still wanting, with the late payment of subsidies by the government being one of the many issues that stood out. The DSD needed to find a way so that the procedure for qualification for grants would become simple and efficient.
Ms Mampuru referred to the issue of cooperatives, and asked if it was possible for the Department to partner up with small businesses so to expand as much as possible, since it was responsible for the empowerment of the society. On the sustainability of cooperatives, she said that the DSD had tried and failed before, and inquired whether there was a plan to revive the failed cooperatives by putting up a monitoring unit to keep watch on the existing cooperatives. She inquired how the DSD determined an individual’s disability, because in some areas there were instances where people who had only minor physical disadvantages, qualified for the grant. Regarding the anti-substance abuse centres, she asked what happened after an individual had been rehabilitated and was in good health -- how did the DSD keep such a person from relapsing back to drugs? She suggested that the DSD should come up with new and creative programmes for such individuals.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) commented on the situation at the rehabilitation centre in Mpumalanga. During the Committee’s oversight visit, they had noticed that the social workers were not on duty due to an ongoing strike because of unpaid salaries. There was also no security at the facility and this created an ease of access to drugs. She asked how the DSD was planning to remedy the situation, and made a request to the Minister to strengthen the follow-up procedures in the Department.
Regarding the SASSA presentation, despite payments having allegedly been made, the people of Rabasotho were yet to receive their payments. She asked the Minister to follow the matter up so that payments were made. The extended CPS contract did raise concerns after the Constitutional Court’s ruling, since the illegal deductions continued. She asked how the Minister would protect the victims of these deductions. She expressed her displeasure at how money was being deducted from peoples’ accounts without their consent.
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North-West) inquired whether the money budgeted for the child support grant over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) would be sufficient for the beneficiaries.
Mr Khawula asked whether the decrease in the baseline would affect the compensation of social workers. Could Members get the briefing documents from SASSA? Who was responsible for the procurement -- was it SASSA or the DSD? He also wanted to know what profit the previous payment service provider had been making, and whether a financial benefit ceiling for the incoming payment service provider had been established.
The Chairperson asked whether SASSA had a person responsible for planning and project management. The Department had attempted to undertake some of their projects, but could not manage even after three years, yet SASSA had proposed to complete the project within three months. She asked whether this was a realistic projection and whether there was a project plan or a project charter. She suggested that the committee should get monthly reports in order to monitor the project. On social cohesion, she asked how the DSD measured such an objective, and how the Committee could do oversight visits to 130 wards in one financial year. She suggested that the Committee should have a meeting with all nine provinces highlighted in the presentation, together with the Department, to discuss the ECD grant and the absorption of social workers.
There were concerns that there had not been adequate funding for the training of social workers, and this necessitated the development of a practical working plan. Substance abuse was still a major problem in the country, and she suggested that NGOs should be involved and funded.
Ms Mampuru proposed that in the interest of time, the Department should be given priority to respond, and that questions relating to SASSA be postponed to the Committee’s session with SASSA.
Minister Dlamin said that the DSD would follow up on areas where the Committee had visited,. There were on-going negotiations with the unions over the striking social workers. The DSD sympathised with the social workers, as some of their issues were justifiable, such as their salary levels, commitments made previously, and office space and privacy. Some of the social workers ended up impoverished, since then used their own salaries to help the poor. There had been conferences where social workers had been invited, but the younger social workers were radical. They raised concerns that some of the items on their curriculum were outdated and not relevant to the issues that faces South Africans. There should also be adequate supervision to ensure that the work was done properly and workers remained motivated. The Department was in discussions with the unions on issues regarding the workers who had been trained but were yet to be absorbed, and those who worked for NGOs at salaries below the market rate.
On the issue of disability, this depended on the nurturing of the person by his/her family. This affected the level of development in the country and therefore accessibility to resources and opportunities for persons living with disabilities remained a key issue regarding progress. On the issue of the oversight visits to the wards, the Department would be dealing with these per district and would prioritise visits based on the economic situation of the ward, beginning with the poorest. The challenge for the Department was that its work required it to go to the communities and try to teach and empower them to sustain themselves. It required partnerships and collaboration from many stakeholders.
Ms Mabetoa said the allocations to provinces were based on conditional grants, because upon allocation of the funds, the provinces used them for other purposes. A meeting with the provinces would ensure that there were agreed priorities on where the funds should be spent. The DSD objective was social cohesion, which required dialogue and mobilisation to enable the community to be self-dependent.
Mr Appel said the DSD was now in the processes of taking up responsibilities that currently resided in the provincial departments in order to increase the capacity of the Department to deal directly with the issues raised.
The meeting was adjourned
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