SASSA progress report; Department of Social Development 2017/18 Quarter 4 performance

Social Development

06 June 2018
Chairperson: Ms S Tsoleli (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Members were briefed by the Department of Social Development on its performance report for Quarter 4 and SASSA. Neither the Minister, Deputy Minister nor the Director General were present for this briefing which was the last before a the two month extended recess where this oversight committee returns only on 15 August.

Members raised concern about DSD's ongoing delays in implementing policies which negatively impact service delivery. There was concern about underspending in delivering substance abuse centres to Free State and Northern Cape. The Department was criticised for not having the information to answer Members adequately. The Acting Chairperson requested reports in on the following: On the White Paper, DSD needed to provide details on the delays; Integrated Programme of Action for Gender-Based Violence; substance abuse centres and what steps would be taken to ensure they become fully operational;  HIV/AIDS implementers and their distribution in each province; list of municipalities where NPO Road shows were held.

SASSA gave a progress report on implementation of the Constitutional Court order. It spoke about the executive management decision to suspend and then cancel the cash payments tender. It outlined its alternative plan to meet the need for cash payments to beneficiaries with the aim to steer away people from cash payments.

Members were worried that the deadline for card swopping would be reached despite the long queues and that the draft alternative plan would manage to get cash grants to all the people. There were reports of CPS charging to swop cards and using fake news to confuse beneficiaries. The Acting Chairperson held that there should be a parliamentary inquiry into CPS unethical practices and that SASSA must keep the Committee informed of its investigation into this.

Meeting report

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) was elected Acting Chairperson in the absence of the Chairperson and she thanked Members for giving her the responsibility. She said that it was the Committee’s last meeting of the term before recess.

Apologies were noted from the Minister and the Director-General who are in the North West and from the Deputy Minister who is inspecting a site in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN). 

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said that it was important for the Minister and the Deputy Minister to be present because it was the Committee’s last meeting of the term.

In response to the Chair asking if she did not want the meeting to proceed, Ms van der Merwe said that she accepted the apologies but wanted her concern to be on record.

The Acting Chairperson asked if the Committee proceed with the agenda or if it should be rearranged.

Ms van der Merwe asked for the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to present before the DSD.

Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) asked why there was a rush to have the SASSA present first and proposed that the agenda stay as it is. Ms van der acknowledged that she was outvoted.

Department of Social Development 2017/18 Quarter 4 performance
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, DSD Chief Director: Monitoring and Evaluation, noted that the presentation contained explanations on the targets which were not achieved. In both Quarter 3 (October – December 2017) and Quarter 4 (January – March 2018) 27% of its targets were not met. He went through these, noting the biggest challenge in developing an integrated welfare services information system is the need for additional capacity to complete it. On children services, he noted that the Eastern Cape is the only province which has not been capacitated. Targets were not achieved for social crime prevention and victim empowerment because the DSD reports must still be processed for Cabinet.

Mr Clifford Appel, Chief Financial Officer: DSD, explained that the department had underspent on both the Inspectorate and Appeals Tribunal and that most of the money was moved from the Social Security Policy and Administration Programme to Programme1: Administration. Most of the expenditure is in the Ministry. For Welfare Services, the main challenge was that costs could not be transferred for substance abuse even though there were requests from the Free State.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) asked in which provinces internal audits take place and whether improvements in a province are included in their audits. She asked if all projects are compliant with legislation and policy. How do projects and skills development coincide? She asked why the pilot project for persons with disabilities was taking so long to be done. DSD must provide a time frame for when this will be complete. She noted the underspending on computer equipment and asked when this will be delivered as the computers are very old. Are the staff competent on the computers once skills development takes place?

Mr Appel replied that the internal audit is based within DSD and is not done in the provinces. Computer orders have been placed and the computers will be delivered in July 2018. The staff are computer literate and there is no need for skills transfer.

Ms Brenda Sibeko, DSD Deputy Director-General: Comprehensive Social Security, replied that SASSA will know more about the projects because they are aware of the norms. The projects for persons with disabilities were primarily done in the North West and Gauteng. She explained that once the audits are done they will know the results. There has been a delay but the pilot project will be completed this financial year.

Ms Mogotsi noted the amount spent on compensation of employees and asked about the status of DSD. Is it facing difficulties with infrastructure? She asked why the White Paper was taking so long because these delays have been happening since last year. Who is the technical committee team? On the Social Service Practitioners Bill, she asked why there are still delays. She asked DSD to clarify its communication strategy.

Ms Conny Nxumalo, DSD Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, replied that because of the new Minister some posts have been frozen pending the confirmation of the DSD working structure. The posts of Director-General and Chief Director have been filled. On the delays in the White Paper, the team is led by a professor at the University of Cape Town who has now retired and will be able to devote more time to it. The Minister has approved the appointment of the professor. On the delays in the Social Service Practitioners Bill, Cabinet would not consider it unless a pre-certification was submitted by the Office of the Chief State Law Advisor. DSD received comments from the State Law Advisor and it took more than six weeks to resubmit it to the Office. On the DSD communication strategy, they will be dealing with it as a sector and will be more proactive with the media.

Ms B Masango (DA) asked if they would receive written answers to the questions raised in the previous meeting.

The Acting Chairperson replied that she would try allocate time to deal with those outstanding responses.

Mr Buthelezi replied that written responses were sent to the Secretary today.

The Acting Chairperson replied that responses were only submitted now so Members do not have it before them. The Committee will try deal with them today if time allows.

Ms Masango noted that 100 HIV/AIDS implementers had been trained. From where do the implementers come? She asked about the implications of the delays with the Child Care and Protection Policy. What does this delay mean for the actual work done in this area? She asked if the level of virements is normal. She asked for clarity on the status of the inspectorate being incubated. What does incubation mean? Is the inspectorate a legal entity?

Ms Nxumalo replied that the implementers were in all nine provinces. On the delay with the Child Care and Protection Policy it is being prioritised. The North Gauteng High Court has ordered DSD to come up with a solution on foster care and the policy is being fast-tracked to address this.

The Acting Chairperson asked that the distribution of implementers in each province be provided.

Ms Nxumalo replied that she will send it because she does not have the correspondence with her.

The Acting Chairperson said that she must check for it and the Committee will come back to it later in the meeting.

Ms Sibeko replied that the Social Assistance Act of 2004 made provision for the inspectorate to function as an independent entity to prevent fraud. She explained that the Social Assistance Amendment Bill changed the provision to make it a government entity. The Bill is tabled in Parliament but will be delayed because of the timing. As long as the Bill is not finalised the inspectorate will function as an incubated entity.

Ms Masango asked what work the inspectorate is allowed to do.

Ms Sibeko replied that the inspectorate is operating on the basis of an agreement between the SASSA and DSD but it has no power to operate yet. DSD expects work to be done while the provision is being finalised.

Ms Masango asked for virements to be addressed.

Mr Appel replied that section 43 of the Public Finance Management Act empowers DSD to apply virements. He explained that it is first done within a programme and then between programmes.

The Acting Chairperson said that virements are allowed but that the Committee took a resolution that DSD should move away from using virements.

Ms C Madlopha (ANC) asked if DSD has been able to develop the integrated welfare services information system. On the National Plan of Action for Children in South Africa, she asked what the cause of the delay was in appointing a service provider and what the cost implications are for the programme going forward. She asked why the targets in Programme 4: Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation were not achieved. On the non-profit organisation (NPO) national road shows, she asked for more information on their outcomes in the municipalities.

Ms Nxumalo replied that DSD is trying to integrate the different systems dealing with case management into a single system. The challenge is that there are many silo systems in each programme. The service provider is supported by UNICEF and the challenge lies in appointing someone who will finalise the plan of action itself. There were problems in advertising and the appointment will be finalised this year. Cost implications will be sent will be sent to the Committee in writing.

Mr Peter Netshipale, DSD Deputy Director-General: Community Development, replied that DSD had planned for 50 NPO road shows in 50 municipalities but they managed to complete 70 in Quarter 4. NPOs can register at the office in Pretoria and obtain their certificates there. Where NPOs do not submit complete documents, DSD looks at this and addresses the queries. A report on the queries will be submitted in writing to the Committee.

Mr Buthelezi replied that there were 32 targets in Programme 4 and it contributed 34% of the Annual Performance Plan targets.

Ms Madlopha asked when the integrated system will happen.

Mr C Appel replied that DSD plans to finish and implement it in 2020.

The Acting Chairperson asked DSD to provide a detailed time frame for when the system will be done. She asked Mr Netshipale to provide a list of the municipalities where NPO Road shows were held. DSD should have this kind of information with them already so that Members can actually test what DSD is presenting. She asked the officials to ensure this in the future.

Ms N Sonti (EFF) asked a question in the vernacular.

Mr Buthelezi replied that under Programme 3: Social Security Policy and Administration, DSD had 10 targets. They could only meet nine of the targets in Quarter 4.

Ms Sonti spoke again in the vernacular.

The Acting Chairperson said to Mr Buthelezi that Ms Sonti is requesting him to reply in the same language as her.

Mr Buthelezi replied in the vernacular.

Ms van der Merwe said that most of the questions she had had already been raised. On NPO national road shows, she asked if its outcomes covered the entire country or only some provinces. She requested time frames for when appointments would happen. On the Disability Inequality Index she asked what the report revealed. There was underspending on substance abuse and she asked when the substance abuse centres in the Northern Cape and Free State would be up and running. On the call centre she wanted to know which calls were successfully dealt with. She asked for clarity on the process for the integrated plan to prevent gender-based violence.

Ms Nxumalo replied that the plan to prevent gender-based violence is complete but the challenge lies in its implementation and in ensuring all interested parties are consulted. By the end of November it will be taken to Cabinet, once consultations with stakeholders are done. On the call centres, there are supervisors in the back office who are social workers and monthly progress reports of particular districts are submitted to DSD. The Department is going to the Northern Cape on the 26 June 2018 to hand over the. There are some delays in appointing staff so the centre will not be operational but it will be complete. There are challenges in the Free State as the actual construction of the substance abuse facility is very slow. Several meetings were held to find out how to assist in its progress. The report on the Disability Inequality Index will be sent to the Committee. On time frames for the staff structure, DSD will have a workshop in June to deal with this so the Minister can submit the new staff administration for final approval.

The Acting Chairperson asked where exactly the substance abuse centres are in the Northern Cape and the Free State so that Members may visit them.

Ms Nxumalo replied that in the Northern Cape it is in Kimberley. She will check where it is in the Free State and report back.

Mr Appel added that the substance abuse centre in the Northern Cape is just outside of Kimberley next to the mental health centre and in the Free State it is in Botshabelo 62km from the hospital.

The Acting Chairperson said that this has been raised since 2014 and she encouraged Members to visit the centres. She noted that the written responses from last week’s meeting have now been emailed to Members by the Secretary. She asked how Members would like to proceed with those.

Ms Abrahams suggested that Members can follow up in written format if needed.

Mr Netshipale replied that the NPO road shows target the poorest areas and he is aware that the demand is higher than the planned target. The impact of the road shows have been increased NPO compliance which is now over 42% and NPO queries have been reduced to below 20%.

The Acting Chairperson requested reports in writing on the following matters: On the White Paper, DSD needed to provide more details on the cause of the delays as they impact negatively on service delivery. DSD strategies had not been completed. She asked for a report on the integration plan of gender-based violence so the Committee can review it. She requested a complete report on substance abuse and what steps would be taken to ensure that centres become fully operational. She asked for a report on the HIV/AIDS implementers and their distribution in each province. She asked for the list of municipalities where NPO Road shows were held. She thanked DSD for the presentation.

SASSA on progress report on implementation of Constitutional Court order
Mr Abraham Mahlangu, SASSA  Acting CEO, dealt with activities on the past month including the extension of the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract and the plans put in place to ensure that payments would continue to be made beyond the end of September. He handed over to Ms Ramokgopa to brief the Committee.

Ms Raphaahle Ramokgopa, SASSA Executive Manager: Strategy & Business Development, presented on:
• Current Payment Outlook
• Migration of beneficiaries from the current CPS/Grindrod card to the new SASSA/SAPO card: SASSA will not deposit grants into the old SASSA payment cards/ accounts beyond September 2018.
• Decommission pay-points in areas where there is payment infrastructure including SAPO branches;
• The cash payments reduction plan
• Alternative strategies for beneficiaries residing outside the 20km payment infrastructure
• Communication
• Risks and Mitigations

Critical to the cash reduction plan is:
- the expedited card production and card swap programme
- Decommissioning of pay-points
- Upgrading infrastructure of SAPO branches to absorb the high volumes of beneficiaries
On receiving the new SASSA/SAPO cards, beneficiaries can access their grants through any of the following methods:
- SAPO outlets closest to them;
- through the use of the available banking infrastructure;
- existing retail merchants; and
- numerous point of sale devices in close proximity of their residential areas.

Ms Ramokgopa said that the SASSA has been aggressive in reducing CPS numbers so that by August there is a minimal number and by September there will be none. There is a Five Month Plan to achieve this.

SASSA requested the South African Post Office (SAPO) to extend its services to cover cash beneficiaries. and it looked into whether SAPO had the capacity to do this. Services need to be delivered to the people by a government structure. This would be a long term investment. SAPO was told to review this aspect. In remote areas an alternative strategy has been developed. The primary intervention for remote areas is that SAPO will procure mobile cash dispensing machines to service outlying locations by July 2018.  SAPO has commenced with the procurement process for the portable cash dispensing machines and it is envisaged that they will be available before the end of September 2018.  In addition, SAPO is in the process of extending the scope of its current Cash in Transit contract to accommodate the additional numbers and sites. SASSA has also engaged with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to assist in transporting money to remote areas.Banks have also been engaged on the option of bringing mobile banking infrastructure in these areas

On the card swap programme, in May the numbers were slow but in June they will start to go up. Their target is to intensify to 4 million in June and by the end of June it will be completed. On the cash reduction strategy, beneficiaries who still use SASSA cash pay points are being redirected to other points. The end goal is to do away with cash because it is not something that can be sustained. There is a plan in June to start decommissioning pay points. There were 2.2 million beneficiaries using SASSA cash pay points and the aim is to reduce this to 800 000 by August. The end goal is to do away with cash payments entirely.


The communication strategy included traditional leaders, community leaders, schools, social workers and beneficiaries. The Department of Labour has provided workers to assist with this process. Risk management was outlined. for the following risks:
• Inadequate SAPO branch physical infrastructure
• Inadequate IT infrastructure in SAPO branches
• Inadequate Security, Cash-in-Transit and Guarding
• Under capacitation of staff  in SAPO branches
• Insufficient cash at branches
• CPS counter communication confusing beneficiaries
• System response – network and integration

Ms Ramokgopa asked that the Committee support its plan.

The Acting Chairperson asked for clarity on the tender. How are we going to move forward with the tender? She asked for more details on the strategy put forward to deal with CPS. In some areas CPS is charging the elderly R65 for a card and she asked for a report on what the SASSA is doing to counter this.

Mr Mahlangu replied about the tender that the Court allowed an extension only for cash payments.  At that time SASSA had already started with the evaluation process and a number of issues were raised. After reviewing these issues, the Minister was written to. Executive management decided it was better to first suspend the tender and then cancel it. The plan is to encourage beneficiaries to move to other points. The strategy is to intensify the swapping of cards by migrating beneficiaries to the new SASSA/SAPO card and by ensuring that there is access to infrastructure. In the most rural areas, extreme measures will be considered in consultation with local leaders and individuals to assist in bringing services to those people. The banking and merchant industry will be consulted to extend infrastructure so beneficiaries can access their grants. So far there has been a positive response to participate in this. He confirmed that the extension of the current CPS contract will not be allowed and that alternative methods will be used to reach out to people. By the end of July there will be an indication of the residual numbers. He noted that there has been an upsurge in cash-in-transit heists. A meeting was held with the National House of Traditional Leaders to ask them to assist in reaching out to those communities which do not have infrastructure. On a counter strategy to these fees, correspondence has been issued to the regional executive management this morning. If need be the intelligence services of the country will be used and legal action taken where there is proof that pensioners are being threatened. The biggest challenge is when the state is captured by private persons.

Ms Madlopha thanked SASSA for the promising presentation. She asked what exactly the role of CPS is and said that it must be investigated where pensioners are being charged. If the intelligence services of the country need to be used, then it must be done.

The Acting Chairperson added that there are allegations that CPS is now becoming a bank and the investigation must look into this. Members must go to pay point areas and test what is being said in the presentation.

Mr Mahlangu replied that card production is by SAPO so CPS has no role in it. They might be using reserves of previous Easy Pay Green Card that they have always had. He agreed that an investigation must assemble all the information including the allegations raised by the Acting Chairperson. Once the information is assembled, the correct action will be taken by government. Targeting vulnerable people is wrong and it is the duty of government to protect the people.

The Acting Chairperson said that the Committee must make a recommendation on what needs to be done in terms of infrastructure going forward.

Ms van der Merwe said that fake news is being driven by CPS and this is very serious. There are fake SMSes saying that cards are expiring and it is causing people to panic. The Committee has spoken about it a number of times and there needs to be a full parliamentary inquiry into CPS and their unethical business practices. CPS cannot leave without facing repercussions. Some SAPO and SASSA branches do not have the new cards available and asked for clarity on this. There are very long queues. She asked when the Committee will be given feedback on the negotiations happening with National Treasury. She was concerned about the cash payment plan because it does not seem to be a fool proof plan if elements of it can be compromised. How certain are you that you can pull this off in five months?

Mr Mahlangu replied that the non-availability of new cards may be sporadic events. On the long queues, the system was probably very busy and they are working on verification overnight. How confident are we in the five-month plan? No plan can be fool proof and there will always be risks involved. They will find other ways to ensure the plan materialises and that as government they cannot say they will not be able to achieve it.

Ms Busisiwe Mahlobogoana, SASSA General Manager: Legal Services, replied that a subsidy has come up several times when discussions are held with banks and retailers. SASSA has never subsidised before and they are an implementing agency and not a policy department. They are raising this with DSD who can consult with National Treasury on this.

Ms van der Merwe said that the plan is currently only in draft form and the Committee must be kept informed of the process.

The Acting Chairperson said that DSD is present and must begin to initiate this process.

Ms Masango said that when the Minister was here last, she mentioned that Grindrod Bank took R10 for itself and that she would challenge this. How far has this challenge gone? There seems to be a lot of confusion about where beneficiaries have to go, the number of trips that need to be taken and what information must be brought along. What does the process entail? She heard that people are being charged for forms and asked if there are still CPS staff in SASSA offices. She warned that this could be an opportunity to counter-market to the people. She asked what the status is on the looming strike of SASSA employees.

Mr Mahlangu replied that he is aware of the looming strike but that it is too premature to say anything about it now. The matter is being discussed and certain pronouncements will be made. Whatever differences there may be, citizens are affected and they are working on it to ensure there is a common ground.

Ms Mahlobogoana replied that Grindrod Bank was consulting with its attorneys and had requested a meeting with the SASSA. The Agency will fight this and bring their own attorneys to the meeting. Grindrod Bank had made a promise on what it would charge beneficiaries and then it changed the amount.

Ms Diane Dunkerley, SASSA Executive Manager: Grants Administration, replied that the new SASSA card is not yet available at all post offices. All that beneficiaries need to take with them is their current SASSA card and their identity document. If people are being charged for the card swop this must be reported to SASSA so that it can investigate it immediately. There is no charge for the new card or the swop. There is a CPS presence in 185 of the local SASSA offices but these are offices where people are using Biometric Cardholder Verification Method (CVM). The CPS staff are not allowed to do biometric enrolment and no new applicants may choose cash as an option. They are constantly revising this list of offices and by the end of July there will be no CPS presence at all.

The Acting Chairperson said that Members must inform SASSA officials which areas are being abused by CPS so that investigations can be made.

Ms Abrahams asked who authorised CPS to continue issuing cards. SAPO is responsible for the cards so who is producing and manufacturing them? Can the new card be used at all retail stores? Are there any charges involved at these stores? She was concerned about the September deadline. How will we ensure beneficiaries receive their funds? She said her constituency is watching Parliament right now and they are sending her questions to ask the officials. The people are asking how the Department can assist in ensuring that people do not abuse the grants and use the money for something else. They are asking how the Department can assist in stopping this in communities. Lastly, there needs to be communication from SASSA so that people know what is authentic.

Mr Mahlangu replied that the card production contract is awarded to SAPO who outsourced from overseas.

Ms Dunkerley replied that CPS is no longer issuing cards and that only SAPO is issuing the new cards. CPS must be distinguished from Grindrod Bank because if people choose to open an Easy Pay account and obtain its Green Card then money will be paid into this personal banking account. The SASSA has no control over this. The new SASSA card is a debit card and can be used anywhere that Visa is accepted. If the card is used at an ATM there will be a small banking fee which SASSA has no control over. The legislation states that if the child support grant is being abused for liquor or other misuse then it must be reported so that officials can investigate it and find someone else to administer it. There are SASSA staff who work closely with law enforcement agencies to confiscate misused cards.

Mr Mahlangu replied that SASSA officials will ensure that authentic messages are communicated to the people.

The Acting Chairperson said that social media must become SASSA’s friend and must be used consistently to communicate with the people.

Ms Abrahams asked for clarity on the Tap-and-Go mechanism and warned that this can be dangerous.

Ms Sonti spoke in the vernacular and said that CPS should be renamed ‘Corruption Payment System’. 

Ms Dunkerley replied that the Tap-and-Go is a standard banking feature but it is not activated on these new cards.

Ms Madlopha asked why SAPO chose to outsource card production outside the country instead of finding local manufacturers.

The Acting Chairperson replied that SAPO would be in a better position to answer that rather than SASSA.

Ms Sonti and the Acting Chairperson spoke to each other in the vernacular.

The Acting Chairperson said that the most important issue raised is that reports are needed about each province and municipality so that the Committee can exercise its oversight function. A parliamentary inquiry is important. She asked SASSA to provide information from time to time on how far they are with this investigation on CPS. She agrees that traditional leaders should be consulted and proposed that other progressive community-based organisations should be involved. She thanked SASSA.

Committee Report on KZN Oversight Visit
The Acting Chairperson took Members through the report and asked if there was anything they wanted to add or remove. Were their views properly expressed in the Committee Report?

Ms Masango said that the report covers the visit very well. There should be an introduction to note what Members agreed on so that when the Minister receives the document it will be top-most in her mind. The Minister must know that duplication must be addressed.

The Acting Chairperson then asked if the report could be adopted as a true reflection with these additions.

The Committee adopted the report.

Adoption of outstanding minutes
The Acting Chairperson noted that the minutes date from 18 October 2017 until 4 May 2018.

Ms Masango asked if the minutes could be accepted as they are in bulk.

The Acting Chairperson replied that this is an option and asked if there were any other proposals.

The Committee supported Ms Masango’s proposal.

The Acting Chairperson said that she would have preferred to have all the outstanding minutes before them.

The Secretary replied that the remaining ones would be delivered at the next meeting.

The Acting Chairperson took the Committee through the bulk of the minutes and no objections were raised. She put the minutes to the Committee and asked if they can be adopted.

Ms Masango accepted the minutes. Ms Mogotsi seconded this.

Ms Abrahams said that she thinks that Members should first ensure they have been marked present at meetings.

Ms Masango laughed and said that she was present at every meeting.

Ms Abrahams said she wanted to raise something in the minutes dated 24 October 2017.

The Acting Chairperson interjected  and said that the Committee had already agreed to adopt the minutes in bulk and Ms Abrahams had not objected to that decision and so she was out of order.
The Acting Chairperson thanked Members and said that they will see each other again after the recess.

The meeting was adjourned.

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