The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on its performance and expenditure for the first quarter. The Department had done quite well in the quarter; it had managed to spend 24.41% of the projected budget.
In terms of overall performance, it was reported that 69% of the targets were fully achieved, while 11% were partially achieved and 20% of the targets were not achieved. There were a couple of reasons behind the numbers, including delays on the finalization of the alignment of the Human Resource Management Strategy that had to be in line with the overall Sector-wide Social Development Strategy. The Department also had to reconfirm and reposition itself in respect of its role and functions relating to the entities that reported to the Minister of Social Development. There were implications for the review of the legislation that established the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), the National Development Agency as well as the Central Drug Authority.
Members expressed concern that the Department did not set time frames for its targets as that would facilitate the oversight role of the Committee. Most of the questions were on Programmes One and Four. A particular concern related to monitoring of the programmes. The Chairperson was particularly concerned that the Department had not completed the White Paper. It was crucial that the Department had a White Paper to guide policy decisions.
Engagements could not be carried out in all provinces at once, but Members wanted to know why had three been chosen? When were engagements going to be held in other provinces? A member noted that the same pattern occurred in the implementation of Programme Four. Engagements had taken place in two provinces. Why two? And when did the Department plan on undertaking those engagements in other provinces?
The Committee wanted clarity on the absorption of social workers. The Department had reported that all social workers had been absorbed. What did the Department mean by that statement?
The Chairperson welcomed everyone and asked the Members to note the programme for the day. The Committee Secretary noted an apology from the Minister of Social Development .
Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister of Social Development, noted the absence of the COO of the Department who at a family funeral and the CFO, Clifford Appel, who had just received news of the passing of a family member that morning. The Deputy Minister wanted to make a presentation on the findings of the first quarter but was interrupted by the Chairperson who noted that it would be more appropriate for the presentation to be presented by her staff.
DSD Performance Report for the period (1st Quarter Report – 2018/19)
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Acting DDG: Strategy and Organizational Transformation, DSD, greeted the Chairperson and thanked Members for the opportunity to brief them. The purpose of the presentation was to show how the Department had performed in the 1st Quarter and its financial status. He reported that 69% of the targets were fully achieved, while 11% were partially achieved and 20% of the targets were not achieved. However, the 20% of targets not achieved includes targets that DSD had to reconsider in line with the new trajectory of its reconfirmed mandate. That resulted in some errata on the APP, including delays in the finalization of the alignment of the Human Resource Management Strategy that had to be in line with the overall Sector-wide Social Development Strategy.
DSD had to reconfirm and reposition itself and its role and functions in respect of the entities that report to the Minister of DSD and there were implications for the review of the legislation that established the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), National Development Agency (NDA) as well as Central Drug Authority (CDA). DSD had reconsidered submitting the Social Assistance Amendment Bill and the Social Crime on Victims Support Services Bill for an errata. Operation Phakisa, Programme Mikondzo, and Development of Community Based Workers Programme were also being re-considered.
DSD First Quarter Performance and Expenditure Report (1 April 2018 – 30 June 2018).
Mr Fanie Esterhuisen, CFO, DSD, said that although the Department had a total of 62 APP annual targets, some were not applicable for reporting during the first quarter, that is, four of the targets in programme three. Overall, in the first quarter, the Department has spent 24.41% of the budget. In terms of what the Department had set to spend in the quarter, a lot could have been done better but, overall, it was not too bad.
The Chairperson asked Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) to stand in as acting Chairperson for a short while.
The Acting Chairperson asked everyone in the meeting to remember that there were standing recommendations, regarding NGO’s, that were still awaiting the attention of the Committee. There would be another meeting specifically for NGO’s, where they would make presentations on their experiences and the Committee would be afforded an opportunity to ask questions on those items at that meeting. The Chairperson directed her next statement to the acting DG and the Deputy Minister: in the future reports had to be clear on what the Department had not managed to achieve. It was important for the Portfolio Committee to know what had and had not been done, so that it could address direct and relevant questions to the presentation. That was very important for its oversight role.
Ms C Madlopha (ANC) welcomed the two presentations from the Department. She noted that it was difficult to point out exactly to which part of the presentation she was directing her questions because the pages in the presentation were not numbered, but her question was on the implementation of the support programme of Social Crime Prevention and Empowerment. The Department had indicated that it had a target of 16 policy approvals from the national cluster. The question was whether those policies were still pending because they were waiting for approval. It was the same as not having a policy at all. She also expressed concern that the Department saw a need for approval as a target. Since when had seeking approval become a target for a Department?
The other question was on programme one of the presentation: alignment and approval of provincial generic structures. When was the Department planning to revise and reposition the Department’s mandate in order to align and approve those generic structures? That was a target coming from previously that was now being presented as a new target by the Department. Dr Madlopha wanted clarity on the time frame. By when was the Department expecting all entities of the Department of Social Development to review their aims? The presentation only stated that the Department would review the aims without stating the time by which that would be done. She directed another question towards Monitoring and Evaluation and Finance in programme one: it was indicted that the time frame for the approval of the study design of project Mikondzo was extended. What date was it extended to?
Another question was on programme three. The Department should have already submitted the Social Assistance Amendment Bill to Parliament for approval. Did the Department think it could finalise the Bill before the fifth Parliament rose or had the Department already considered all relevant policy reviews? Another question was about the provincial services for vulnerable children. The programme had been implemented in four provinces. Was there was any intention for it to be implemented in the other provinces? She asked another question along the same lines. What was the Department going to do about the monitoring and implementation of the Children’s Act, other than the template of recording that had been given to the provinces to ensure implementation of the Act? What mechanisms did the Department have to make sure that the provinces reported on everything within the stipulated times?
Ms B Abrahams (ANC) also expressed concerns over the numbering of the pages because it made it difficult for Members to engage with the report because they did not know to which page to refer for their questions. Her question was referring to the presentation as a whole. Was there a specific reason why the Department did not report on time frames? How did the Department monitor the success of its programmes when it did not put a time frame on the its initiatives or programmes? She also asked why the Department conducted engagements in only three provinces. She understood that engagements could not be done in all provinces at once, but she wanted to know why three had been chosen? When were engagements going to be held in other provinces? She noted that the same pattern occurred in the implementation of programme four. Engagements had taken place in two provinces. Why two? And when did the Department plan on undertaking those engagements in other provinces?
Ms B Masango (DA) wanted clarity on the absorption of social workers. The Department reported that all social workers had been absorbed. What did the Department mean by that statement?
The Acting Chairperson was impressed with the presentation of the Department that day because the presentation itself was well done and also, unlike previous times when the CFO had presented, the Department had had financial notes, making it easier for the Members to digest the information presented. She asked the Department to respond to those that had already been asked by the Committee.
Ms Capa came back into the meeting and assumed the role of Chairperson.
Ms Brenda Sibeko, Acting DG, DSD, replied that the reason why some of the projects had been delayed was that some of them needed to be redone. The Department had had to re do some of the projects to realign them so that they were more appropriate. Another reason for the delay in the implementation of those projects was that the Department had to approach Treasury for budgetary approvals before it could go forward. There had also been a comprehensive review of SASSA to see what needed to be amended so that the Department could marry the different recommendations for a more functional distributive programme. The Department was also reviewing legislation so that it best served their purposes because as it stood it was difficult for the Department to implement policies and programmes when structures hindered them from doing so.
Mr Buthelezi sincerely apologised for the numbering problems. He said that the presentation did actually have numbers on it. The problem was that they were covered by the corporate emblems attached at the bottom of the pages. On the extension of project Mikondzo, he explained that, after looking at the project, the Department had realised that more needed to be done in the second quarter. As part of government structures that managed and facilitated programmes like project Mikondzo, it took the Department time to get approval for such projects. The Department also admitted that there were more innovative ways that could make the process faster, such as electronically, or even via email to speed up the process. The Department did say, however, that the project would reach completion by the end of the second quarter.
Ms Connie Nxumalo, Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, DSD, replied to the questions that needed clarity in respect of Programme Four. Regarding the Anti Substance Abuse Policy, she pointed out that it was probably a matter of word usage that had got Members confused about what was meant. The Department needed approval from the relevant structures. It had to be remembered that policy approvals took, on average, four months. The policy had to go through sub-clusters before heading to the national cluster. Within that quarter the Department had wanted to utilise the sub-development structures, like the Development Committee, which the Department had managed to do. The plan was to revise the policy and send it back to the Development Committee again to make it more comprehensive.
Ms Nxumalo dealt with the question relating to the National Plan for Children. The Department planned to consult stakeholders in the social sector through the National Coordination Committee which currently consisted of 16 National Department, NGO’s and the nine provinces. Over and above the consulted structures, the Department had also consulted four provinces. The remaining five provinces would be contacted in the next quarter. The Department valued close contact at a provincial level because more stakeholders showed up, something that the Department preferred in comparison to only engaging with the National Coordination Committee.
Regarding the implementation of the Children’s Act, she responded to the question regarding monitoring of the provinces by stating that not only did the Department have a reporting template, it had also devised a monitoring and reporting template for the provinces to monitor the implementation of the Children’s Act. The template was to go to all the provinces to monitor and to provide a portfolio of evidence. In addition, the Department also had a Monitoring and Evaluations tool as part of its monitoring framework. There were provinces that did not respond in time but the Department was also partially to blame. If the Department did not plan, it was very easy to put blame on the next person. However, provinces also had priorities in their calendar and MEC’s usually delegated a number of tasks to the provincial department. That meant that the people needed in the provinces were not always available. In such instances then, the Department had no other option but to reschedule and to hope to improve its planning strategies in the future.
Ms Nxumalo clarified that awareness campaigns had been planned for only two provinces for the first quarter. In those two provinces, the Department had been taking a ward-based approach to its campaign. It was an interdepartmental programme that included the Department of Justice, the Department of Home Affairs and other relevant departments. With regards to the absorption of social workers, she explained that the grant received allowed for the absorption of 630 social workers. There was still a backlog of 4285. The grant came from the reduction of the Scholarship Programme. If one were to consider the amount of the grant, there should have been an absorption of 560 social workers. However, 630 social workers had been absorbed because some of the provinces, like the Northern Cape, had used their equitable share to augment the grant. The only problem that had arisen so far was that of provinces like the Western Cape hiring social workers on a contractual basis, even though there was a grant. At the last meeting held with the Western Cape, the province had been told to hire those social workers permanently because it did not help having them on contract when there was a grant given as part of their equitable share as a province. If not permanently employed, some of those social workers would find work in other sectors, which would result in a problem of underspending.
Ms Mogotsi directed her question regarding clarification on the spending of Programme Four to the Chief Director of Finances. She asked for a justification of the spending on the sub-programmes of HIV and AIDS and Substance Abuse. She felt that the Department was underspending. The amount spent on HIV/AIDS, for an example, was not enough considering that the country had roughly 7.5 million people with HIV/AIDS.
Mr Buthelezi replied that some of the national spending had been earmarked for the youth camp that had been organised by the Department of Social Development for the second quarter. Another reason for the lower spending was that in June the Department usually went to the streets to create awareness in all nine provinces. The Department had not had a chance to do that in the current year. Those factors contributed to the low spending that the Department had had in the first quarter.
Ms Nxumalo added that although a significant amount of money had been set aside for those programmes, not all of the money had been transferred. The Department was still waiting for a response from National Treasury. In addition, some of the money had to be used for some administrative functions that those programmes required.
The Chairperson directed her questions to a different item. The White Paper had been discussed in a different meeting. In her understanding, a number of the problems that the Department was facing were due to the fact that the White Paper had not been completed. A vast number of the programmes that the Department hoped to implement had been put on hold because they depended on the writing of the White Paper. The Chairperson stated that the Committee was quite interested to know why it was so hard for the Department to finalise it. Whether it was the Committee, the Cabinet or the national Cluster that was putting it on hold, it was key to recognise that, had it been done, plenty more could have been achieved by the Department. The Department would have known what needed to be done in the various projects.
The Chairperson also expressed concern about the case of Duplication, which has seemingly been a problem in the past. It has been raised by the Committee, SCOPA and Treasury. The reason for the deviation on that matter was the efforts of the Department to integrate with other Departments as a cost-saving measure. In respect of the programmes that the Department was running, Parliament had indicated that there should be better reporting of these events. There was no breakdown of the expenditure that stipulated exactly how much money had been spent and on what projects it had been spent. If that were done, then the Committee would be able question the consumption of money.
The Chairperson made an example of when she went to De Doorns. When officials went to communities, either for awareness or campaigns, there should be a report on expenditure, be it is on accommodation or travelling expenses. If that was not done, the Committee could not comment which would then mean that the Committee was not fulfilling its necessary oversight role over the Department. That was all due to the fact that there was no White Paper to explain it to the Committee. The Chairperson saw all the achievements of the Department in the first quarter but she did not know how sustainable they were because there was no white paper to make it clear to her. The Chairperson also highlighted that the Department could not relinquish its duties towards the vulnerable because of SASSA. SASSA was only there to give financial support, not to address other matters.
The Deputy Minister agreed with the sentiments shared by the Chairperson and the Committee. She said that the Department was supposed to have made sure that one of the activities of the first quarter was the drafting of the White Paper. The change in leadership had led to the delay; the new Minister needed time to understand the processes that the Department was undergoing, the mandate was to make sure that the Minister was up-to-date with what was happening in the Department.
The Deputy Minister also mentioned that some intergovernmental processes had affected the writing of the White Paper. As much as the blame is on the Department and the provinces to make sure that all required information was available, intergovernmental relations also needed attention because they also have an impact on how fast the Department works. In terms of programmes like the one the Department had on HIV/AIDS, there had been a significant increase in a lot of individual cases that the Department is dealing with.
The Chairperson enquired about wheel chairs. She wanted to know if it was the Department of Health or the Department of Social Development that dealt with wheel chairs. One found wheel chairs stuck in warehouses with no one making sure that they were distributed well. The elderly were in desperate need of them.
The Deputy Minister replied that there was, in fact, a policy that existed. It was a policy on assisted development. However, it resided within the Department of Health, and the budget is allocated to the Department of Health. The Department of Social Development had asked for an opportunity to be responsible for wheelchairs so that there could be better discharge of services. The Department of Health would be responsible for the assessment part of the policy, while the Department of Social Development would be the first sight of entry for the policy.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for its presentation. She was impressed by the presentation that the Department had made that time around. She asked for Members of the Committee to make any comments regarding the presentations made on the day.
Dr Madlopha commented that the matter of timeframes not being not being indicated on the presentation was something that she and the Committee had a problem with. She was happy that the Deputy Minister had assured the Committee that she would make sure that she would deal with it before the fifth Parliament rose. She further expressed her appreciation to the Deputy Minister and her entourage for their contributions in the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.