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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
25 June 2003
LEGISLATIVE PROCESSES AND PROGRESS TO DATE: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT
Chairperson: Mr. E Saloojee (ANC)
Documents handed out
Legislative Process and Progress to Date - Department Powerpoint Presentation
The Chair said the Committee looked forward to a productive engagement with the new Director General. The Department outlined the legislative programme it intended to introduce in the house before the expiry of the current term. The Committee however expressed its misgiving as to whether all these pieces of legislation would be promulgated in view of the shortened term of the house.
The Chair welcomed the new Director-General Mr. Vusi Madonsela on his ascendancy to this challenging position. He noted that Mr. Madonsela was not new to the Department and the business of the house since he had been holding that position in an acting capacity for some time now. He pointed out that the new DG assumed office at a time when there was rigorous restructuring of the entire service delivery system within the Department. He noted that due to the impending electioneering activities the house was likely to shorten its current term. It is in the light of this concern that the Committee wanted to hear from the Department on its legislative programme for the foreseeable future. He asked the Department to confine its presentation on the legislative programme that would be tabled in parliament for promulgation during the current term.
Briefing by Mr Vusi Madonsela - Director-General
Mr Madonsela expressed gratitude to the Chair and the house for the recognition they have accorded him at his new post. He apologised to the Committee for fact that his state of ill health would incapacitate his full participation in the discussion at hand. He noted that this was the first engagement he was having with the Committee since his confirmation and that it was important for him to attend in spite of his condition. He looked forward to a fruitful interaction with members of the Committee.
Mr Madonsela observed that the Department's main area of concern was the welfare of children, the aged, disabled persons and poverty alleviation programmes. He noted that the Department had developed the appropriate policy framework to achieve the desired objectives which it had translated into legislation in the form of draft Bills. Some measures had not yet matured into official government policy due to the fact that cabinet had not put its stamp of approval to graduate them to that status. The presentation would cover pieces of legislation the Department was hoping to table in the house before the expiry of the current term. He asked senior managers that accompanied him to take turns in addressing the Committee on the legislative framework that was currently in the pipeline.
Briefing by Mr Pakade - the Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Pakade gave a background to the legislative programme and noted that the administration of Social Assistance Act that was assigned to the provinces is presenting the Department with a number of challenges, some of which are of a constitutional nature. He however assured the house that the Bill would be presented to the house before the 1 August 2003 and hoped that the same would come into operation by the end of the last sitting of the current parliament. The draft Social Relief Fund Bill that seeks to consolidate the various Relief Funds into one Social Relief Fund would be tabled in parliament on the 12 September 2003. He noted that the Draft Children's Bill envisaged the definition of the rights and responsibilities of children and that so far extensive consultations and research had been undertaken by the South African Law Commission Project Committee. He outlined the timeframes for the Bill and projected that it would come to the house on the 12 September 2003.
Briefing by Mr Makiwane
Mr Makiwane explained that the Department's MINMEC decision to review the Financing Policy was motivated by, among others, concerns raised by internal and external stakeholders including the Portfolio Committee. He added that the MINMEC had noted the protracted process of implementation and confusion around the status of Finance Policy. He reported that the business plan would be approved on 15 July 2003 and the appointment of the project manager would follow on the 1 August 2003. The Draft Strategy on Child Abuse and Neglect intends, among other things, to continuously reduce the incidence of Child abuse and neglect in South Africa. The Draft Strategy would be approved before the end of 2003 noting that a drafter would be appointed to finalise the consultative draft and thereafter the strategy would be costed and submitted for approval before a draft Bill could be prepared.
Briefing by Dr. M Mabetoa - Director HIV/AIDS
Dr. Mabetoa informed the Committee that the Department's concern was to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS among vulnerable groups and to contribute towards reducing the risk of the spread of the disease with special focus on youth and women. She noted that the Department was keen to ensure that there were clear policy guidelines that informed service delivery to children and that national obligations were met. The Department would facilitate the process of developing competencies of practitioners involved in service delivery to children. Community Based Care ensured the provision of a continuum of care and normalisation of services for children families and individuals who had become vulnerable due to HIV/AIDS in their own communities or homes. One of the major challenges was that most children who were affected and affected by HIV/AIDS were not accessing services and that the process of identifying these beneficiaries was not as systematic as it should be.
The Chair sought clarity on whether there was any possibility for the proposed Bills to come to the house sooner in view of the likely early exit of current term.
Mr. Ashley Theron -Chief Director Welfare Services - said that the Children's Bill and Old Persons Bill was likely to come to the house very soon because it was only awaiting approval by the Cabinet Committee. The Department had received in-puts from all departments on the Children's Bill and that therefore most of the contentious issues had been ironed out paving the way for the formal introduction of the Bill to the house.
Mr. Masutha (ANC) applauded the Department for appraising the Committee on its legislative programme saying that the approach was most beneficial to members. He expressed appreciation at the marked progress on the Children's Bill at policy level noting that the social security package that was envisaged in the Bill was a very crucial component to the welfare of the child. He however questioned the assertion by the Department that it did not intend to work out a comprehensive social security plan for children noting that this move was not in the interest of the child. He asked the extent to which the costing for social security for children had been done.
Mr. Theron acknowledged the fact that the Children's Bill had very serious financial implications and that the Department was still in the process of quantifying this cost element.
Mr. Masutha lamented the fact that children continued to languish in correctional facilities whilst many safe houses in various municipalities operate below capacity. He asked if the Department was aware of this anomaly and if so what interventional measures it had taken or intents to take to remedy the situation.
Mr. Theron acknowledged the problem alluded to by Mr. Masutha and assured members that with the good progress that had been made on the Child Justice Bill more resources would be made available to the Department to remedy this unacceptable situation once for all. He however explained that the Department of Justice had at times refused to release some children into the custody of the safe houses on grounds that these children had committed crimes of a serious nature whilst others must await probation assessment. He hoped that the passage of the Child Justice Bill would cure most of these anomalies. He nonetheless raised strong objections to the impression created to the effect that the Department was not ready to relocate children to safe houses when in actual sense the problem was elsewhere.
Mr. Masutha noted that the Draft Social Assistance Bill is a complete replica of the old Act and wondered why the Department is taking the trouble to, as it were, re-invent the wheel.
Mr. Makiwane agreed that the Draft Social Assistance Bill retained most of the body of the previous Bill but clarified that the real issue for the Department was to address the problem of assignment of functions. The manner in which costing was dealt with in the draft Bill was such that it would give rise to an immediate service delivery but hastened to clarify that the Department was well alert to the comprehensive Social Security Bill that was in the pipeline.
Mr. Da Camara (DA) asked what monitoring mechanisms the Department had put in place to ensure that NGOs did not abuse funds allocated for the home based care programmme.
Ms Mabetoa explained that the home based care programme was funded from the conditional grants and that the provincial departments were under an obligation to prepare quarterly reports which meant that NGOs must be assessed on a regular basis.
Ms Bhengu (ANC) commended the Department for the work it had done in outlining its legislative programme in a comprehensive manner. She however cautioned the Department against rushing Bill through the house before ascertaining that there was adequate capacity to implement such additional legislation. It was an exercise in futility to go through the hustle of legislating a law that would lie idle for lack of capacity to implement. She called on the Department to update members on the integrated food security programme in view of the fact that this would be the most burning issue during the electioneering period.
The Chair observed that it was the first time in the history of the country to have a comprehensive Children's Bill that he said would affect the way a host of NGOs conduct the critical business of the welfare of the child. He pointed out that it was crucial to conduct serious consultations with the civil society on the issue and wondered whether the timeframes the Department had set would be sufficient to accommodate this elaborate programme.
Mr. Theron assured the Committee that the Bill could be implemented within the forthcoming term of parliament.
The Chair reminded the Department that in early 2004 the house would not be holding many sessions since members would be busy with the electioneering exercise.
Mr. Theron insisted that in view of the extensive consultations the Department had conducted with groups of civil society and the input made by the Law Commission it should be possible to process the Bill within the parameters of the projected timeframes.
The Chair wondered which category of civil society the Department had consulted in view of the many petitions he had been receiving from various members of the civil society wanting to make an input to the Bill.
Mr. Theron said there was some delay that was caused by some departments which he said was, however, justified given the fact that these departments were not included in the initial drafting process. He however reiterated that there had been a rigorous review of the entire Bill and that therefore few hitches were anticipated
Ms Rajbali (FF) asked what awareness programmes the Department had put in place to ensure that every child was entitled to the child support grant to access this facility.
Mr. Makiwane replied that with the crucial input of the Portfolio Committee, the Department was now reaching 100,000 more children every month noting that the programme was currently making good progress.
Prof. Mbadi (ANC) queried the optimism expressed by Mr. Makiwane and noted that during the Committee's tour of the Eastern Cape it became clear that many children were yet to be reached especially in the deep rural areas. He asked if the Department was sufficiently funded so that every child received their respective share once the outreach campaign had been concluded.
Mr. Makiwane acknowledged the fact that the Department may have missed many places but noted that it was now equipped with maps to clearly indicate areas of need. He reported that since the exposure of the Mt. Frere incident more resources had been allocated to this discourse. He admitted that the current budget was not sufficient but that the National Treasury was constantly updated just in case the Department encountered a shortfall.
Prof. Mbadi disputed Mr. Makiwane's assertion that the Department had reached every area and pointed out that he had never encountered teams from the Department in the deep rural areas. The biggest obstacle in accessing the deep rural areas was lack of infrastructure.
Mr. Makiwane asked Prof. Mbadi to furnish the Department with the names of places it had never reached so that it could mobilise personnel to take services to these places even if it meant deploying helicopters.
The Chair concurred with the concern expressed by Prof. Mbadi and noted that prior to the Committee's tour of the Eastern Cape it had been informed that most of these areas had been reached. He said the Committee was, however, surprised when huge crowds turned out to seek services in response to their call.
Ms Mars (IFP) lamented that most of the western side of the Eastern Cape had been neglected in the roll-out of the home based care programme and yet there were many children orphaned due to the incidence of HIV/AIDS.
Ms Mabetoa offered that she would supply Ms Mars with a list of the NGOs that worked in the western region of the Eastern Cape so that she could make the necessary follow-up. She explained that the home based care programme did not cover all areas since it was currently only concentrated in regions with a high prevalence rate. She however noted that this particular bias would stop with the introduction of a universal system that would be coming into operation soon.
The Chair noted with appreciation that the Committee now had a better sense of what was planned for the reminder of the current term.
The meeting was adjourned.