SASSA and Department human resources: status report; Department Quarter 4 performance

Social Development

13 September 2017
Chairperson: Ms R Capa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development (DSD) told the Committee that during the fourth quarter of 2016-17, there had been an increase in the achievement of its targets from 63% to 77%, compared to the third quarter. A total of 105 targets had been set across its five programmes, and it had fulfilled 82 of them. Expenditure on the programmes had varied between 99% and 100%. Areas of under-spending included foster care, disability and old age grants, because of fewer than the anticipated projected beneficiaries, delays in planned projects for building and fixed structures, and the non-payment of non-profit organisations due to non-compliance.

Members raised concerns over the lack of information on the impact of the DSD’s programmes, and asked questions about the construction of community care centres, the increase in support for war veterans, the provision of foster car and the lapse of some social grants. The Chairperson commented that the presentation should not only be about how much money had been spent, but how it had improved the lives of people.

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) briefed the Committee on the state of its human resources. It had an approved complement of 18 607 posts. These posts had never been fully funded, but had been provided to allow SASSA to grow into the structure. Currently, in the approved structure, SASSA had 19 415 posts, which included both contract and permanent posts. In 2015/16, SASSA had 9 732 members. At the end of 2016/17 it had 9 349. The total vacancy for SASSA stood at 10 066, which was 52%. The majority of the SASSA staff were in local offices and at a lower level, where they dealt with service delivery issues. The Committee was advised of the various stages at which vacant positions were being filled.

Members did not really engage with the presentation, since the structure was still going to be reviewed. However, questions were asked about the filling of the post of Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The Committee was told the position had been signed off by the Minister, and would be advertised in the coming week.

Meeting report

Briefing by Department of Social Development

Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Chief Director: Monitoring and Evaluation, Department of Social Development (DSD) said the Department had identified and committed itself to addressing the following key priorities for the 2014-19 medium term strategic framework (MTSF):

  • Expanding child and youth care services through the Isibindi programme;
  • Social welfare sector reform and services to deliver better results;
  • Deepening social assistance and extending the scope of social security;
  • Increased access to Early Childhood Development (ECD);
  • Strengthening community development interventions;
  • Combating substance abuse and gender-based violence;
  • Increasing household food and nutrition security;
  • The protection and promotion of the rights of older persons and people with disabilities;
  • Establishing social protection systems to strengthen coordination, integration, planning, monitoring and evaluation of services.

During the fourth quarter, there had been an increase in the achievement of targets, from 63% to 77%, compared to the third quarter. In programme one, 11 of the 17 targets were achieved, two were partially achieved and four were not achieved. In programme two, all eight targets were achieved. In programme three, all eight targets were fully achieved. In programme four, 30 of the 38 targets were fully achieved, four were partially achieved and four were not achieved. In programme five, 25of the 34 targets were fully achieved, five were partially achieved and four were not achieved.

Programme 1: Administration

In the fourth quarter, the Department had set a target of facilitating the integration of gender into one policy. The sexual harassment policy had been reviewed.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee was aware of the sexual harassment policy, or had even approved it. The Committee could not conduct oversight on a policy it had not approved.

Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi, Acting Director General (ADG) said it was an internal policy that had been presented, and it had been approved by the internal structures of the Department.

The Chairperson said the policy could not be an achievement, since it had not been approved by the Committee. How had the policy come about?

Ms E Wilson (DA) said that the policy was not a Parliamentary Act, neither was it a public policy. It was an administration issue. It was an internal policy of the Department.

The Chairperson said that the presentation before the Committee were the achievements and strategies of the Department for which the Committee had to oversight. Had the Department given the Committee its implementation approach? It was a methodology issue, and the Department had to tell the Committee the methodology it would use in implementing some of its strategies. The Committee did not necessarily need to participate in the Department’s internal policy.

Ms Wilson said that the comment of the Chairperson suggested that the Department should bring all its internal policies before it.

Ms Vilakazi said the Department had never brought its internal policies before the Committee for approval. The policy was part of its Annual Performance Plan (APP) which it had reviewed in the 2016/17 financial year. The Department had several internal policies, such as procurement policies. It was an administrative issue which did not entail public participation.

Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) said that this was an administrative issue and should not be presented to the Committee, since it had neither participated nor authored the policy.

Mr Thabani proceeded with the presentation, saying that a result-based monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework with indicators had been developed and consulted with all relevant stakeholders. The Department had reached 872 439 new followers on social media accounts, compared to the set target of 5 000. A total of seven targeted audit projects had been completed to determine compliance with legislation and policies. The child protection register and alternative care were tested, as was the National Integrated Social Protection Information System (NISPIS).

Ms Wilson asked what the Department meant by NISPIS tested.

Mr Thabani said it had been tested for compatibility.

Programme 2: Social Assistance

330 202 older persons had benefited from old age grant, compared to the set target of 330 054.

12 081 375 children had benefited from the child support grant out of the set target of 12 348 357.

176 war veterans had benefited from the war veterans’ grant, out of the set target of 162. The South African Social Security Agency would however elaborate more on why there had been an increase in the number of war veterans who had benefited, and the decrease in the number of children who had benefited from the child support grant.

1 067 176 persons had benefited from the disability grant, against the set target of 1 085 898.

144 952 persons had benefited from the care dependency grant, compared to the target of 147 791.

440 295 persons had benefited from the foster child grant out of the set target of 460 830. The decline had been due to the lapsing of grants.

164 349 persons had benefited from grants-in-aid out of the 164 756 set target.

132 241 social relief of distress applications had been awarded out of the 120 000 set target.

Programme 3: Social Security Policy and Administration

The policy on the universalisation of benefits to older persons had been developed and finalised. A discussion paper on the universal provision of the child support grant had been completed. A technical paper on mandatory cover for retirement, disability and survivor benefits had been developed. The Department had adjudicated 516 of 599 appeals within 90 days of receipt. It had also adjudicated all 412 appeals received from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) with complete records within 90 days of receipt. The financial compliance framework had been approved, and two memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the Department of Home Affairs and the South African Police Service had been developed.

The chairperson asked why the policy on universalisation and the technical paper on mandatory cover for retirement, disability and survivor benefits had been developed and completed without the knowledge of the Committee. The Committee had been supposed to workshop with the Department on some of the policies for better understanding, but the workshop had never happened. Now it seemed some of the policies had been developed and completed without the input of the structure that would conduct oversight on them. Her question and comment were not open for discussion, but just to bring her point home.

Programme 4: Welfare services policy development and implementation support

The White Paper on social welfare had been revised. A draft model for the supply and demand of Social Service Practitioners (SSP) had been developed, and a recruitment and retention strategy for SSPs had been approved by the Heads of Social Development Sector (HSDS). The Older Persons Amendment Bill had been submitted to Cabinet and approved for gazetting. The alignment of the Provincial Ordinances Act with the early childhood development (ECD) policy had been completed, and the ECD infrastructure plan had been finalised. A total of 364 adoptions had been registered, including 329 national adoptions and 35 inter-country adoptions. The drafting of the child care and protection policy had been finalised.

The Department had conducted three inter-sectoral capacity building workshops in the Free state, North West province and Gauteng. The country’s report had been deposited with the African Union. Operating policy guidelines for the social development sector academy had been developed, and accreditation proposals had been submitted to the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA).

The VES Bill had been certified and found to be constitutional by the State Law Advisors. The strategy for a capacity-building programme for teenage parents had been presented and approved by the DDG Forum. A consolidated report on the national human trafficking awareness campaign had been compiled, and a desktop research on the situational analysis of community care workers had been conducted.

A total of 82 community-based organisations had been trained to utilise Community Based Interventions Monitoring Systems (CBIMS).

Programme 5: Social Policy and integrated service delivery

The Department had received 6 774 applications and had processed them within two months of receipt. It had conducted 17 Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) national road shows in 17 local municipalities.  982 NPOs had been trained on governance and compliance with the NPO Act. The Department had received 6 769 reports and processed 6 578 within two months of receipt. The community development practice policy had been submitted to the HSDS for approval. A capability assessment report had been compiled, and draft guidelines for youth mobilisation had been finalised and circulated.

The framework for the linkage of cooperatives to economic opportunities within the sector had been finalised, with inputs from provinces. Guidelines for the institutionalisation of cooperatives had also been finalised, with inputs from provinces. A women’s empowerment framework for the Skills Development Strategy (SDS) had been finalised, with inputs from provinces, and a draft strategy for the social development of youths had been submitted to the National Youth Development Forum (NYDF), and the branch community development forum had been consulted for approval.

Financial Performance

Mr Clifford Appel, CFO: DSD reported on the financial performance of the Department.

In programme one, 99.9% of the approved budget had been spent. In programme two, where 99.6% was spent, theunder-spending was related to slow spending on foster care, disability and old age grants because of fewer than anticipated projected beneficiaries. In programme three, 100% was spent. In programme four, 99.3% was spent, where the under expenditure was related to delays in planned projects for building and fixed structures to the amount of R2.9 million. It also involved the non-payment of non-profit organisations due to non-compliance, to the amount of R2.476 million. In programme five, 99.7% was spent. The under-expenditure in this programme was due to the non-payment of non-profit organisations due to non-compliance.

Discussion  

Ms Abrahams asked the reason for the increase in the number of war veteran beneficiaries.

Ms Masango said that the Department’s presentation had been only a statistical report, with only achievements and non-achievements. It had not provided information on the impact of the programmes on the people. For example, people waited three to four months before receiving their Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, mainly because the food came from KZN and the recipients were in the Eastern Cape. Yet the presentation stated that 132 241 SRD applications had been awarded out of 120 000 set targets. This did not state what the number related to. Organisational Development What was the effectiveness of the registration process for the NPOs, since some had been waiting for months to be registered?

Ms Malgas said that no information had been given as to how money had been spent on programme one.  

Ms Mogotsi asked the reason for the lapse in grants in programme two. How many new applicants had come in, in terms of this programme?

Mr S Mabilo (ANC) asked if the construction of the eight community care centres had been achieved or not. With regard to the provincial multi-disciplinary committee, were there issues that had needed the attention of the Committee in relation to monitoring? Was the target on anti-substance abuse achieved or not, and if not, why? Was the National Human Resources Plan (NHRP) draft approved? If not, why? Had the Department realigned ECD to the policy? If not, what was the timeline to do so? Had the Disability Inequality Index (DII) been updated?

The Chairperson asked about the indicators in the targets set by the Department. The Department had to provide a report as to what the situation on ground was before it implemented or achieved its target. This would also enable both the Committee and Department to measure the impact of the target on the lives of the people. The questions asked by Members were informed by what they saw. The presentation should not be only about how much money had been spent, but how it had improved the lives of people.

Ms Vilakazi said that going forward, the Department would provide its performance indicators as an attachment or addendum to the Committee. The Department did consult with the community to understand their challenges, and then came up with a community-based plan and did an intervention. There were people who then remained behind to monitor the impact of Project Mikondzo. However, there was a reporting guideline, so the Department reported the way it did.

Mr Mzolisi Toni, DDG, said the Department had advanced the DII because it was a technical instrument. It had also done training in the nine provinces in this regard.

Ms Conny Nxumalo, DDG: Welfare Services, responded to the question about the decline in foster care, saying that children were removed from the foster care grant in terms of their age.. There were also cases of corruption and maladministration by social security officials who influenced the numbers.

The Department had achieved its target of aligning the ECD to policy. The POA would subsequently go to Cabinet. If given time, the Department would come to present it before the Committee.

The Department monitored the targets it had set.

Mr Mabilo asked if challenges had been picked up by the Department on the issue of foster care that the Committee could attend to.

The Chairperson said there was a huge problem on the issue of foster care. There were Tribunals that dealt with backlogs, and the backlogs were huge in number. This was a huge problem, because magistrates were not taking this as a priority.

Referring to the DSD, she said that the issue of lapses in grants should be looked into. There had been complaints by some people who had stopped receiving grants ever since one of their children had died, and others had stopped receiving. Children were dying of hunger and were being left to the mercy of their extended families, who may not be taking care of them.

The DSD should work with SASSA on the issue of disability.

Ms Vilakazi said the Department could share its challenges on foster care when invited, because the issue was quite wide. The backlogs complained about were in different stages and forms.

Mr Peter Netshipale, DDG: Community Development, said the NPO Act did not allow the Department to check what the NPOs were registering for. The Act had been approved in 1997. The Department registered NPOs so long as they met the requirements. There was an online and manual form of registration. The only problem was that most NPOs believed they would be funded by the Department after registration.

The Chairperson asked if the Department, while implementing the Act, advised the NPOs that they would not be funded by the Department. She advised the Department that it should always produce a document whenever they spent government funds. It should always give the Committee the situation on ground before its intervention. The Department must have a concept document with a business plan. The business plan could be produced even when not asked for. She asked what the Monitoring and Evaluation unit was doing in the Department.

Mr Appel, responding to the construction of the community care centre situation, said one would be completed in KZN by December, and two would be finalised in North West in December. In Limpopo, the contract of one contractor had been cancelled, but two would be completed in March.

The Chairperson asked if the Department carried out assessments to make sure that there was no infrastructure not in use before providing a new one. In most cases, new governments wanted to get their own infrastructure when there was one that was not in use. The Department must make sure to make use of infrastructure that was not in use.

Ms Nxumalo said that a feasibility study had been done in all three provinces to make sure that there was no infrastructure that was not being used, before getting a new one for the centres.

Adv Brink responding to the question about the increase in the number of war veterans, and said the annual projection had been based on historical information. The projection this year was fewer, because it was expected that some of them would die. On the child support grant, the lapsing of grants was a challenge. When children came of age, they did not qualify for the grant. All grants were based on applications.

Ms Mogotsi asked what happened to the illiterate who did not know about SASSA and its application procedures, especially in the rural areas.

DSD and SASSA on their state of human resources

Ms Pearl Bhengu, Acting CEO: SASSA, said the Agency had indicated at their last meeting that before tabling its report to the Concourt, it would first report to the Committee, and therefore it had expected the Committee to call it tomorrow for the presentation. The report would go to Concourt on 15 September, which was the following day.

The Chairperson said it was good to hear that SASSA was ready to comply. However, it would like to know what the report said, although this was not to take over the function of the court.

Ms Raphaale Ramokgopa, Executive Manager: SASSA said that when SASSA was established, a full structure had been approved with a complement of 18 607 posts. These posts had never been fully funded, but had been provided to allow SASSA to grow into the structure. Currently, in the approved structure, SASSA had 19 415 posts, which included both contract and permanent posts. In 2015/16, SASSA had 9 732 members. At the end of 2016/17 it had 9 349. The total vacancy for SASSA sits at 10 066, which was 52%. The majority of the SASSA staff were in local offices and at a lower level, where they dealt with the service delivery issues. Permanent posts were 8 544, and the contract posts were 805.

Of the 220 vacant posts, 105 were in the process of being advertised, 72 were being short-listed, eight were at the interview stage, six had been identified for trade off, three were awaiting Public Service Commission (PSC) results, 19 were awaiting appointment, four were in the finalisation stage (appointment letters issued), and three were in the Organisational Development (OD) processes for re-evaluation.

Discussion

Ms Masango said at the last meeting, the Minister had said there were a lot of skills that were missing at SASSA. Had the filled posts replaced the missing skills? What was happening to the position of the acting CEO -- was it being filled, or had it been filled?

The Chairperson repeated the Minister’s view that there were some skills lacking at SASSA, so there was a need for work streams. The issue of posts should be carefully looked into, especially in professionalising SASSA to do its work.

Ms Bhengu agreed that the SASSA structure was an ongoing process which would be reviewed because of the payment issues at the entity. The 18 607 staff complement was based on SASSA doing administrative work and payment.

The Minister had indicated that the agency needed work streams on human resources (HR), which would enable the agency to have a paymaster general that would take care of the payment of social grants within SASSA.  

The advertisement for the position of the Acting CEO would be out next week. It had been signed off by the Minister. Most of the other acting positions were being re-advertised, and they would have to be filled. HR work streams would work for SASSA until the requisite skilled posts were filled.

The Chairperson suggested that the Agency should do an introspection when employees absconded or resigned. It should find a way to reach employees that had left to find out why they had left, such as exit interviews. This approach would help the Agency going forward with its retention strategy and also to avoid the problem from happening again. The Committee was in support of these processes, especially the professionalisation of SASSA, to ensure that it was more of a service than a business.

Referring to the Department, the chairperson said that the nutrition food centre had not been sorted out, and had to be looked into.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

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