Social Relief Fund Bill: briefing

Social Development

03 June 2003
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Meeting report

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
4 June 2003
SOCIAL RELIEF FUND: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Draft Social Relief Fund Bill
Briefing Document: Department of Social Development
Timeframes: Social Relief Fund Bill

SUMMARY
The Department of Social Development (DSD) explained the rationale for amalgamating the existing disaster relief funds into a single Social Relief Fund. Clarity was provided on specific clauses in the Bill and some recommendations made that members felt might strengthen its provisions.

MINUTES

Social Relief Fund: Briefing
The Department explained the rationale behind the decision to amalgamate existing disaster relief funds into a single, independent entity reporting to the DSD. This entity would be called the Social Relief Fund. It would bring together:
- the State President's Fund
- the Social Relief Fund
- the Refugee Relief Fund
- the Disaster Relief Fund
- the South African Defence Force (SANDF) Fund.

The Bill sought to establish a Social Relief Fund; make provision for the objects and duties of the Fund and the composition of its Board; regulate the collection of contributions from the public; provide for the declaration of certain occurrences as disasters; regulate the Fund's financial affairs and staff matters; and provide for all related matters.


Discussion
Ms G Borman (DA) asked what savings the amalgamation would bring about.

Ms R Ally (DSD) explained that one board would replace the separate boards currently in place. Having one set of legislation and, preferably, one department responsible for disaster management would reduce administrative costs.

Ms S Rajbally (Minority Front) asked how the consolidation would affect disaster management and relief at provincial and local levels.

Mr J Molifi (DSD) replied that the role of the provinces was still under review.

Ms Rajbally asked for clarity on the difference between refugee and asylum seekers.

Mr Molifi explained that an asylum seeker was a person who had applied for refugee status as provided for in the Refugee Act of 1993.

Ms Ally said that the most vulnerable asylum seekers were unaccompanied minors.

Ms C Ramotsamai (ANC) was concerned that the amalgamation could result in job losses. She asked whether organised labour had been consulted. She also asked whether the proposed amalgamation would not, in turn, reduce the amount available for relief. She requested that the Department prepare a document outlining comparative costs and savings.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked how the new arrangement would affect assistance received from international donor organisations.

My Ally assured the Committee that the document requested would be prepared. She said that, although a number of organisations did provide assistance to refugees, the funds that would be amalgamated did not receive donations from them. No negotiations had yet been conducted with organised labour regarding the proposed restructuring.

The Chairperson asked whether accumulated unspent funds were currently returned to National Treasury.

Mr Molifi explained that, because the existing Disaster Relief Fund catered for unplanned events, the funds were allowed to roll over.

Ms N Tsheole was concerned that allocations to the provinces were not always properly used. She asked whether the proposed consolidation would take into consideration that local authorities usually had some social relief funding. She also wanted to know how the proposed new Board would deal with local authorities, and how quickly relief would be provided.

Pastor C Nhlapo (Chairman, Disaster Relief Fund) commented that the people most affected by disasters were those living in areas with poor infrastructure.

Ms Tsheole remained concerned about incidents in the deep rural areas, where several weeks sometimes lapsed before people received assistance. Municipalities ought to be equipped to provide immediate relief.

Ms Ally said that, currently, immediate needs in respect of disaster relief were met at a local level through allocations from the provincial departments concerned.

Pastor Nhlapo added that a disaster had to be declared before the existing Disaster Relief Fund could be accessed.

Ms T Tshivhase (ANC) pointed out that, in some areas, tornadoes occurred regularly. Who determined when such an area was declared a disaster area and from which fund would assistance be received?

Mr E Saloojee (ANC) also cited the informal settlements in Cape Town where, when heavy rain came, floods were almost certain.

Ms Ally said that, where disasters occurred regularly, the provinces concerned were responsible. A consultation process had to take place before a disaster was declared and the Disaster Relief Fund accessed. The intention of the Bill was to facilitate a response to the disaster as soon as possible. Parallel to that would be the provision of emergency social relief.

Mr Molifi emphasised that the mandate for disaster relief was with the DSD.

Prof L Mbadi (ANC) referred to communities in the Mount Ayliffe and Tabankulu areas of the Eastern Cape where a school had collapsed three or four years previously. He asked how long it took to respond to disasters of this nature, especially when they affected children.

Ms Ally explained that the Bill did not make provision for such disasters, which were the responsibility of the Department of Public Works. However, the DSD was moving towards an integrated planning and co-ordinating approach to disaster management and relief.

Mr Saloojee asked how the proposed new legislation would impact on the large numbers of starving children in rural areas.

Ms Ally replied that this would depend on the cause of the problem and whether it fell under the ambit of the Bill.

Mr A van Jaarsveld (NNP) asked what had happened to the SANDF Fund.

Mr P du Preez (Legal Advisor: DSD) said that the SANDF Fund had never been operationalised.

Ms Chalmers was unhappy with the title of the Bill as she felt it was confusing.

Pastor Nhlapo observed that 'social relief' implied relief rather than compensation.

Social Relief Fund Bill
The Chair asked Mr Du Preez to look into the definitions of 'compensation', 'progressive disaster', 'occurrence' and any other terms the Committee had highlighted for clarity.

Definitions
The Committee felt legislation could not be left silent on the issue of compensation. It was noted that this would not change the content and intent of the Bill.

The term 'progressive' would cater for the consequences of an event or incident provided for in the Bill or an officially declared disaster.

It was noted that, in terms of the Bill, an organisation need not necessarily be an organised legal entity.

The definition of the term 'terrorism' would be informed by the Anti Terrorism Bill.

It was proposed that definition 1(b)(xxii) should end with the qualification, "as a result of a disaster."

Establishment of Social Relief Fund
No changes were proposed

Composition and appointment of the Board
Ms N Tsheole (ANC) asked for clarity on the role of the Committee in this process and was advised that this could not be spelled out in the Bill.

Objects of the Fund
Mr Du Preez emphasised that this was the most important clause of the Bill.
Clause 4(c)(i)
Ms Chalmers asked if relief in respect of medical treatment and rehabilitation was open-ended. Mr Du Preez confirmed that it was provided as long as the need existed.
Clause 4(d)(i)
Ms Tshivhase asked what the position would be if a husband killed his wife because of ideological differences. Mr Du Preez said that the onus of proof would be on the husband. The Chair suggested that the clause be strengthened accordingly.

Duties of the Fund
Clause 5(3)(a)
It was explained that this referred to the collection of contributions on behalf of the Fund. Any non-profit organisation outside the Fund's jurisdiction could collect money for disaster relief as long as it complied with the requirements of the relevant legislation.

Members, structures and functions of the Board
Clauses 6 - 10
These were said to be standard clauses
Clauses 11 - 12
It was explained that this section referred to collections on behalf of the Fund; and did not affect spontaneous and voluntary donations to those in need.

Declaration of disasters
Mr Du Preez said that Clause 13(1) might be removed once a decision had been taken as to who declared these disasters. Ms Borman supported this.

Financing, audit and annual report
The link between Clauses 14(1) and 14(10) was emphasised.

Because of time constraints, further discussion on the Bill was postponed until the next meeting. The Chair asked members to note any clauses still requiring attention.

The meeting was adjourned

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