The Chairperson informed Members that the Committee would not be dealing with the referral on the Children’s Amendment Bill because the Bill had been withdrawn. There had been no opposing submissions, but Parliament would not be accepting new Bills.
The meeting commenced with a discussion on the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA). The DA had written to the Chairperson asking the Minister to keep her promise of informing the Committee of all matters relating to SASSA. The Minister had been unable to attend the meeting as she was occupied with issues relating to SASSA, but the Chairperson explained that the Inter-Ministerial Committee had changed when new Ministers had taken up their posts and a new technical team would take decisions. However, the Inter-Ministerial Committee had not said there would be no tenders or pay points. Tender processes had been nullified because Cash Paymaster Services had challenged the tender and there was no point in going forward with a process that would end in court. The Minister had vowed that that decision would not lead to an extension of the Cash Paymaster Services contract. There remained a concern that some employees of SASSA had an allegiance to Cash Paymaster Services and beneficiaries were being encouraged to open commercial bank accounts. The Committee decided to hold a press briefing on SASSA to re-assure beneficiaries and the public.
The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on its performance and expenditure for Quarter 3, October-December 2017. The Department had only been able to achieve 60% of its targets because of Welfare Services issues and the processing of Bills that had to be approved by Cabinet. On the issue of Welfare Services and improving the conditions of Early Childcare Development, the Department had had consultations with both the Department of Health and the Department of Transport.
Spending had been essentially consistent over the three Quarters of the 2017/18 financial year. 71% of subsidies had gone to provinces and municipalities and 45% had gone to foreign governments and international organisations. The Administration programme had underspent in the area of the Ministry and Corporate Services. The Welfare Services programme had underspent in the area of substance abuse.
Members raised concerns about the need to improve infrastructure for Early Childhood Development centres. Was the need for Early Childhood Centres in the Eastern Cape focussed on the suburbs of Port Elizabeth or were needs across the province being addressed? Were there sufficient centres in all provinces? Was enough being spent in the Eastern Cape on ECD and Child Support Grants? What was the baseline used to determine what was sufficient? On the issue of teenage pregnancy, why had training been provided in certain provinces but not in others?
Members asked the Department to clarify the issue of consultants. What were their consulting fees? The Department had agreed to mainstream more than ten years ago. When would mainstreaming be implemented? Members asked why was a reduction in the number of Non-Profit Organisations? Was the Department addressing the issues with the registration system? Why was there no budget for gender-based violence?
The Secretary handed out green beaded ribbons to all attendees as recognition of Child Protection Week.
The Chairperson: So we are having our formal Committee meeting, can I therefore welcome you. We don’t have much time because Parliament nowadays is very busy, very busy and people have to be in various meetings. I am going to go straight into the apologies so that we understand who is in here or who is not in here. So with that arrangement then I request Honourable Members to actually look into our today’s programme. Our today’s agenda is supposed to be dealing with what is in the presentation. Mr Thabani Buthelezi was the first person to arrive today because he wanted to be ready when we say ‘on your marks’, Thabani is ready. We also have the bullet on adoption of outstanding minutes and reports and I think I am motivated that we try and deal with that. We were supposed to have a discussion on the referral of the Social Assistance Amendment Bill and I will explain why I would want this one to be withdrawn. There is also the bullet on correspondence from our Honourable Member Masango regarding a SASSA matter and with that one we have to deal with. We appreciate your passion and wanting to share ideas with us on that matter. Can I then go back and substantiate why I think we cannot deal with this referral. It is because the Minister has just come, we know that there has been a reshuffle. The Minister has not discussed this matter with us and the Minister in fact is not well informed about the entire Bill and under normal circumstances that Bill was submitted before the actual reshuffle so she has to reconsider the issues that I also raised. We begin recess tomorrow. If members have issues to raise with the Minister, for us to be able to do that the Minister must first go to its political process then when it comes to us we still have time to be taken through by the department presenting to us. After that there will be adverts for people to make submissions. Then there will be time for us to advertise days when they are supposed to come and address us in a public participation arrangement. Then there is also the process of NCOP which can’t make time for this particular Bill. It is supposed to be the date of 2018/19 so therefore I request that we don’t deal with it at all, at all. I did consult with the Minister after I received it so that we are on equal arrangement. She agrees that she can’t guarantee that she can say every clause that is there is informed by what. So thank you very much and then as we omit this one I will come then to the one on Honourable Masango’s correspondence because it is something we are going to engage on in discussions. And then later on uThabang will go and then we will be on another form of dealing with the oversight arrangement. Honourable Tsoleli I saw your hand up.
Ms S Tsoleli (ANC): Thank you very much Chair. Good morning everyone. Chair, I first wanted to raise something on the matter of the Bill. I wanted to check now that you have an arrangement with the Minister, what should be the next step so that we don’t find ourselves not following a process. What is the correct process in light of what you have just discussed with us? Thank you.
The Chairperson: To be more explicit, I think that’s my omission. You remember I came to the Committee and made an announcement that all Bills that were introduced, whether by private members or brought by the department, all those Ministers have now formally withdrawn those Bills. Some Bills were supposed to have been submitted some time ago, they were given an ultimatum but this didn’t come and then at a later stage, they didn’t submit anything, but those who have done that, all those ministers have now withdrawn those formally. We didn’t want to go to that level without at least saying it will be in the interest of the Committee for the Minister to withdraw. The Minister is aware. Most Committees were saying that they are important but we can’t make time. The crisis is when the Bill is in process but you are not able to finish. The NCOP Chairperson was very clear that they are not accepting any new Bills as the NCOP. Legally it is the department that introduces the Bill but once the Bill has been submitted, it is the department who must withdraw it. We needed to be honest and courteous enough to come and inform members so that they don’t hear that the Bill has been withdrawn and start doubting what the issues were behind it. We needed to be clear on why we are going a particular direction. Honourable Masango, I am not going to re-read your correspondence because you are a walking matter, can you raise your issues, you are already here, just say why you wrote me and why those concerns are raised so that we can engage on that. Thank you very much.
Ms B Masango (DA): Thank you Chair, thank you for the opportunity. Chair, the letter that I wrote to you to ask for the Minister to come through…
The Chairperson: Sorry I made a mistake now, I remember now that you are speaking, that I didn’t give the Secretary the time for apologies, so that you can also add in the apology for the Minister, but your matter will be discussed whether the Minister is here or not because she actually has apologised. Can I allow the Secretary to assist you with all the apologies? Then I will make an emphasis on why the Minister cannot come.
The Secretary announced the apologies.
The Chairperson asked Ms Masango to explain why she had written to the Minister.
Ms Masango greeted Members of the Committee and explained that she had written a letter to the Chairperson asking the Minister to attend the meeting. She said that the Minister had assured the Committee that it would be made aware of any steps taken with regards to SASSA. There had been reports that the tender process had been suspended and cancelled but the Minister had not informed the Committee of those actions. She added that the Constitutional Court had said that the Committee should understand and know what was going on every step of the way. She asked the Chairperson to speak to the Minister, requesting her to stay true to her promise of keeping them informed.
The Chairperson replied that she had not been able to relieve her anxiety at the letter and that the reports of nullification also surprised her. She said that, in the previous meeting, Members had agreed that pay points would be sustained no matter how small they were and that regions had to provide statistics on each pay point. She added that the Minister explained that the IMC (Inter-Ministerial Committee) was a new one following the changes in Cabinet and a new technical team would take decisions. The IMC had not said there would be no tenders or pay points. She noted that Members had already agreed to prioritise reports on SASSA and to maintain oversight of the issue. She asked the Department to respond.
Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi, Acting Director-General of the DSD, said that the Department had a commitment to provide reports to the Constitutional Court.
The Chairperson responded that the Constitutional Court had given instructions and it was according to the court process that the issue would be dealt with.
Ms Tsoleli said that it was Members of other political parties and the media who derailed the process. She said that concerns were not coming from the ANC itself since they had chosen to move forward. She added that there were good things happening on the ground but that the media did not report on those. She explained that the Committee needed to be upfront and make a statement that SASSA was delivering and that the Department was also being proactive in moving forward.
The Chairperson said that some employees of SASSA had an allegiance to Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and had misled Members. Beneficiaries were being encouraged to open accounts with commercial banks. Other Members of Parliament had said that the problem lay with those employees of SASSA who were causing damage to the process. She explained that the reports on nullification came from a history of working with CPS. When the advertisement had come out, CPS had also wanted to participate in pay points as a service provider and had approached the court for an interdict. She said that it was better to nullify the process going forward because an interdict would hamper the process. She added that the Minister had vowed that the cancellation of the tender would not lead to an extension of the CPS contract. She said that, for the moment, there was no agreement on how people would be paid.
Ms B Masango thanked the Chairperson for her explanation of the history leading up to the nullification. She said that it was important for them to defend issues in the public. She proposed that there be wide, official communication about the processes relating to SASSA, which included the Minister.
The Chairperson said that there should be an official statement and recommended that the Committee appear at a press conference. She said that it was important for all Members of Parliament to know where the Committee itself stood. She asked the Secretary and the Department to make an arrangement for a press conference. She explained that she appreciated the interaction between Members of different political parties so that democracy could be realised. On the issue of communication, she explained that her mandate was to raise issues with the Minister, but not to investigate the actions of the Department. She said that the function of the Committee was to maintain oversight and not to instigate investigations. On the issue of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), she said that she was disappointed that corporate governance principles had been ignored. Senior level managers, such as the CEO, should not be attacked. Confidence, rather than panic, had to be instilled in those officials. She asked the Department to begin their presentation.
Presentation on Third Quarterly Financial and Performance Reports for 2017/18 financial year
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Community Development: Monitoring and Evaluations at the DSD, greeted the Chairperson and thanked Members for the opportunity to brief them. He noted the presence of Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi, Acting Director-General, Mr Peter Netshipale, Deputy Director-General of Community Development and Mr Clifford Appel, Chief Financial Officer of the DSD.
The purpose of the presentation was to show how the Department had performed and its financial status. He said that there has been a decline in performance from Quarter 1 (April-June 2017) to Quarter 3 (October-December 2017) as DSD had only been able to achieve 60% of their targets. That was because of issues such as Welfare Services and the processing of Bills for approval by Cabinet. He told the Chairperson that the targets would be improved in the future and relevant information would be provided. On the issue of welfare services and improving the conditions of Early Childcare Development (ECD), he said that DSD had had consultations with both the Department of Health and the Department of Transport. He asked Mr Clifford Appel to continue the presentation.
Mr Clifford Appel, Chief Financial Officer of the DSD, explained the expenditure summary. He said that spending had been almost consistent over the three Quarters. 71% of subsidies had gone to provinces and municipalities and 45% had gone to foreign governments and international organisations. The administration programme had underspent in the area of the Ministry and Corporate Services. The welfare services programme had underspent in the area of substance abuse.
The Chairperson raised two issues. Firstly, she said that she was worried that not enough was being spent in the Eastern Cape on ECD and Child Support Grants. She explained that Members had agreed that infrastructure for ECD was critical in that region. She said she had received a number of complaints that only concentrated suburbs around Port Elizabeth were focused on and other areas had been abandoned. Secondly, she said that the Department had not addressed the issue of food in their presentation. She explained that there had to be one standard for the country as a whole. She said that any irregular spending of money would amount to serious misconduct. She asked the Department to identify which Bills were holding them back and to make use of the Committee as legislators. She added that the role of the Committee was not to police or investigate the Department but to maintain oversight. She said that the sooner the issues around SASSA were cleared, the better the focus would be on issues of adoption, child support and social workers. She asked Members to raise their own issues.
Ms B Abrahams (ANC) thanked the Department for its presentation. She said that the issue of fake news had been bothering her the whole week and that she had interacted with SASSA officials the previous day on the authenticity of social media reports. She said that she would not respond to fake news. On the issue of targets versus performance, she asked how over-achieving affected the budget. She also asked how the Department implemented plans in each province. She said she was worried that they had underspent on Non-Profit Organisations (NPO’s) when the NPO’s were needed. On the issue of teenage pregnancy, she asked why training had been provided in certain provinces but not others. She said the situation in the Northern Cape was very bad and that centres were over-utilised. She also asked why there had not been capacity-building in all of the provinces.
Ms Masango asked whether there were sufficient ECD’s in all provinces. What was the baseline used to determine what was sufficient? She asked what the next step was after having consultations with other departments. On the issue of foster care, she asked for more clarity on the reasons that had led to a decline in foster care. She said that some NPO’s had not finalised their registrations and asked whether that was linked to their lack of funding. Was the registration system working for NPO’s? She was worried that the Department had underspent in the area of substance abuse. She asked what the budget was for centres and what was needed for them to be fully operational.
The Chairperson asked the Department to clarify the issue of consultants and what their consulting fees were. She said that the Department and Members had agreed to mainstream more than ten years ago and asked when mainstreaming would be implemented.
Ms A Khanyile (DA) asked the Department to give an indication of how they would combat substance abuse and gender-based violence. Women were dying every day at the hands of people they trusted. She asked what the Department would do differently to address the issue. She proposed that there be some form of educational programme to deal with the issue.
The Chairperson asked Members to raise questions on the strategies and the budgets allocated in the presentation.
Ms Khanyile said that she wanted to know if gender-based violence was being catered for in the budget. She also said she was worried about NPO’s not being funded.
Ms H Malgas (ANC) said she was worried about the issue of adoptions, social assistance grants and gender-based violence. She asked if the Department had achieved any of the things that Ms Khanyile had raised.
The Chairperson replied that those issues related to human resources. She explained that Members had agreed on a resolution that the Minister would make amendments and report to them. On the issue of gender-based violence, she said that what was not budgeted for, could not be resolved by the Department. She said she would give the Department five minutes to prepare themselves to answer the questions and that. in the meantime, she wanted to show a video to the Members.
The Chairperson played a video on her phone of a naked woman being violently beaten in public by a man. She said that as a Committee constituted of women, Members had to give a voice to the families of those women who suffered from violence.
Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi thanked Members for their questions. She said that the questions would be answered by the relevant officials in the Department because the issues spoke to different programmes. On the situation in the Eastern Cape, she said the Department had received a conditional grant for infrastructure to ensure an increase in the number of children who accessed ECD. She added that in all areas, ECD had to be given priority. On the issue of consultants, she explained that it was important to consult different stakeholders so that policies could be formulated.
Mr Peter Netshipale, Deputy Director-General of Community Development of the DSD, said that the issue of the registration of NPO’s did not lie with the registration system itself. He said that there had been confusion as to how to register and that the Department was planning an awareness campaign so that the public was aware of how and when to register.
The Chairperson replied that the Department had to set the standard so that those organisations were allowed to do their important work. She added that the Department had to follow up on complaints to assist the public to meet the requirements of registration.
Dr Q Madlopha (ANC) agreed that the Department had to assist those who were confused about the registration process.
Ms Tsoleli also agreed that it was the responsibility of the Department to make sure of that.
Mr Peter Netshipale replied that the issue of registration was not linked to a delay in funding. On the issue of over-feeding, he said that the Department did not have control over that. It made plans to feed a certain number of people, but reports would show a larger number of people arrived than planned for. On the issue of capacity-building, he said that the Department received requests from municipalities to provide training in governance for NPO’s. He said the Department had to organise the training, even though no money was spent on it. He added that the training was important because once an NPO was registered it had to know the principles of governance.
The Chairperson noted that there was an issue of food security and healthy food. She explained that people were not cleaning their hands and the utensils before the food was handled and that diseases were being introduced to the people in that way. She also asked the Department to clarify the allegations about the Eastern Cape. The Chairperson requested permission to leave to attend another parliamentary meeting. She apologised and thanked the Members for their inputs. She asked the Department to continue answering the questions raised.
Ms Malgas took the Chair.
Mr Peter Netshipale said that on the issue of funding, not all NPO’s would qualify for funding. On the issue of food security, he said that there was a need for the country to standardize feeding.
The Acting Chairperson said that the venue was needed for another Committee meeting starting at 1pm. She asked Members for suggestions on what to do.
Ms Tsoleli suggested that another venue be secured for the following week to receive responses to the unanswered issues.
The Acting Chairperson agreed and said that the Committee would be meeting again the following week. She requested the Department to attend.
The meeting was adjourned.