South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) revised Annual Performance Plan

Social Development

19 May 2017
Chairperson: Ms R Capa (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

SASSA briefed the Committee on its revised Annual Performance Plan. There has been a reduction of R569,149 million to SASSA baseline budget over the 2017/18 MTEF made up of R267,881 million in 2017/18, R146,751 million in 2018/19 and R154,517 million in 2019/20. These reductions were effected during the Medium Term Expenditure Committee (MTEC) process to fund other government pressures. These reductions are resulting in spending pressures on the Agency particularly considering the transition phase. The budget reduction means SASSA has had to prioritise projects/activities and essential items including contractual obligations and commitments, scaling down on the filling of critical vacancies and reprioritising on the filling of essential vacant positions.

The Constitutional Court has ordered SASSA to submit quarterly reports to it on the independent experts. SASSA is working towards appointing a new payment service provider before phasing out Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) by the March 2018 deadline. The new provider will help to ready SASSA for takeover. SASSA is also looking at creating an e-wallet that will propel beneficiaries to buy nutritional foods.

Members were satisfied with the level of professionalism showed by SASSA under pressure. Questions were raised on how the e-wallet will work out considering that people can still buy the nutritional foods and sell it, the filling of funded vacant posts, absence of percentages in the presentation, the expiry date of SASSA cards, availability of budget for the submission of quarterly reports to the Court, skills acquisition of SASSA staff. The Committee accepted the Annual Performance Plan.
 

Meeting report

The Chairperson read out an apology from the Minister and welcomed the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the Department of Social Development (DSD).    

Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi, Acting Director General: DSD said SASSA will present its Annual Performance Plan which was postponed at the last committee meeting. She then handed over to the SASSA CEO.

Mr Thokozani Magwaza, SASSA CEO, said that 31 March 2018 marked the expiry of the contract between SASSA and CPS, the service provider responsible for the payment of social grants. The contract had been extended by 12 months, through the Constitutional Court process. During the 12 month period, SASSA will develop and implement a phase-in phase-out plan. This information will form part of the work to be reported on to the Constitutional Court on a three-monthly basis with the first report due on 16 June 2017.

Considering the anxiety created by uncertainties about the payment of beneficiary benefits on 1 April 2017, SASSA and DSD management was deployed to pay points for visibility and dealing with enquiries in cases where beneficiaries had challenges. SASSA can confidently say that the payment of the more than 17 million social grants went smoothly across the country. However the deductions from beneficaries’ bank accounts and the use of EasyPay Everywhere green card continue to be a thorn in the side. SASSA management will continue to implement the dispute mechanism to resolve the reported/identified disputed deductions for beneficiaries and to ensure the processing of refunds where possible.

This 2017/18 Annual Performance Plan continues to build on some of the initiatives introduced in the previous financial years towards ensuring that SASSA reaches its stated objective of bringing the payment responsibility in-house. This includes the modernisation and review of our core grants administration responsibilities. These projects include automation of social grants registries, review of the grants business processes, biometric access to systems and beneficiaries’ enrolment, integration of data from key external stakeholders, such as the Departments of Home Affairs, Department of Basic Education and Department of Social Development.

Over and above the modernisation of service delivery, these projects will also provide a single view of grant beneficiary information and the biometric authentication of SASSA employees and beneficiaries. It should noted that the development of standards for biometric payments has been concluded. The implementation of biometrics will contribute immensely towards prevention of fraud, particularly by the systems’ users.

The automation of the grants administration system is another priority for the MTEF period. This is dependent on the availability and capacity of SASSA ICT infrastructure. For 2017/18, SASSA has prioritised the upgrading of its network connectivity infrastructure for the Head Office, Regional, Offices, Records Centre, District Offices and some of its local offices. Currently SASSA’s local and district offices have on average a 1MB line and it will be upgraded to 4MB lines. Head office, regional and records centre currently have 4MB and this will be upgraded to 8MB lines.

Whilst processing transition matters, SASSA’s mandate will not be neglected and must continue to be met. During this year, the number of social grant payments including grant-in-aid is expected to increase from 17.1 million to 17.5 million. SASSA will continue to provide immediate relief to individuals and households who are engulfed by crisis situations including disasters through the Social Relief of Distress grant. A total of 500 000 SRD applications will be awarded this financial year. These temporary awards are issued in different forms such as cash, school uniforms, food parcels and vouchers. R600 million has been set aside for SRD implementation. It is targeting to register 560 000 children between the age of 0-1 for the Child Support Grant (CSG). This target contributes towards ensuring that those qualifying beneficiaries benefit from the social assistance programme.

Together with DSD and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, SASSA has planned to process 232 755 foster grant reviews to allow children who are still at school to remain on the register and continue to benefit from the social assistance programme.

In its attempt to bring services closer to people, SASSA will continue the implementation of the integrated community registration outreach programme (ICROP) in 600 identified poor wards and 40 Project Mikondzo interventions across the nine provinces. Linked to the ICROP, is the beneficiary education programme aimed at creating awareness about deductions, social assistance qualifying criteria, and the Moneyline green card.

As committed in its MTSF document (2014-2019 Strategic Plan), SASSA will continue to formulate strategies aimed at assisting it to reduce the social assistance debt book. In 2017/18, at least 5% of the debt book (R814 million as at 31 December 2016) must be recovered and the work of identifying and assessing debtors that are in dire financial positions for write-offs continues.

SASSA’s budget over the MTEF has been reduced by R569 million, with the 2017/18 baseline allocation reduced by an amount of R209.657 million in line with the budget cut implemented by National Treasury. This has compelled SASSA to implement stringent policies including scaling down on the filling of positions and reprioritisation of projects/activities.

He said that even before the court order, SASSA was already aware that it will be phasing out the current service provider. He handed over to Ms Raphaale to take the Committee through the presentation.

Ms Raphaale Ramokgopa, SASSA Executive Manager: Strategy and Business Development, presented its 2014-21019 MTSF priorities, its strategic objectives, the 2017/18 targets per programme, financial plan and recommendations.

SASSA’s 2017/18 strategic objectives include:
- Improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of the administration of the social assistance programme
- To promote customer centric services
- To provide human capital management, facilities and auxiliary services;
- Effective information and communication technology;
- Effective financial management; and to uphold good governance.
 
SASSA is working towards the appointment of a new service provider before the expiration of 12 months given to it by the Court. By December 2017 SASSA wants to ensure the new service provider is on the ground to have time for set up before the phasing out of CPS.

Mr Tsakeriwa Chauke, SASSA CEO, presented the financial outlook of SASSA. There has been a total reduction of R569.149 million on the SASSA budget baseline over the 2017/18 MTEF (R267.881 million in 2017/18, R146.751 million in 2018/19 and R154.517 million in 2019/20). These reductions were effected during the MTEC process to fund other government pressures. These reductions are resulting in spending pressures on SASSA, particularly considering the transition phase towards making payments in-house.

The implications of the budget reduction have caused SASSA to reduce its 2017/18 baseline allocation by R209.657 million in line with the budget cut implemented by National Treasury. The budget reduction means SASSA has had to prioritise projects/activities and essential items including contractual obligations and commitments, scaling down on the filling of critical vacancies and reprioritising on the filling of essential vacant positions.

Mr Chauke said that the Constitutional Court has ordered on the 17th May 2017 for SASSA and other parties to agree on the final lists of experts out of the 23 names submitted to the court. The court also raised the question about how much should be paid to these experts, and who should bear the costs. The court has given SASSA and the other parties 10 days to agree on the final list of experts and report back to the court. The estimated costs of the quarterly report and the experts will be funded by the retained surplus.

SASSA will be engaging on two processes. The first which will be embarked upon involves the finalisation of the plan and report to the court, then SASSA will approach National Treasury by September for any short fall. This will be dealt under unforeseen process. The other process is because of the court’s determination/order. SASSA has to adjust its business case in terms of the insourcing of SASSA. The revised document will be completed by the end of July and presented to National Treasury as part of budget process.

Ms Raphaale recommended that the Committee note and approve the SASSA APP and budget for 2017/18.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked SASSA for the effort they put in making the meeting a success

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) thanked SASSA for its professionalism under pressure. How much work can be done with a 4MB line? SASSA should be talking about terabyte rather than megabyte. What contingency plan is in place if SASSA does not appoint a new service provider by December 2017? What are the plans to ensure that the scanning talked about in the presentation is done correctly? What will happen to the green cards? Will the new SASSA card have an expiry date?

Dr C Madlopha (ANC) thanked SASSA for the hard work they had done within a short space of time. Where will SASSA get the money for the quarterly reports to the Court since it was not budgeted for? On slide 14 of the presentation, SASSA indicates its plan to investigate 100% of backlog cases and 70% of new cases, but no actual figures are given in the presentation? In slide 17, what informed the 5% of social assistance debts? Is there a debt policy followed by SASSA? Which stakeholders submitted the 23 names of experts to the Court?

Ms B Masango (DA) thanked SASSA for its hard work. Has SASSA always planned to provide human capital management, facilities and auxiliary services or was it because of the recent events? The skills needed in SASSA for phasing in and phasing out, where is it concentrated? What experience does the staff have that they learnt from the current service provider? Who is doing the scanning, SASSA staff or is it out-sourced? Has the data service integration solution been procured and implemented or still in progess? Has the SRD programme been strained that it needs money to be redirected to it? On the 232 757 foster care grant reviews, where is the number coming from?

Mr Mabilo (ANC) thanked SASSA for the work done. He referred to SASSA’s target of 100% payment of eligible suppliers within 30 days, and asked if, even though this is government policy, SASSA can stick to that. Can SASSA shorten it to 15 days? What constitutes savings on grants since SASSA should not be in the habit of saving on grants? Where is SASSA’s own revenue coming from? What is the impact of accelerated service delivery? It should not have to be compelled by Court to do its work. The submission of quarterly reports is a costly exercise. What is the plan around mashonisas?

Ms H Malgas (ANC) asked for clarity on the filling of 95% funded posts and scaling down on the filling of critical vacancies. Is the transfer of funds to beneficiaries with commercial accounts scheduled in the budget of 2018/19? On the 10 days given by the court, what is the starting date? The pronouncement made by the Minister on the interest coming from CPS, clarity is needed on what happens to the accumulated interest. On the phasing-in of the SASSA card, the Minister said that beneficiaries should change their green card to a SASSA card. What is the timeline for this change so that members can speak to their constituents? She thanked SASSA for working on the APP document and meeting with them.

Response
Mr Magwaza responded to the question on the 23 names submitted to the Court. SASSA met the deadline of 14 days to submit names of experts. That court order was given to all stakeholders. Whether the Court gives the names of the experts to SASSA or not or whether the names are finalised between the stakeholders and Agency, SASSA will still file its report to the court by the June deadline. The submission of quarterly reports ordered by the Court is extra work given to SASSA by the Court. SASSA will not go to Court with the report before meeting with the Committee. This is because oversight rests with the Committee. The Committee will have the first bite of the report.

Ms Vilakazi, Acting Director General, responded to the foster care grant question. There is a close collaboration between DSD and SASSA. These cases are attended first by the DSD through its social workers, then taken to court and then to SASSA. The Department has a record that shows which cases are due for review. SASSA cannot manage foster care without DSD starting the process.

Ms Raphaale responded to the questions on skills. SASSA has not done a performance skills audit yet. The majority of SASSA staff are in the local offices. Staff at registries are being reskilled, some of them are in level 2 and are being encouraged to go for their matric. SASSA is looking towards capacitating its staff to do the job. There is however a service provider doing registries. The human capital has always been there because anytime SASSA changes, it adjusts its human resources. It did not come with the Court order.

Mr Abraham Mahlangu, the CIO of SASSA responded further on the back-scanning question. Currently a service provider was appointed for a period of three years to roll out the implementation and establishment of  record centre. When the contract ends, it will be run by SASSA staff.

The upgrade of megabyte was based on usage and business requirements.

Mr Magwaza responded on the SRD question. SASSA had to reprioritise SRD because it ran out of money on SRD last year.

Mr Chauke added that the pressure on SRD largely comes from disasters. Most of the disasters have been catered for by SASSA through the SRD programme.  On issues of malnutrition, SRD programme has been used to cater for it.

The savings come from the disability grant through the gate keeping.

The money for the submission of Court reports will come from the reprioritisation of how money will be utilised.

There is a debtors policy, but it belongs to DSD and not to SASSA. SASSA is doing the debt management on behalf of DSD.

On the 100% suppliers paid within 30 days, this is work in progress. There are payments that get to be paid within 15 days. 100% of what is being received within SASSA is paid within 30 days.

95% of funded vacant posts will be reprioritised.

SASSA receives interest every month that payment is made. For the year 2015/16, R9.6 million interest was received and in 2016/17 over R10 million was received as interest. The bone of contention is the lump sum drawn by the CPS service provider when payment is made. It is about reconciliation of how much was drawn and the withdrawal entirely.

SASSA gets its revenue from assets disposal and skills rebate.

Mr Magwaza replied about the mashonisa problem, saying that there is a rule that states that mashonisas are not allowed within a 100 meters of the pay point. The Pretoria High Court ruling in May was a blow for SASSA. DSD and SASSA are starting the process of appeal against the High Court order. The High Court order has given impetus to the green card. The High Court order and High Court judgement conflict with that of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court is the highest court in the country and there is no appeal against it. SASSA will take the appeal to the Constitutional Court especially on the issue of deductions.

Ms Raphaale responded to the questions on fraud. He said SASSA will put figures beside the percentages in its next report for clarity purposes. Usually, SASSA receives fraud tips from the hotline. These have to be sifted to check which ones are about fraud, or are general enquiries. The sifting will enable SASSA to avoid exaggerated fraud figures. SASSA has about 299 backlog cases that it is working on. SASSA will provide these figures on a quarterly basis.

On the issue of new SASSA card, SASSA is not looking at a date but a pin number dedicated to SASSA. However, SASSA has to comply with banking laws to know what can be put on the card. The SASSA card matter will be presented to the Committee.

Ms Zodwa Mvulane, SASSA Project Manager, replied further about the expiration of cards. SASSA has looked at ID cards and found out that if it is to be used, the SASSA card will not have expiry date. Currently SASSA is considering ordinary bank cards which have an expiry date because the material wears out. SASSA will communicate with the Committee on the card to be used and the expiry date.

On the twoyear phase-in for SASSA. SASSA had requested two years to get SASSA ready. The first year which has begun, will entail procurement of a new service provider for payment come 1 April 2018 while SASSA is readying itself. The new service provider will use the new SASSA card to get SASSA ready for take-over. This is to avoid having a card that will expire in two or three years. The new service provider will procure systems, build, operate, pay and transfer to SASSA in a gradual and phasing process. 

On the local economy, SASSA is currently using big merchant shops such as Pick n Pay and Boxers. However, it is planning to get a second layer of shops which includes spaza shops that are in the local areas. SASSA is also working towards making sure that the new service provider has point of sale devices that can accept cards in the spaza shops and villages.

Grants given to beneficiaries are meant for a certain purpose but when it gets to the beneficiaries, SASSA is not in the position to dictate what the grant will be used for. SASSA is also considering whether it can regulate to secure how a certain amount of money within the card itself is spent. SASSA wants to introduce an e-wallet to the card that will propel beneficiaries to buy nutritional commodities.

The timeline for the phasing out of CPS and phasing in of the new service provider will be presented during the framework presentation.

Mr Magwaza said that the phase-out of CPS is 12 months according to the Court order.  The timeline spoken by Ms Mvulane is about the phasing-in of SASSA.

Ms Masango asked about the web interface solution procurement. Has it been done or will be done?

Ms Raphaale replied that it is one of the SASSA plan targets for the end of the financial year. It is a target.

Ms Abrahams said that the Moneyline green card should not be mistaken with the SASSA card. The green card allows people to take out loan. For the e-wallet people can buy nutritional foods and sell it. Is there a way to curtail this?

Dr Madlopha asked what is transpiring between SASSA and Post Office. Is SAPO one of the service providers? What of their capacities?

The Chairperson said that the question asked by Dr Madlopha should be postponed.

Ms Malgas asked that since most of the local shops are not owned by South Africans, how will the citizens benefit? On the fraud investigations, does SASSA verify with the courts and companies? How does SASSA work with big business?

The Chairperson said that the question by Ms Malgas will also be postponed. The meeting today is to discuss the APP. However, quality answers have been given to the questions. She thanked SASSA for its honesty in answering the questions. She then recommended that the Committee accepts the APP.

Dr Madlopha moved a motion for the acceptance of the recommendation.

Ms Malgas seconded the motion.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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