The Select Committee met with Parliamentary and State legal advisers, as well as a delegation from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), to finalise the Refugees Amendment Bill. However, the bill could not be finalised because some submissions had been received late, and the Committee, the legal advisors and the DHA had not had sufficient time to consider the submissions. The Committee agreed to finalise the Bill on 27 June 2017.
The Committee also met with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA) to discuss their performance plans for the 2017/18 financial year. SASSA said it planned to reach 1.5 million new applicants in the current financial year, and to ensure that 95% of the new social grants were processed within ten days. It also sought to increase the number of grant payments from 17.1 million to 17.5 million by the end of 2017/18 financial year. The NDA aimed to create a sustainable environment and empower communities to sustain themselves. The entity went to communities to mobilise them and engaged in dialogue and analysed the community organisations. Organisations were assisted by the entity through registrations, grant funding, formalisation of the organisations and training.
During the discussions, Members asked what SASSA meant by the decreasing its baseline budget, because from the presentation it did not seem like the baseline was decreasing. It had spoken of a “team of experts” – what did the team do for the entity? Who was responsible for the Cash Payment Services (CPS) contract, and was the contract between CPS and SASSA, or between CPS and the Department? Was there a need for the NDA entity? What did SASSA mean by alternative pay points -- was it introducing a system where beneficiaries could have more options? What was the nature of the relationship between SASSA and the Department of Small Business Development? What was the structure of the framework used by the NDA to disperse grants to civil society? Was there a long term plan where SASSA could get to the stage where they could perform all the services being outsourced, because money was being spent unnecessarily?
Refugees Amendment Bill
The Chairperson said the Refugees Amendment Bill had been referred to the Select Committee on 5 March 2017, and a briefing had taken place on 22 March. An advertisement for public comments had been placed on 2 June, and had closed on 16 June 2017. The advertisements had been published in 11 official languages so as to avoid exclusion based on language.
The Chairperson said that she was happy to have legal professionals present at the meeting and pleaded with them to assist the Select Committee so that they did not make mistakes. The Select Committee had received 14 submissions and most had been received only on the morning of the meeting. She was concerned, because the Committee now had to finalise the draft without having had enough time to look through the submissions. She asked if the Committee would be doing justice if they finalised the Bill at the meeting with the submissions just received.
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) said that he had received only four submissions in the morning and had not yet received the remaining nine.
Mr Nathi Mjenxane, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said there had been considerable public interest regarding the Bill. The public commentary from stakeholders had been filtering in until the morning of the meeting. The State Law Advisor, the Parliamentary Legal Advisor and the Department all felt that they needed time to apply themselves to the submissions, and were convinced that they did not have sufficient time to go over the submissions. He requested the Committee to allow the advisors more time to go over the submissions so that they could provide appropriate responses to the Committee.
Ms Yolande van Aswegen, Principal State Law Advisor, said she agreed with Mr Mjenxane. They had spoken about the matter and said that the Bill had been intended to attract public interest, and she would prefer that they be given time to look at the submissions and respond to them thoroughly and comprehensively at a time that was appropriate for the Select Committee.
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General (DG): Department of Home Affairs (DHA) said that they had not received all the submissions and would appreciate the extension.
The Chairperson asked if there was a closing date and what the date’s significance was for people making submissions.
Adv Deon Erasmus, Chief Director: Legal Services, DHA, said the closing date was on 16 June.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) said that as submissions were still coming in, would those submissions be considered in light of the closing date, and if they considered them, would the Committee not be creating a precedent, with Parliament considering submissions after the closing date? How would the matter be handled?
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) suggested that the Committee receive guidance on the process of considering submissions and have a timeline, given that the Bill would not be finalised at the meeting.
The Chairperson addressed the legal team and said that the Select Committee was comprised of five departments. They each had a lot of work to do and the Select Committee did not want to pile on more work. It wanted to do justice to the Bill.
Ms Van Aswegen said that she had not been aware that the Bill had been in circulation for comments for nine days. Seeing that the Bill was very controversial and there had been a lot of submissions regarding the Bill, she was concerned that it might not have been published for a long enough period, because the period for publishing was usually 30 days. That was why Parliament might be forced to accept the late submissions. The submissions were from key stakeholders and would certainly add value to the finalisation of the Bill.
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that there was another Bill that needed to be considered by the Select Committee, which was the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill. She had initially thought that both Bills could be considered in one day, but it seemed impossible.
The Chairperson excused the DHA delegation and apologised for the fact that the Bill could not be discussed.
She then explained that the Committee would discuss and decide on the appropriate timeframe. The Committee Secretary had advised the Committee to allow ten days for the Committee and the legal team to consider the submissions.
Mr Khawula reminded the Committee that the legal team had said the normal publication period was 30 days, and suggested that the Committee adopt the same rule and now extend the days to 20, since the advertisement had already been published for 10 days.
Ms Zwane said that 20 more days would be stretching it too far.
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) said he wanted to caution the Committee, because it seemed that they were treading on thin ice, because if the closing date had appeared in the advertisement, the Committee could not make a decision for extension without going public on what Parliament had decided upon.
Ms Marcelle Williams, Committee Secretary, said that even though it was a public holiday on 16 June, she had been at work accepting submissions, and she had accepted further submissions on 19 and 20 July as well.
Ms Zwane asked what Mr Hattingh meant by advertising, because that would mean that the Committee would be restarting the entire process.
Mr Khawula said that as far as he understood, the advertisement would refer to the extension of the deadline for submissions, and would not be a restart of the entire process. He asked for the Committee to consider the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) programme when making the decision on the dates, given that Parliament would be undergoing study tours after the end of June.
The Chairperson asked if there were any stakeholders requesting an extension, because she did not understand why the Committee was talking about extensions.
Ms Williams said that she had received the extended submissions on the morning of 20 June. She emphasised that the submissions that had asked for an extension had already been received, and there were currently no further requests for an extension.
The Parliamentary Legal Adviser said that he had suggested to the Chairperson earlier that maybe a five-day period was a courtesy to those who may have wanted to add more information to their submissions, but for the time period could be extended through the Parliamentary media office to say that the Committee had considered the considerable public interest regarding the Bill, and had made a decision to give whatever time period that the Committee agreed to.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF, Gauteng) said the only issue at hand was the late delivery of the submissions to the Committee. She did not believe that the Committee would receive any more submissions, and requested that the Committee be given enough time to go through them.
Ms P Samka-Mququ (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that it was clear that the Committee had to have an input in the finalisation of the Bill, but the problem was that there had not been enough time to go through the submissions because the Committee had received the documents only on 20 June. It was not that the document had not been publicized. There was no need to readvertise the submissions, because the Committee already had received them.
The Chairperson said that based on the inputs from the Committee Members, there would be no extension for submissions and the Committee would go through all of the submissions that they had received.
Ms Van Aswegen said that the five-day period had been discussed with the Department, and it already had a working document where they would isolate the issues raised in the submissions and include comments and work with the legal team to come with suggestions to the Select Committee.
The Chairperson said that the Select Committee relied on the legal tem for advice, and that they would need to have the document presented to the Committee before the meeting.
The Chairperson suggested holding the finalisation on the afternoon of the 27 June, and hold a briefing of the Border Management Authority Bill if time permitted.
South African Social Services Agency (SASSA)
The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the Department of Social Development (DSD), and said that she had received apologies from the Minister and Deputy Minister of Social Development. She reminded the officials from SASSA that besides the annual performance plan (APP), the Committee was also expecting a set plan on how the entity planned to meet deadlines.
Dr Maria Mabetoa, Acting Director General (ADG): DSD allowed the delegation to introduce themselves.
Mr Thokozani Magwaza, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): SASSA, said the objective of the entity was to act as the sole agent that would ensure the efficient and effective management, administration and payment of social assistance, and eventually to serve as an institution to manage broader social security benefits. The social assistance programme and the operation of SASSA was fully funded by the government. The overall objective of the entity’s executive team was to uphold good governance, and SASSA was planning to have 20 internal audits in areas of high risk, which included risk management, information communication technology (ICT) audits and Constitutional Court products. Some of the issues prioritised were matters that had come out in SASSA’s management report in the previous financial year. SASSA was planning on having 72 fraud and corruption awareness campaigns across nine provinces.
There was a backlog of 298 cases that SASSA was prioritizing, and it intended to focus on 70% of the new cases. In terms of facilities management, the entity was implementing a new records management model, where they were sourcing with a private party and would focus on Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. In the ICT sector, there was a plan to have diverse solutions for system users. It had already awarded a tender, and this would be implemented to reduce fraud, theft and corruption. The SASSA connectivity infrastructure would be upgraded from one megabyte to four megabytes for recording management tasks in regional and head offices. SASSA was planning on having an unqualified audit outcome and were working on getting a clean audit before the end of the year.
SASSA planned to reach 1.5 million new applicants in the current financial year, and to ensure that 95% of the new social grants were processed within ten days. It also sought to increase the number of grant payments from 17.1 million to 17.5 million by the end of 2017/18 financial year. It planned to resolve 80% of enquiries within five days, as per SASSA’s customer care charter, and monitor all large cash paypoints – those paying more than 300 beneficiaries a day. There was a total of 2 401 pay points paying more than 300 beneficiaries.
The APP had been tabled before the Constitutional Court judgment, and SASSA had had to go back and review the plan in order to factor in the elements relating to the judgment. These included the insourcing of regulation 26A, which dealt with the circumstances under which a deduction may be made directly
from a social grant. From September, SASSA would be the entity that was effecting the regulations. A holding account for SASSA was planned to be established.
SASSA was not ready to take over the full payment process as from March 2018, and would therefore be appointing a new service provider, but there would be certain services that SASSA would be providing on its own. The entity would ensure that it replied to the submissions of the Constitutional Court, and report on a quarterly basis. The entity was also planning on introducing more alternative pay points in order to improve local economic development.
For the current financial year, SASSA was supposed to have a baseline budget of R7.473 billion from the Treasury, but there had been a total reduction of R569.1 million in its baseline over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF), made up of R267.9 million in 2017/18, R146.7 million in 2018/19 and R154.5 million in 2019/20. These reductions had been effected during the Medium Term Expenditure Committee (MTEC) process to relieve other government funding pressures. These reductions were placing spending pressures on the Agency, particularly considering the transition phase.
There were 1.6 million beneficiaries who were currently receiving grants into their personal bank accounts, or accounts of their choice. SASSA was undertaking the prioritisation of projects and focusing more on essential items, including contractual obligations and/or commitments. The entity had also had to scale down on the filling of critical vacancies.
Both the Department and officials from SASSA had been requested to nominate two people to serve on an independent panel. The Constitutional Court had made a judgment and the order had led to the appointment of ten panel experts from different institutions. SASSA had already met with the panel and had given them an overview of what the entity had planned. It was looking into using pay points to stimulate local economic development and would be looking at issues around surplus and bulk food purchasing, focusing on school uniforms and the distribution thereof, so that it could benefit the local economy.
SASSA would work on mechanisms to strengthen their intellectual property in the area of the systems and information management. There had been government to government collaboration in order to ensure an engagement with government institutions to assist SASSA in payment processes, focusing on their respective areas of strength. The major engagement had been with the South African Post Office (SAPO) which was already involved in the payment processes. SAPO had confirmed its readiness and competence to offer SASSA the full payment value chain, but proper procurement processes needed to be followed. SASSA was also working with the Department of Home Affairs regarding confirmation of identity and verification. It was also working with the National Treasury, South African Airways (SAA), the Department of Small Business Development and the Skills Education Training Authority (SETA).
National Development Agency (NDA)
Ms Thamo Mzobe, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NDA, told the Committee that the Agency had been established by an Act of Parliament primarily to make a contribution towards the eradication of poverty. The sole purpose of the entity was to grant funds to civil society. Its mandate was to promote consultation, dialogue sharing of development strategies between civil society organisations and relevant organisations of the state through debate, undertaking research and action research publications. The NDA aimed to create a sustainable environment and empower communities to sustain themselves. The entity went to communities to mobilise them and engaged in dialogue and analysed the community organisations. Organisations were assisted by the entity through registrations, grant funding, formalisation of the organisations and training. The NDA wanted to focus on civil society organisations’ engagements, assessments and needs analysis and almost “babysit” and incubate them for a period of one year, in accordance with NDA models. The entity was focused on strengthening institutional capacity across all districts of local municipalities in all provinces, and to increase access of interventions at the local municipal level.
In some instances, one would find that some international organisations were not in line with the NDA agenda, and wanted to partner with the NDA in community project work – like breweries and tobacco companies -- and one would find that the Department was against substance abuse.
The NDA was aiming for an unqualified audit opinion for the current financial year. It intended to be 100% compliant regarding issues around governance, and planned to achieve 90% in meeting its APP targets.
The Chairperson interrupted, and said that there was not enough time. It seemed as if the presentation had repeated wording and rephrasing throughout, and he requested a summary of the rest of the presentation.
The NDA concluded that it had a total budget allocation of R 200 million, and 83.7% of it had been allocated to administration.
Mr Khawula commented that the NDA had emphasised that its main purpose was to allocate funds to non-profit organizations (NPOs) and community organisations that were focused on the eradication of poverty, but it seemed to him as if the money was being spent mostly on the compensation of employees. It would be important to spend a day with the NDA to discuss its mandate properly, and the work that the entity did, because there was not enough time at the meeting. The Committee needed to be clear on what the entity did.
He asked SASSA what they meant by the decreasing baseline, because from the presentation it did not seem as if the baseline was decreasing. What was the team of experts that SASSA spoke of? What did the team of experts do for the entity? Who was responsible for the Cash Payment Services (CPS) contract? Was the contract between CPS and SASSA, or between CPS and the Department?
Ms Zwane asked what SASSA meant by alternative pay points. Was SASSA introducing a system where beneficiaries could have more options? What was the nature of the relationship between SASSA and the Department of Small Business Development, and how did they identify schools with a high number of poor learners who were in need of school uniforms so that the Committee could be informed.
The NDA’s core mandate was to dispense grants to civil society. What was the structure of framework used to dispense the grants? What was the NDA’s provincial footprint? Where could the NDA offices be found in provincial districts?
Ms Ngwenya said she was praying for the day when SASSA could live up to its vision and mission statement, and finally stand for the public. Was there a long term plan, where SASSA could get to the stage where it could perform all the services currently being outsourced, because money was being spent unnecessarily? She was happy that the South African Post Office would be able to assist SASSA with the administration of funds, and the CPS would be completely taken off the books. There was no need to bring a foreign company to assist in the distribution of funds in South Africa.
She asked how many civil society organisations had been assisted by the NDA in the semi-rural areas of the West Rand.
Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) asked how the Members could get assistance in order to help people in their provinces, because the Members represented provinces and there had been no breakdown in the NDA’s presentation of the work that was being done in each of the provinces, or strategies to identify the people that were in need.
Ms Zwane said that the offices of the Department of Social Development in Gamalakhe township were old, and used to be used by people that sold sorghum beer. The last appropriate offices were built by the previous government, and no new offices had been built for social workers in the area.
The Chairperson said she did not understand why the NDA had been created, because it seemed like they had the personnel but lacked the funding to execute their mandate. She asked NDA to provide the Committee with a detailed provincial report, indicating how much money was being allocated. It was clear that there was a will, but there was no funding. She asked the DG of the Department if they had adopted the suggestion given to the Department to increase its funding to the NDA in the last financial year, because it did not seem as if they had. If the Department did not provide money for the NDA, then they should just do away with the Agency. She suggested that the Committee should meet with the NDA in the next Parliamentary term to discuss the matter of sourcing funding, and increasing the number of organisations that were independent of government.
The Chairperson said that it seemed as if SASSA was trying to manage the Committee, because there was no full disclosure of information. She suggested that the Committee spend more time with SASSA and resolve outstanding matters, such as the Post Office issue and the outsourcing of services.
The Chairperson said given that as there was no time available, responses would have to be sent to the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Refugees Amendment Bill [B12B-2016]
- Refugees Amendment Bill [B12A-2016]
- SASSA Annual Performance Plan & Budget 2017/18 -2019/20 presentation
- Addendum to SASSA’s 2017/18 Annual Performance Plan
- Legal Resources Centre & Scalabrini Centre joint submission
- Legal Resources Centre submission
- Centre for Constitutional Rights submission
- Amnesty International submission
- Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa submission
- NDA Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan presentation
- Khulumani Support Group submission
- Elcort Matlala submission
- Refugee Legal and Advocacy Centre submission
- Yasmin Rajah submission
- Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town submission
- South African Human Rights Commission submission
- Cape Bar Council submission
- Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa submission
- University of Cape Town submission
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.