The Chairperson said she would be seeking an opportunity for the new Minister of Social Security to brief the Committee on social security matters and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) processes involving the Department.
The absence of a Committee Member through ill health prompted a discussion on the mental and overall wellbeing of Parliamentarians, as Parliament could get very busy and Members often neglected themselves. Services and facilities dealing with such a situation were needed and should be promoted.
The draft of the fourth term Committee programme was adopted, with an amendment calling for the continued monitoring of the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) so that if anything should go wrong with the new system, the Committee could intervene efficiently. Furthermore, a report covering the background and progress of SASSA would be compiled to add to the field of knowledge on social development and poverty alleviation.
In order to gain further insight into poverty reduction, the Committee wanted to undertake an international visit to Sweden, as it was reported to have the best poverty reduction strategies. Furthermore, the Committee had not once travelled overseas to gain experience, so it was time for them do so.
Consideration of the Committee’s Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) and meeting minutes had to be postponed due to their containing numerous errors. This was due to the Committee having no content adviser, but it would be getting a new replacement.
The Chairperson said the meeting was special, as the Committee was on its own. The Department of Social Development (DSD) and its entities would not be attending because the purpose of the meeting was to focus mainly on the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR).
The Chairperson said that the Committee might have to look for another day which was not a Cabinet meeting day, as they wanted the Minister to attend. She was new to the portfolio, and the issues that related to the Committee were a standing item on the Cabinet agenda. She would therefore ask the Chairperson of chairs for another day so that the only item on the agenda was a brief from the Minister on issues like the comprehensive social security and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) process, as these matters were outstanding
Wellbeing of Members
The Chairperson referred to the hospitalisation of a Member of the Committee, Dr C Madlopha (ANC), recounting that her entire family had been killed when she was a little girl and she had had to leave her home, only to never go back.
Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) commented that Dr Madlopha should be encouraged not to come back to work as she was not well. Just last week she had fallen ill at the university, and in Parliament she could hardly stand. Besides that, she had also lost her husband on a flight coming to Cape Town in 2014, so she needed some time off.
The Chairperson added Parliament could be very busy, so people neglected their wellbeing. There really should be services available to deal with this sort of situation. They needed to assist Dr Madlopha to get a psychologist if they did not want to lose her.
Ms Tsoleli said that the Parliamentary medical aid scheme covered the use of psychologists.
Ms Koliswa Pasiya-Mndende, Committee Secretary, added that Parliament also had a wellness office on its premises where they listened to challenges faced by Parliamentary staff.
Ms Tsoleli said that dealing with staff issues and Member issues was different, as Members might want more privacy when consulting a psychologist. Therefore, there should be also a wellness office that could just deal with Members.
Ms B Abrahams (ANC) commented that these services and facilities should be marketed more in such a way that contact numbers on how to reach them should be readily available. She agreed that as Parliamentarians they got so busy they forgot to take care of themselves.
The Chairperson thanked the Members for their contribution, stating that as a Committee they dealt with social lives, so even though this item was not on the agenda it had been extremely valuable.
Draft 4th Term Programme
The Committee went through the agenda items, starting with the draft of the fourth term Committee programme.
The Chairperson said the Committee had applied to go on an international visit, but all committees had been told not to apply, as there were many other committees which had also gone and applied at that time. They had put in an application requesting to leave on their international trip in early December.
On 21 November, there would be entities that would come and brief them, including the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). That would be the last day, because after it was the constituency break period.
Ms Tsoleli accepted the programme, and inquired about the weekly reports from SASSA on the implementation of the new regime and the ousting of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). Was SASSA still going to be a standing issue, even in the year ahead? Were they still going to be receiving those weekly reports, or would they be saying that all was good and well at SASSA?
The Chairperson responded that the Committee had to decide if they deemed the performance of SASSA satisfactory, and whether it had met the targets set through monitoring their performance, so that if any problems occurred along the line, their hands could all be on deck. An amendment was therefore put forward for the continued monitoring of SASSA as part of the draft of the fourth term Committee programme.
Ms B Masango (ANC) agreed with the continued monitoring of SASSA as there were structures which had been put in place to monitor it and they should still provide support should a crisis arise.
The Chairperson asked if everyone agreed with the adoption of this item, and the Committee concurred. The Committee needed to compile a final report on the progress of SASSA from the weekly monitoring reports they had been getting from the Agency, just to establish where they stand. The legacy report also had to contain an addendum demonstrating how big the SASSA issue really was, outlining the issues that had led to such a bad outcome that it had needed experts to resolve it. This would be a good lesson for anyone who needed to read about it. This report could be a piece of academic literature on social development and poverty alleviation in South Africa.
The biometrics system was being rejected by some employees as they said that they were never part of the process, so they wanted it to be halted or completely stopped, which had led to strife. Was the Post Office coping with the handing out of social grants, and was the automatic teller machine (ATM) system also working? These are some of the issues the report had to touch on.
The amendments were put up for adoption.
Ms Masango proposed the adoption of the amendments
Ms Abrahams seconded the adoption
Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report
The Chairperson went to the second item on the agenda, which was consideration of the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR). Members were given time to go through the contents of the report and then add any amendments
Ms K Jooste (DA) asked if was it possible that the Department could under-spend by R1 billion?
The Chairperson responded that the report was flawed due to there being no content adviser to assist with the compilation of the report, as she was on maternity leave. Therefore, since now they had a new content adviser, the report could re-compiled as the current one before them was not cohesive and did not make sense in some respects. Therefore, the adoption of the report would be postponed pending re-compilation.
The third agenda item was the adoption of the minutes. The Chairperson urged the Members to check, but when they also found discrepancies, it was decided to postpone this agenda item as well due to its flaws.
The Chairperson said that she would communicate with SASSA just to check what was happening and advise them what was expected of them regarding the report they had to submit, and what updates the Committee wanted to receive.
Ms Tsoleli stressed the need for the Committee to go on an international visit, as this Committee had not gone outside the country, and did not even know where they would be going.
The Chairperson responded that Sweden had the best poverty alleviation programme, so that was a possible destination. She would write to the Chair of Chairs about going on the trip, even if it meant doing that through official or unofficial channels.
She apologised for the state the annual report was in, stating that there had been no content advisor, so no one had been there to conduct the much needed research to compile the report. However, now they had a content advisor and the report would be available.
The meeting was adjourned.
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