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SELECT COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL SERVICES
13 May 2003
INTERGOVERNMENTAL FISCAL REVIEW
Chair: Ms L Jacobus (ANC, Gauteng)
Documents handed out:
Intergovernmental Fiscal Review, Chapter 6
Western Cape Briefing
Eastern Cape Briefing
North West Briefing
Skills shortages and budgetary constraints continued to present ongoing challenges to service delivery in the face of increasing numbers of people and children in need, as well as those qualifying for social grants. A separate national entity would be launched in 2004 to manage and administer social grants, shifting responsibility away from the provinces. This would streamline the fragmented system currently in place and improve access. Measures were being taken to address fraud and corruption across the provinces.
Mr Daniel Plaatjies, Programme Manager for Social Services, National Treasury, appraised members of Chapter 6 of the Intergovernmental Fiscal Review (www.treasury.gov.za). The mandate for the Department of Social Development had expanded to include poverty and food relief as well as social grants and welfare services. This had extended the safety net to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of beneficiaries, particularly in respect of child support grants and those affected and infected by HIV/Aids. Budget trends for the period under review reflected an annual growth rate of 17,9%.
By the year 2005/206, spending on social development was expected to account for nearly twenty six per cent of overall provincial government expenditure, with higher allocations in the poorer provinces indicating a trend towards greater equity and the equalisation of access to social grants. While the provinces' strategic planning processes had reflected a deepening understanding of social development cost drivers, Treasury was nevertheless concerned that a paucity of quantitative and qualitative data for some programmes could make monitoring difficult.
In the interests of the more efficient administration of social grants, a separate national entity would soon be established in keeping with an in-principle decision by Cabinet to move this function from provincial to national level.
The Chair welcomed the establishment of a separate national entity for the management and administration of social grants. She asked when this could be expected to become operational.
Treasury replied that the agency would be launched in 2004.
A member asked whether everybody entitled to a social grant did, in fact, receive it.
Treasury replied that most did. However, the efficient management and administration of social grants at provincial level had presented numerous challenges and remained problematic in many areas. The proposed new nationally managed system should address fragmentation and differential access to social grants between provinces.
Western Cape: Briefing
Mr Marius Fransman (MEC, Social Services and Poverty Alleviation, Western Cape) provided members with a comprehensive appraisal of the province's strategy for addressing social service imperatives.
This focused on questions from the Chair regarding the Child Support Grant (CSG) programme, collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in identifying those who qualified for social grants, the impact of social grants, the food security programme, the training of personnel and the issues of fraud and corruption.
Mr Fransman advised members that the CSG programme was not yet reaching everyone in the province qualifying for a grant, acknowledging the need for public education in this regard.
Although meetings had taken place with the DHA, no practical steps had yet been taken by DHA to take the matter forward. The time taken to process grant applications had improved significantly as a result of ongoing training programmes.
Service delivery partners would be more closely monitored and evaluated in order to determine the appropriateness and impact of products and services.
Regarding food security, this would be integrated into programmes aimed at an holistic approach towards poverty alleviation in partnership with developmental institutions, grant making agencies and faith-based organisations.
A communication campaign was being planned to raise awareness among staff and beneficiaries of the importance of reporting fraud and any other irregularities.
North West Province: Briefing
Mr Mayisela (Provincial Department: Social Services, Arts, Culture and Sport) appraised members of progress made in moving towards a multidisciplinary approach to social development in keeping with national norms and standards. Conceding that significantly more still needed to be done, he stated that a new cadre of development workers would be crucial to maximising the impact of existing programmes, particularly in respect of home-based care for people living with or affected by HIV/Aids. Difficulties were being experienced in recruiting and retaining skilled social workers. Budgetary constraints also needed to be addressed in the face of burgeoning demands for poverty relief in the province.
Mr D Kgware (ANC, Northern Cape) asked whether the province was experiencing difficulty with fraudulent cross-border grant applications from Botswana. He also requested more information about the province's programme for home-based care for people living with HIV/Aids.
Mr Mayisela advised that, while cross-border fraudulent grant applications did occur, he was not in a position to quantify the numbers and amounts involved. DHA and the South African Police Services (SAPS) were assisting his Department in addressing this.
Regarding home-based care, the introduction of a stipend to motivate volunteers to provide the appropriate level of care was being explored.
Mr Kgware then expressed concern that old-age homes often refused to make the necessary arrangements when pensioners in their care passed away.
Mr Mayisela commented that, although he was not aware of this, he understood that old-age homes for indigent pensioners were required to liase with undertakers through his department or the relevant municipal office.
The National Treasury representative suggested that budgetary constraints would need to be brought to the attention of the Minister.
Limpopo Province: Briefing
Mr S Moloto, Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) responsible for Health and Welfare in the province, prefaced his presentation with the comment that, in his view, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) tended to emphasise accountability at the expense of delivery. It was unrealistic to base the allocation of equitable shares to provinces on demographics since these could easily be distorted.
He then appraised members of social development trends and challenges in the province, noting with regret the prevailing low levels of impact despite increased budgetary allocations. Inefficiency and corruption continued to present obstacles to effective delivery, while the social implications of increasing numbers of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and elsewhere demanded urgent attention.
The issue of foster care also merited attention since, in his view, it was inappropriate to apply a Western understanding of this form of care to the African situation, where extended family played an important role in caring for orphaned children and, in the face of widespread poverty, often needed financial assistance in doing so.
Responding to the MEC's comment about the PFMA, the National Treasury representative advised members that this was intended to facilitate service delivery by ensuring accountability through careful strategic planning based on measurable objectives. The criteria for allocating equitable shares to the provinces were nevertheless being revisited.
A representative of the national Department of Social Development acknowledged that the increased mandate in respect of social services in the provinces did have implications for human resource capacity. This needed to be addressed.
Currently, legislation on foster care did not make specific provision for a member of the extended family providing that care. This, too, needed to be addressed.
A member asked what was meant by the term 'relief of distress' and was advised that this referred to a situation in which temporary relief was provided in exceptional circumstances.
Mrs J Vilakazi (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) appealed for a review of legislation affecting grants for foster care in order to accommodate extended family members providing care to orphaned children.
Eastern Cape Province: Briefing
Ms Dikhela, representing the Department of Social Development, Eastern Cape, highlighted poverty eradication, programme sustainability, human resources, and transforming the welfare services as major challenges facing the province where the focus was on children and home-based care for people affected by HIV/Aids. No impact assessment had yet been conducted since this would require additional funding. However, grants had been allocated to presidential nodal points where programmes were being developed to address the special needs that had been identified.
Ms Dikhela appraised members of progress with the province's HIV/Aids pilot programmes, which would need to be extended beyond the piloting phase to the twelve poorer districts. The unit running the programmes was being strengthened and would soon operate as a full directorate.
Regarding social grants, every effort was being made to reduce the turnaround time from ninety to thirty days and to address the problems of fraud and corruption through improved management and administration systems.
The 'Services on Wheels' programme was designed to make a broad range of social services accessible to people in the deep rural areas and was receiving the support and co-operation of the DHA in identifying beneficiaries for social grants.
The challenge of attempting to expand services in the face of an acute skills shortages demanded urgent attention. This was one of the reasons why no impact assessments had been conducted on social grants.
A member asked whether the high level of poverty among children meant that large numbers of children had not been reached at all by the system.
Ms Dikhela replied that it was difficult to determine this in the absence of an impact assessment. However, it appeared that the majority of deserving cases were not yet accessing their grants.
The Chair asked if there were any programmes in place to build project management capacity and was told that the province had received a grant from national government for this.
The Chair then asked how 'Services on Wheels' had been funded and was advised that the project had received special funding for its pilot phase in Pede, Mount Frere and Cradock.
Mpumalanga Province: Briefing
Mr J Mabilo appraised members of developments in the province, expressing concern that the increasing number of social grant beneficiaries could affect the province's capacity to deliver other social services. By way of example, providing ablution facilities, visible security and standby nurses at social grant pay points had drained the budget significantly. The scarcity of skilled personnel was also a cause for concern and was already impacting negatively on service delivery.
Nevertheless, with the assistance of Home Affairs, progress was being made in identifying and registering people qualifying for social grants, while the Buyisa initiative was addressing the issue of irregularities and fraud.
This focused on questions raised by the Chair on the issues of fraud and skills shortages.
Mr Mabilo appraised members of measures being taken to address fraudulent claims for social grants in collaboration with DHA and the Premier's office. He also provided detail on training programmes in place to build capacity in the province, although a large number of posts remained vacant.
The meeting was adjourned.
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