The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) told the Committee about how it was dealing with the effects of protest action on the organisation, clearing the backlog of applications and moving staff into a new building. Members wanted assurance that two new registered tuberculosis (TB) drugs for children were user-friendly and accessible. They were also concerned about the availability and affordability of vaccines. They referred to the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill, and asked what space indigenous medical knowledge would occupy. They also drew attention to the vacancy rate and the need to capacitate the entity.
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) on their annual reports. Members pointed out some of the challenges that had arisen as a result of the Agency’s migration from Cash Paymaster Services to the SA Post Office. These included confusion over the location of pay points, beneficiaries still using the old green cards, and legal constraints affecting traders in the new locations. What was SASSA doing to address its adverse audit opinion?
The Chairperson raised particular concern about ongoing gender-based violence, rape and human trafficking, and asserted that the Department was not adequately supporting victims. She recommended that they take into account the outcomes of the recent Gender Summit. Members also raised questions about the appointment of people who did not hold appropriate qualifications.
South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA): Backlog and protest action
Ms Helen Rees, Chairperson: Board of SAHPRA, said the presentation would focused on the backlog. Strike action had continued since April of this year, and the staff who were involved were employees of the DOH. The administrative staff of SAHPRA were affected by the protest action but the professional staff had maintained services. The DOH staff had recently been transferred to SAHPRA.
Ms Portia Nkambule, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO): SAHPRA, explained the background to SAHPRA, its organisational structure and key achievements. A key challenge was the inherited backlogs for medicine and radiation control. She highlighted delays in transferring staff to SAHPRA, and the requirement for a new building because of the Civitas challenge and protest action.
Ms Rees said that one of the biggest challenges was the backlog. She said that SAHPRA got a supplementary grant and had hired an independent consulting group to find out what the backlog consisted of. They wanted to clear the backlog in two years by reducing the number of applications, looking at new models for evaluation, defining short-cut processes and using electronic methods of application. They had lost a lot of their support and administrative staff and needed additional staff to look at the backlog. She said the transfer of staff was complete and they were moving into a new building.
The Chairperson asked whether they had a tuberculosis (TB) drug which was user friendly for children.
Ms Rees replied that they had registered two new products which would go out through a tender. She added that the drug to which the Chairperson was referring was not being used.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked whether the two types of new drugs were already in the dispensaries of hospitals. She referred to the number of applications in the backlog, and asked who the people were that constituted it. What was the space that indigenous medical knowledge occupied? Did their products form part of pharmacies? What was the percentage of the vacancies?
Ms P Samka-Mququ (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked who was responsible for the appointment to the position of Acting CEO.
Ms Zwane said that in some areas, vaccines were not accessible or affordable. She said that her own grandchild could not be vaccinated because they had run out of vaccines.
The Chairperson replied that the shortage of medication was an issue for the DOH.
Ms Zwane asked for clarity on the shortage of vaccines.
The Chairperson said that it must be ensured that the two new products were safe and that once they were registered, the DOH would have a tender. She added that similarly for vaccines, it was a public health priority. There was a global shortage of certain vaccines. She asked the Committee to work with the DOH to identify an alternative manufacturer.
Ms Nkambule said that indigenous medical knowledge needed particular attention. The Director General (DG) had indicated that the Protection, Promotion, Development & Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill (IKS Bill) would be finished by next year. She said that the board of SAHPRAH appointed the position of Acting CEO, after consultation with the Minister. Interviews were recently held for the position of a permanent CEO and the position would be filled soon.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on the vacancy rate.
Ms Nkambule replied that the rate was at 80%, and they needed to capacitate. The had previously been dependent on the DOH, but now that they were on their own they needed to strengthen units.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their presentation and apologised for the time constraints. The Committee would wait for their report next year.
Department of Social Development (DSD): 2017/18 Annual Report
The Chairperson began by apologising to the Deputy Minister for the time constraints. She said that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) presentation would follow and officials had to remain for it so that they could indicate the issue of migration.
Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister: DSD, said that officials were ready to present and account to the Committee for the work they had done. Given the time constraints, the presentation would focus on the challenges, successes and the remedies put in place to address the ongoing problems.
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Chief Director (CD): Monitoring and Evaluation, DSD, began by explaining the performance of each programme. In programme 1 (Administration), the Department had developed their communication strategy. In programme 2 (Social Assistance), all the targets had been achieved and the SASSA presentation would give more detail on this. In programme 3, (Social Security Policy and Administration), the Department had been able to conduct fraud awareness campaigns, but they could not achieve the target of including informal sector workers in social security. In programme 4 (Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation Support), most of the challenges were related to Bills and waiting for them to be approved by Cabinet. The Victim Support Services Bill had had delays in receiving pre-certification from the State Law Advisor. In programme 5 (Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery), most of the challenges were related to not finalising training programmes.
The Acting CFO of DSD described the quarterly spending of the Department. He said that substance abuse was most rife in the Northern Cape and the Free State. He added that the Department had about 83 vacancies.
The Chairperson asked for the officials of SASSA to begin their presentation before Members of the Committee raised questions.
SASSA: 2017/18 Annual Report
Mr Abraham Mahlangu, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO): SASSA, said that the purpose of the presentation was to report to the Committee on their transition from Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). Phase one of the transition was based on the Constitutional Court order. They had successfully migrated beneficiaries from the old service provider to the new partnership with the South African Post Office (SAPO). He was glad that there had been no need to ask for an extension to comply in totality with the Court’s order. There had been issues of influx in certain areas. The entity had received an adverse audit outcome and this issue, as well as the records of irregular expenditure, would be dealt with by his colleague.
Ms Raphaahle Ramokgopa, Head: Strategy and Business Development, SASSA, said that the new partnership had required collaboration with the government and SAPO. Network infrastructure in some areas had been affected by cable thefts. Ongoing scanning was affected by this. They had not been able to upgrade all the local offices, but had managed to upgrade the national and provincial offices.
SASSA had received an unqualified audit opinion. On the issue of grants, they had been unable to phase out the services of CPS. They had planned to in-source some of the services. They could not achieve the target for deductions. There were multiple access points and the system could not correlate them.
Mr Tsakeriwa Chauke, Chief Financial Officer: SASSA, provided a summary of the finances, and said they had spent R7.2 billion. They had lost 1 102 employees through resignations, retrenchment and ill health, and these positions had not been filled yet.
There had been two main reasons for the adverse audit opinion. Firstly, multiple entries and discrepancies had been found. They had insisted that persons must be able to upload evidence, and the system had been adjusted for now. Secondly, cases of irregular expenditure had been found, mainly in regional offices. Some of the transactions had happened during the course of the audit and had had to be reviewed and reversed.
He described the three-point plan to deal with irregular expenditure. Firstly, they had reviewed all existing contracts and were currently validating transactions entered into between April 2018 and September 2018. If there was non-compliance, they would be brought in line with the register. Secondly, the prevention of irregular expenditure had been discussed with all the managers under the leadership of the CEO. Thirdly, the issue of capacity would be addressed. He concluded that cases would be finalised within 90 days as a corrective measure, and they would be able to be resolved.
The Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister if she would like to conclude.
The Deputy Minister replied that the number of issues raised in the presentation had ben affected by the change, and SASSA had promised to fast track the implementation of correcting financial aspects where they had been found wanting.
Ms Zwane said that once the Department had set targets, for itself it was surprising that these targets had not been achieved. The Committee held the Department responsible for this. She asked the Deputy Minister if the DG had been fully appointed. On the question of finance, she asked when the Department would address the issues raised by the Auditor General. Why had the support arranged for the Eastern Cape not taken off the ground? If there were problems in the province, what was the DSD doing to ensure children were benefiting? On the issue of delays, she asked who exactly was not approving the Bills. She expressed concern about SASSA’s qualified audit opinion. She told them to get themselves out of the situation and correct it themselves. It showed a lack of leadership in finance. Before the Department engaged with a person as a contractor, due diligence had to be conducted, so why had they contracted with someone who did not hold qualifications? She sought further information on the achievement of targets and challenges regarding tenders.
Ms T Mampuru (ANC) said that she understoods SASSA had migrated, but in most post offices people had not received grants. This was an efficiency issue. The original pay points did not receive grants. Could SASSA convince her that the original pay points were still going to be utilised? Why had people without the necessary qualifications been appointed?
Ms M Moshodi (ANC) raised the same issue as Ms Mampuru on the post offices. She said that people in the Free State were getting the grants outside on the streets. She had spoken to the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) about the matter, and the answer she received was that they were still using the old system. She said that there were SASSA notices in the shops and streets where it stated one could get grants from the old system. The Department had to monitor these provinces.
Ms Mampuru said that people wanted to defraud the system, and the Department needed to come up with awareness campaigns. The officials were the ones who were failing the system.
Ms Zwane said that the migration of pensions to the post office was a move the Department had had to take, but nonetheless it had actually collapsed. She said that people could not transport goods to town because there were bylaws which restricted them from doing so. How was the DSD dealing with this situation?
Ms Moshodi asked if the Department knew that beneficiaries were still using the green card.
The Chairperson said that most of the questions were directed at SASSA, but she was starting with the Department. She thanked the DSD for maintaining a clean audit, but said that the impact must be felt by the people who received the services. Where had they made an impact? She said that people in Khayelitsha were struggling. There were areas where they had not done well, including the issue of gender-based violence, where the programmes were operational rather than affecting the people. There was violence happening behind closed doors and the Department had failed to support victims. The DSD must address the content discussed during the Gender Summit.
Substance and drug abuse must be taken more seriously. Human trafficking and rape victims were also not dealt with adequately. She was also worried about the staff turnover.
She asked SASSA what they were doing about the unintended consequences of the transition to SAPO. Regarding the bylaws, space had to be made for people to sell goods. Pensioners were expected to take a taxi to town to receive pension payouts because there was no longer a payout at community halls. Some people were not getting full payment. She asked how the Committee could take what they were saying about irregular expenditure and corruption seriously.
The Deputy Minister said that the reason they had an Acting DG was because the Cabinet had taken a decision that no new appointments must be made, since they were going into new elections. They could not appoint a DG if they had nowhere to place him/her. Wasteful expenditure was declining, as the expenditure had involved parliamentary activities where people did not show up at hotels or did not use the transport. This happened when Committee meetings got cancelled and people did not show up.
Regarding support for early childhood development (ECD) centres, there was a task team to support the provinces. The MECs get briefed on the performances of the provinces, and the officials had done their work. Whatever was outstanding was for the Minister to sign off and decide.
Regarding the post offices and pay points, she said there was confusion about whether SASSA was keeping the pay points or consolidating them. The challenge was that the post offices did not have a banking license. Officials must ensure that people could close their green card accounts.
On the issue of childbirth and fathers, according to the Social Assistance Act, the responsibility lay with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to ensure that the names of both parents appear on the birth certificate. She added that when the Department did outreach, they brought the DHA with them. The system informs the Department when the mother dies. In reality, the grandparents do not know who the father is and the Department was working on this by utilizing the services of social workers and tracing agents.
The vacancies were because the Minister had placed a moratorium on staff appointments.
The Chairperson said that she had to excuse herself as she was writing examinations at the University of Witwatersrand the next day. She asked Ms Zwane to continue the meeting in her absence. The question as to whether the officials had done their work or not still stood, and the Deputy Minister would have to explain this to Members.
The Deputy Minister said that once the moratorium was lifted, the entities would begin to fill the vacancies.
She explained that the issues of gender-based violence and human trafficking were handled by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services (DOJ). The prosecution of perpetrators and the updating of sec offender registers lay with the DOJ.
There were challenges around access to shelters and social workers. The outcomes of the Gender Summit look positive. She said the reason for the qualified opinion was because of old debt that had to be written off and could not be recovered. Until the whole amount was written off, SASSA would sit with a qualified report. The debt had arisen when they were consolidating the different pensions, and it remained a qualifier, but i did not mean SASSA was not improving.
The meeting was adjourned.
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