Gender Based Violence Command Centre; SASSA weekly progress report; with Minister

Social Development

21 June 2017
Chairperson: Ms R Capa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

SASSA, with the Minister of Social Development present, explained that it had submitted its first report to the Constitutional Court. It had also had a meeting with the experts. After frank examination of its internal capacity, time, and process required for takeover of the payment function from CPS, SASSA is convinced that it not be ready to take over the full payment function immediately after the 12 month extension period. It will however definitely phase out Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) within the 12-month timeframe and phase in the new service provider. The new service provider will ready SASSA during the transition for takeover. SASSA will undertake a hybrid model which entails insourcing some of the services, outsourcing some.

The Department of Social Development spoke about the capabilities of the Gender Based Violence Command Centre which has a 24/7 call centre facility – 0800 428 428; a USSD ‘Please call me’ facility *120*7867#; SMS Help to 31531. The centre employs 48 social work agents, 8 social work supervisors, 4 quality assurers and 1 centre manager on a three-year contract (1 April 2015 to 1 March 2018), to operate and offer services to victims of gender based violence.

Members of the Committee raised concerns about the alarming rate of violence in the country and what is being done about it.

Meeting report

SASSA progress report
Mr Thokozani Magwaza, SASSA CEO, explained that the previous week, SASSA had to split and Ms Dianne Dunkerley present the weekly report to the Committee while other SASSA members were at the inaugural meeting of the panel of experts.

Ms Raphaale Ramokgopa ,SASSA Executive Manager: Strategy and Business Development, apologised to the Committee for not getting a signed copy of the court report.

SASSA seeks to develop a payment solution for the future that is wholly and efficiently controlled and managed by SASSA and fully responsive to the needs of beneficiaries. The approach that SASSA seeks will be an incremental transition towards a desired future state and this is due to limited resources in human resources and finance. SASSA had revised its implementation plan for in-house payments in line with the court challenges it has had along the way. The first court challenge was the five-year requirement that was imposed on SASSA which is now a one-year requirement. The review of the plan is to meet the court demand and having SASSA take strategic control of the payment system.   

The SASSA insourcing plan is informed by the outcomes of the Ministerial Advisory Committee which was supported by the research done by the work streams, CSIR and other expert advice that was sought through the European Union and India.

The key objectives of SASSA is to reduce cost (cost to collect and inconvenience to the beneficiary, and cost to pay), improve performance in having an improved beneficiary experience, improved customer care ad relationship management and improved grant administration and payment (currently SASSA has three systems: application, biometrics, payment) and with this a seamless and efficient system will be on board. In terms of compliance, SASSA wants to ensure that there is transparency and accountability by both SASSA and suppliers, improved compliance with the Social Security Assistance Act by both SASSA and suppliers. SASSA wants to reduce risk by risk management improvement and fraud prevention, improved controls and information assurance, and improved data governance. 

SASSA is envisaging local economic development. The intention is to ensure that grant money is used to stimulate local economies. The priority area is to introduce alternative pay points. In this current financial year, SASSA will be working on alternative pay point piloting. It will also be looking at the SASSA special social savings account, SASSA food only payment token dispensation (through the wallet that will be in the card), surplus and bulk food purchasing and distribution schemes, school uniform purchasing and distribution.

Implementation Approach
The first year of the five-year plan involves the appointment of a service provider to facilitate development, integration and management and phasing out of CPS. This is a hybrid year in the sense that there are processes that will be done directly by SASSA, and the other processes will be run by other government institutions that are active within the payment environment and the others that will be out-sourced to an independent service provider.  The next two years will be the transition. The new service provider will be implementing while SASSA is busy insourcing some of the payment processes. The last years will be the exit of the service provider, and the maintenance and support by SASSA.

The payment service provider will be managed by a solution integrator. There will be a sponsor bank that will help with the corporate account that will be opened, and the services of the South African Post Office (SAPO) will be scaling up over time and on-demand based on the due diligence that would have been conducted.

Key elements of the Report to the Constitutional Court
The current contract with CPS was extended under the same terms and conditions. The contract addendum which incorporated the terms and conditions set by the Constitutional Court was signed on 31 March 2017. Proper procurement processes were followed.

The addendum signed with CPS contains clauses which seek to protect beneficiary data and prevent CPS and Grinrod from inviting beneficiaries to opt in for the sharing of their data for marketing purposes.

Prior to the finalisation of the addendum to the contract, SASSA wrote to CPS on 20 April 2017 to request specific information on the measures to be taken to ensure compliance with Order 6.1 of the Constitutional Court. CPS responded on 15 May confirming its compliance. CPS also procured information from Grinrod that it would not invite any beneficiaries to opt in for the sharing of their data for marketing purposes.  CPS also wrote to KPMG directing it to do an audit and ensure that no office is sharing beneficiary data. SASSA is monitoring compliance with this.

Migration of data from CPS
Beneficiary profile data is captured and stored within SASSA. Beneficiary payment file is generated by SASSA. However, the current service provider converts the file into formats required by the banking industry. Biometric data of all beneficiaries, although captured by CPS, is in the custody of SASSA. This data is transferred on a monthly basis to SASSA. SASSA is in the process of migrating payment data inclusive of customer transaction data on deductions, back charges, channels as well as customer contact data.

Steps taken to ensure payments beyond April 2018
After extensive and frank examination of its internal capacity, time, and process required for takeover of the payment function from CPS, SASSA is convinced that it will not be ready take over the full payment function value chain immediately after the 12 month extension period. SASSA considered all the options that were proposed prior to the court judgement in the Black Sash matter. Consideration was given to an option of appointing another service provider in the interim until SASSA is ready to in-source the function. Methods possible were going out on a competitive bidding process and government to government collaboration.

Key focus areas
Acknowledging the complexities related to insourcing the payment system, SASSA in consultation with the DSD resolved that a hybrid model which include SASSA insourcing certain components of the payment process, procure services of a payment service provider as a n interim solution through a competitive bidding process, engage with other organs of state involved in the payment space for possible collaboration in line with approved prescripts and SASSA will continue to build internal capacity to take over the payments.

In-house services by SASSA between 2017-2018
SASSA will be able to fulfil the corporate bank account, direct transfers to beneficiaries in commercial bank accounts inclusive of Walvis Bay beneficiaries, biometric identity user management system (contract awarded), implementation of Regulations 26A (September 2017) and local economic development. SASSA will also phase-in other services during the implementation of this transition. They include beneficiary payment data management, takeover of the biometric enrolment of beneficiaries, takeover of the card issuance process during the transition period. SASSA will also ensure that intellectual property for both systems and information belongs to SASSA.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) said SASSA must engage with local people when meeting with cooperatives on local economy development. Why does it take so long for the data to be transferred when there are technologies to help? Who was awarded the biometric identity user management system? It is good to hear that the intellectual property will be provided. What does harness mean?

Ms P Mogotsi (ANC) welcomed the presentation. The milestone is straightforward. The local economy development (LED) is a transformative move. Who will be invited in the LED, who will benefit especially from the bulk buying? Most small shops are closing because of the malls? Will SASSA involve the Department of Small Business Development and the Department of Trade and Industry? How will SASSA work with cooperatives in the rural areas?

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) adding that even foreign nationals are opening shops, how will SASSA work through this so that South Africans can benefit. What are Walvis Bay beneficiaries?

Ms H Malgas (ANC) asked for details about the remuneration of independent experts.

The Chairperson said that presentation is excellent, full of honesty and transparency. The fine line of the executive authority should be considered to know who is accountable and when. The LED must also be linked to food security. The Minister should leave a legacy on food security. The Committee has been asked to submit any amendment needed; the Department must therefore work with the Committee on this. She asked if the Committee can visit the KZN district municipality where small farmers are at the stage where they can feed schools. She said there are a lot of confusion around the concept of SMME. In most places, it is only the supermarkets that are regarded as SMMEs. These supermarkets sell goods that are supposed to be sold outside such as indigenous vegetables thereby chasing the hawkers away and hindering the hawkers’ opportunity to sell their goods. The other matter that hinders these people from selling is the tax clearance certificate; DSD must consider this.

Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, said that on 28 June the President will be launching a rural agrarian social economic transformation programme in KZN. The programme was started by DSD.

On LED, the Minister said DSD has been having problem with cooperatives and will consider it. DSD will start with health cooperatives and will work with small business and local government. Parliament must help to ensure that those that can buy from cooperatives must start doing so because it is an investment. It is a way the government can use to restore the dignity of South African people. Walvis Bay was part of South Africa and there are South Africans there and the agreement at the time was that they continue to receive the grant. The numbers are going down though.

On the costing for the experts, Mr Magwaza replied that when SASSA came to the Committee and asked to be granted time to relook at its APP, SASSA factored in the experts because it had already been there. SASSA however used the standard amount used for consultants. SASSA had insisted on reasonableness when the experts are costing their remuneration. Another challenge to the costing is the duration of the work of the experts which SASSA is unaware of now.   The Minister met with the President to complain that the Department of Agriculture is not helping the DSD in its work. The President suggested that a group be formed within DSD to consider this, hence the programme that will be launched by the President on 28 June.

Mr Tsakeriwa Chauke, CFO of SASSA, said the biometric tender was awarded to Prosense Technology for an amount of R99 million. SASSA is hopeful that the duration of the experts’ work will come to end at the end of this financial year. If it extends, then this will communicated to the Committee.

The Chairperson agreed with the responses. When the Committee approved the APP, it covered everything. Whatever is not affordable will be taken to Budget Review.

Ms Mogotsi said that if SASSA is unsure when the experts will conclude their work, it will be risky especially for remuneration. SASSA must check how many meetings the panel intends to have to avoid using its budget for experts’ remuneration. SASSA must agree to pay per day rather than per hour; that way it will be cheaper. The court must also help in this. 

The Chairperson said that the Committee may have to engage with the Auditor-General on how the panel of experts will be funded going forwarded.

Ms B Masango (DA) said in the presentation there is some talk about the role of SAPO in the process of grant payments. In the 31 May presentation to this Committee, it spoke about the role of SAPO and what SASSA and DSD are looking for as far as SAPO is concerned. In the present presentation, it states that whether SASSA and DSD will work with other government entities, they must still go through the procurement process. There is also mention of a letter from National Treasury on this issue but this annexure is not in the report. In the light of this, is the role of SAPO still as was presented by the CEO and the Minister on 31 May 2017? Can SASSA send the annexures in writing?

The Chairperson said that for any opportunity that seeks government entities to work with the Department, SAPO becomes a priority. The issue that was raised for many years was that SAPO was not ready.

Mr Magwaza replied that SASSA sent a letter to Treasury to seek guidance on how to go about government to government collaboration. On 6 June, Treasury responded about the steps to be taken. Bid specification will still be given to SAPO; nothing has changed from the 31 May presentation.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) Command Centre: briefing by DSD
Mr Bathembu Futshane, DSD Senior Manager: Customer Care, briefed the Committee on the impact of the Gender Based Violence Command Centre project. The South African society is perceived as having one of the highest prevalence rates for violence especially against women and children. Given the urgent need for national action to protect women and children from all forms of violence and guided by South Africa’s human rights obligations, the government established an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) chaired by Minister Bathabile Dlamini. An IMC on Violence against Women and Children was established on the 3 May 2012. The IMC developed a Programme of Action which was approved by Cabinet in September 2013. The Programme of Action Addressing Violence Against Women and Children is an important foundation in a longer journey to realise the long-term vision of all women and children living free from violence in South Africa. The framework for the realisation of this vision has three pillars: prevention and protection, response, and care and support.

The Gender Based Violence Command Centre project forms part of the Response (pillar 2) of the Programme of Action. The project serves as a response to the Minister’s call for the establishment of a national Command Centre as one of the vehicles to implement gender based violence prevention.

The Command Centre operates a national 24/7 call centre facility with two 12 hour shifts starting at 7am. The facility employs social workers who are responsible for call taking and call referral. The centre operates an emergency line number – 0800 428 428. This is supported by a USSD ‘please call me’ facility *120*7867#. A skype line ‘Helpme GBV’ for members of the deaf community. An SMS based line ‘31531’ for persons with disability. (SMS Help to 31531). The centre is able to refer calls directly to SAPS (10111) and field social workers who respond to GBV victims. The centre presently employs 48 social work agents, 8 social work supervisors, 4 quality assurers and 1 centre manager on a three-year contract (1 April 2015 to 1 March 2018), to operate and offer services to victims of gender based violence.

The GBV Command Centre received accolades for the technological innovation nationally and internationally. It won Gold at the Contact Centre Management Group Annual Awards in August 2014 for best technology innovation in South Africa.

The centre can locate a victim within 100 metres. Telephonic counselling services have been rendered successfully for the Nelson Mandela Hotline for the Nation (December 2013); Nigeria SCOAN church collapse tragedy in September 2014; stop violence against foreign nationals (April 2015); 2014, 2015 and 2016 matric class results counselling services from the Command Centre. The Command Centre was piloted successfully in designated areas within Gauteng such as Tshwane and JHB Metro. Six social workers from the Child Protection Unit within Gauteng operated mobile devices to respond to case referrals from the Command Centre. Cases were successfully referred to social workers for resolution and further intervention.

From 1 January - 31 May 2017, 54 332 telephone calls were received, 232 SMSes were received and 6 298 USSD messages were received. Calls ranged from physical violence, rape/correctional rape, indecent assault, bullying, assault, incest, funding, matric, xenophobia, Home Affairs related, child custody, molestation, elderly neglect, child neglect, emotional abuse, substance abuse, SASSA grants, abduction, human trafficking, forced initiation, child maintenance, labour dispute, forced prostitution, counselling depression, behavioural problems, economic/financial abuse, legal advice, and verbal abuse.

The Command Centre launched the following in December 2016: a Skype line (Helpme GBV), an SMS based line (31531), a National Emergency Response Team (NERT) to support the services of the centre which provides a 24 hr response for psychosocial counselling. Support is rendered to the victim/family, provides crisis intervention and refers to the provinces for further interventions.

The success of the project depends entirely on sound inter-sectoral collaboration and coordination on victim empowerment services. It has broadened the base of service delivery to the remotest and most underdeveloped areas of the country. It avails real-time functionality to DSD, including strategic reporting on trends in speculation for locations or types of violence and demand for social workers in a specific location.

Ms Tsoleli welcomed the presentation. The incidence of GBV is escalating. In Bloemfontein, a girl of 14 years was sexually assaulted by three boys. The act was filmed and put on social media. Morals are degenerating. It is shocking to hear that in one night, 18 women are raped. Is DSD envisaging having the same Command Centre in all provinces? If they are already in the provinces, in what areas are they? Does the Command Centre engage in its own campaign? It is good to hear that people in the deaf community are covered because they are highly abused. How does the centre collaborate with the police especially on reports made by deaf persons? In most cases the complaints of the deaf are not written well by the police, nor do they reach court because of a lack of interpreters.

Ms Abrahams asked if the Command Centre is in all provinces? What marketing strategy is in place? What is the volume of calls from the disabled and older persons? How successful are the green and white doors? How many green and white doors are in the country?

The Chairperson said that the presentation left out most stakeholders who have long been in existence such as the traditional leaders. Relying on government, rather than the people in the community, has gone wrong. Faith leaders, families, parents, women are very important in the prevention, care and support of GBV victims. Morals have degenerated such that people do not fear the parents of the girls; that is why they can upload such acts on social media. Eurocentrism has penetrated the life of the people. What status do people have to open their doors?

Minister Dlamini replied that it is true that violence has increased tremendously. DSD is coordinating with so many structures. However, the statistics used by DSD are not correct especially because they are based on police reports - but most people do not report violence to the police. DSD will work with traditional leaders, parents and faith based leaders.

The challenges encountered are that in the face of violence, most people close their doors and do not help, and parents often protect the attackers of their children. The nuclear family is also an issue. It is believed that a child belongs to the community but this is no longer the case in that even children respond to say, ‘you are not my mother or father to correct or advise me’. Further, attention has been paid to the girl-child and not the male-child hence the increase in patriarchy. Patriarchy is highly entrenched in this society. Incest is growing in some parts of the country. One of the solutions is closing the gaps that exist in GBV legislation. Also, materialism is growing such that young girls think they can sleep with older men just to get their needs met. Attention should be paid also to the prevention of GBV.

Ms Connie Nxumalo, DSD Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, said that the Command Centre is a national programme that works at ground level everywhere as long as there is a cellphone. DSD will strengthen its programme to include men and boys. Research on structural determinants show the family structure is getting weaker and thus cannot protect its members. Parents are not available to parent their children due to work and other things. Working with traditional leaders and faith based leaders is important because they will play a huge role.

Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi, Acting Director-General: DSD, invited the Committee to visit the Command Centre and see how it functions.

Ms Nxumalo said there are over 280 white doors in all the provinces. The white doors are an overnight facility. DSD works with police to patrol and safeguard the white doors because most times the perpetrators follow their victims to these houses.

Ms Nomathemba Malvern, Manager at the Gender Based Violence Command Centre, said the Command Centre was involved in the march with the family of Karabo Mokoena. The Command Centre works with Vodacom to promote and advertise its number. There is however a plan in progress for a mass media campaign which involves Brothers For Life and USAID. It will take place in August which is Women’s Month.

The Chairperson thanked DSD for the report. The meeting was adjourned

[Apologies were received from Ms Sonti, Dr Madlopha, Mr Mabilo, Ms Wilson who is absent due to miscommunication, Ms De Kock, Ms van der Merwe who is out of the country, Ms H Bogopane-Zulu Deputy Minister of Social Development. The Chairperson said that Ms Wilson will have to explain what type of miscommunication she meant.]

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