The Department of Social Development (DSD) reported that 144 000 people had received social assistance grants during the past financial year, which was only 3 000 short of its target. There had been a significant improvement in the achievement of planned targets in 2016/17, as 81% had been achieved compared to 69% the previous year. It described the highlights of the Department’s performance with its five programmes, and advised the Committee that it had spent R147.3 billion, or 99.6%, of its total budget
The Committee felt the Department was not doing well in numerous areas, particularly in respect of child abuse, women’s abuse, substance abuse and trafficking. It was puzzling why the Department had got a clean audit when duties were not being fulfilled. Members questioned whether the Deputy Minister was exercising enough oversight over the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), as there did not seem to be any indication of disciplinary action or consequence management against officials. They drew attention to the R6 million of fruitless expenditure.
The Chairperson said not enough was being done to combat the contextual problems that cropped up. For example, what was being done for the elderly, especially those from black communities who were not used to the idea of staying in a home. Planning without action was futile. The Department must speak to the challenges facing the country. Other issues discussed included informal foster homes, drug abuse and grants for ‘children’ above the age of 18.
The Deputy Minister commented that the DSD’s report provided more of an overview, and that SASSA would be the one to provide a more detailed description of the work done.
DSD 2016/17 Annual Report
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Chief Director: Strategy, Department of Social Development (DSD), said that although the DSD had targeted 147 000 people for social assistance grants, this goal had not been met. However, a substantial number of people had received aid, and there were fewer than 3 000 who could not access the grant. This mostly came down to the narrow legislative definition of children with disabilities. In addition, projections on disability-related grants were difficult due to a lack of statistics.
There had been a significant improvement in achievement of planned targets in the period 2016/17 when compared to 2015/16. In 2015/16, a total of 69% of the planned targets had been achieved. This performance had improved by 12% in the 2016/17 financial year, where 81% of the planned targets were achieved.
Performance highlights included:
Programme One (Administration)
For the fifth consecutive financial year, the Department had retained its clean audit on performance information. A child protection register and alternative care were developed and tested.
Programme Two (Social Assistance)
A total of 440 295 people benefited from foster care grants. The low uptake for this grant was mainly due to the lapsing of court orders when children turn 18 years. 164 349 people benefited from grants-in-aid, while 461 750 applications for social and disaster relief grants were processed.
Programme Three (Social Security Policy and Administration)
A total of 2 235 appeals were adjudicated, of which 85.6% (1 914) were adjudicated within 90 days of receipt. All of the 1 243 appeals received from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)
with complete records were adjudicated within 90 days of receipt.
Programme Four (Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation Support)
New scholarships were awarded to 1 004 youths. Consultations were conducted to finalise the draft Bill for Social Service Practitioners, while the Older Persons Amendment Bill was submitted to Cabinet and approved for gazetting for public comments. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme of action was aligned to the ECD policy. A total of 1 349 adoptions were registered, which included 1 200 national adoptions and 149 inter-country adoptions, and a policy framework for foster care was developed. Nine inter-sectorial capacity-building workshops on children’s rights and responsibilities in all provinces were conducted. The Children’s Amendment Bill and the Children’s Second Amendment Bill were approved by Parliament. The child care and protection policy was developed, and the second report on the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was submitted to the African Union (AU). A total of 11 anti-substance abuse education and awareness campaigns were conducted. In the area of HIV/Aids, 432 organisations were trained to implement perceived social support (PSS), and 403 community-based organisations (CBOs) were trained to utilise the DSD’s CBIMS electronic monitoring system.
Programme Five (Social Policy and Integrated Social Delivery)
134 375 work opportunities were created through the expanded public works programme (EPWP) social sector. 4 077 non-profit organisations (NPOs) were trained on governance and compliance with the NPO Act, and 2 058 wards were reached through community outreach programmes. A total of 302 357 people accessed food through Community Nutrition and Development Centres (CNDCs).
The Department had spent R147.3 billion, or 99.6% of its total budget. The reasons for expenditure variances were provided.
The Chairperson said that the Department was not doing well in numerous areas, particularly child abuse, women’s abuse, substance abuse and trafficking. In addition, although the DSD was also doing poorly in social cohesion, there was no report on it. The situation was getting worse, and the report was a direct contradiction of the reality. It was puzzling why the Department had got a clean audit when duties were not being fulfilled.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) said that explanations were not useful unless something concrete was done to ensure that the Department could do its work. The effort the DSD had gone through to ensure a clean audit was appreciated, and the Committee was aware of the difficulty other departments had in achieving this. It was worth questioning whether the Deputy Minister was exercising enough oversight over SASSA, as there did not seem to be any indication of disciplinary action or consequence management against officials.
It was crucial to note that audit performance was good for compliance with official regulations, but it did not necessarily equate to services on the ground. There was R6 million of fruitless expenditure, such as booking hotels and venues for officials who did not turn up. This spoke to a defect in the planning stages of the Department.
There was no evidence of any programmes that were supposedly in place in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). There was reference to the South African Food Security and Development Agency, but there was no information about the function of the agency.
The report also mentioned increasing access to social assistance as a target of the Department, but there was no further explanation. The target was particularly worrisome in relation to creating a culture of dependency, as the intention must be to reduce the number of people in need of grants.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KZN) was displeased with the report. The Department had reported that 81% of those in need of aid had received grants, up from 61%. However, this act was not impressive -- what was more concerning was the 19% of people that had suffered because the Department had failed to deliver. A slide which referred to the 18 Community Care Centres (CCC’s) noted that five of them had yet to be constructed, but no further detail was given. On the same page, it was stated that the Department had an unqualified audit report, yet it claimed to have received a clean audit report. If it was unqualified, then it was still not good enough. A clean audit would be impressive, an unqualified one was not. This meant that there was something lacking somewhere.
He asked where a department got its figures from when it sets its targets. If it budgeted for 147 000 people but granted aid to only 144 000, what of the 3 000 that remained? Were they qualifying beneficiaries? The DSD had done 101 road shows, although it had planned only 80. Where had the funds for this additional expenditure come from? Similarly, it had budgeted for 450 outreach programmes, but had done 2 000. There was something off about the budgeting of the Department.
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) commented that most of the presentation was based on statistics. Of the 112 targets, only 92 had been achieved, and the Department had reported on only 66 of them. There was no word on the 20 targets that were not achieved, although they were budgeted for. A presentation on the targets that were not achieved was required, which also had to detail how the funds for the targets which were not achieved were then allocated to other targets.
The Institute for Drug-free Sport was doing more to combat substance abuse than the Department. The report had not focused on the drug-lord fights in the Western Cape, where people were being killed daily. Too little was being done and the battle against drugs was being lost.
The Chairperson said that the report gave a false impression that all was well, but the DSD was facing losses on most fronts, particularly the drug battle, social cohesion, human trafficking, abuse and rape. Not enough was being done to combat the contextual problems that cropped up. For example, what was being done for the elderly, especially those from black communities who were not used to the idea of staying in a home. Planning without action was futile. The Department must speak to the challenges facing the country.
On the issues that Ms Zwane and Mr Khawula had raised, the aspect of over-achievement stood out. Although admirable, it was concerning in terms of the boundaries of the budget. For example, R2.7 million had been shifted from Programme 4 to Programme 5 to fund expenditure levels in community development. Money had been taken from a programme where targets had been partially met to fund over-expenditure in another programme, where targets were sought to be exceeded. Again, this went back to inefficient planning, especially in the programmes where there was over-achievement. There was no use planning for things that would not be done. The Department did not follow its own plans.
It was concerning when the report demonstrated an under-achievement of 20 000 on social care grants. The question that must be asked was what became of those children? Regarding social assistance, the summary in the report did not speak to the content. The pie-chart used indicated that 100% was achieved, yet this was not the case. A report on the targets that were not achieved was necessary.
Ms Hendrietta Bongopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister: DSD, explained that even though the Department was given money to construct various centres, such as the CCCs, it was not an independent process, but one which involved the provinces. For example, if the Department sought to build substance abuse centres, the money had to be sent to the provinces which then made the procurement. There was a lot of time invested in fighting to get things done. Three treatment centres which the DSD had invested in last year should have been reflected this report. It was not possible for the Department to construct directly, and the infrastructure budget was passed on to the provinces and the DSD got roped into provincial politics.
Now that the definition of disability in section 18 of the Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004 had been ratified, the Department had begun to actively mobilise for children to be found and given the help they needed.
A crucial issue that still had to be addressed was the one of age versus mental capacity, two factors which affected the grants given. SASSA would go into more detail about the matter when they presented their annual report. The Department provided an overview, but SASSA would attempt to answer some of the questions the Committee had posed in finer detail.
The DSD had a completely clean audit.
It partnered with the private sector, which contributed significantly towards some of the food and outreach programmes. In these cases, the Department did not use its own funds.
The Victim Empowerment Programme had brought a lot of innovation in terms of gender-based violence. A mistake had been in not taking the Committee with the DSD when these initiatives were implemented. The increase in the number of people in need of assistance was because the command centre was processing more cases.
Mr Mzolisi Toni, Deputy Director General: Children's Rights and People with Disabilities, DSD, reiterated that the private sector donated significantly towards food programmes. The Department often targeted one area at a time to conduct an outreach programme, and it then became possible to reach more wards simultaneously with the support of the provinces. The same applied to road shows. The Department ended up getting into areas of need, because leaving without assisting people who asked for or required help, would not be just.
Ms Constance Nxumelo, Deputy Director General: Welfare Services, DSD, added that with regard to the CCCs, the outstanding ones were in Limpopo. There were currently six provinces not benefiting, while three were being funded by donors. As for scholarships, the fund had been drastically reduced in line with Treasury instructions. There had also been a drastic reduction in the intake, and next year there would be no new students. The Department’s current focus was on keeping existing students in the system.
There was also a backlog of 2 784 social workers. There were 3 058 of them in the system, all of whom may graduate in the next year, and who may end up as part of the backlog if there was no new funding.
Mr Toni said that the Department was not paying sufficient attention to vulnerable groups like the disabled. The launch of the White Paper on vulnerable groups had made the DSD look at the kinds of instruments that needed to be put in place for children at risk of compounded marginalisation -- those with severe disabilities. A report was being processed through Cabinet so that it could be approved at that level. It was important for the Department to engage the provinces because that was where the implementation took place.
Mr Buthelezi referred to the fostering of a culture of dependency, and said that a 2015 report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) had indicated that South Africa was neglecting over two million children. These exclusion errors were the reason the Department had begun focusing on improving access.
Grants inherently had errors, and these errors had to be found. Although the grant ended when a child reached 18 years, the DSD exited vulnerable children between the ages of 18 and 22 in child-headed households.
Regarding how the Department planned its targets, before every financial year the DSD did a forecast, together with the National Treasury. However, every forecast had a margin of error. For example, with the war veterans’ grant, there had been a lower than anticipated mortality rate, and therefore the budget could not be reduced. For every target, progress had been made towards achieving it. Focusing on the 19% that had not been met was unfair.
Ms Zwane said that increasing household food and nutrition entailed the training of communities to be active participants in the one-home-one-garden programme, as in KZN.
The Deputy Minister agreed that donor funding must be added to the report, as it had been declared in the financial statements.
Another important topic was foster care. In the absence of a court order, one could not receive foster care. This was the reason that the figures went up and down. African families did not do formal foster care or adoption processes -- they just took in children in need as their own. This was a phenomenon that even the Minister had acknowledged. In these cases, the children did not get foster care grants because they did not go through the formal process. Instead, they received a child support grant which was often too small. The department also supported food gardens, assisting families to grow their food and even going so far as to buy any excess produce.
The Chairperson commented that several issues had been left in the hands of SASSA. There was a need to increase the frequency of meetings to know what was happening in the provinces, such as the Eastern Cape, which was neglected. The donor funding must also be addressed, as the Committee had no clear picture of the money spent by government. There was also a need to address the issue of grants for children over the age of 18. It was possible to estimate the number of children who would reach the age of 18 next year in order to budget for them.
The meeting was adjourned.
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