Social Assistance Bill: deliberations

Social Development

08 September 2003
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Meeting report

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
9 September 2003
SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIAL ASSISTANCE BILL: DELIBERATIONS

Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Social Assistance Bill

SUMMARY
The Committee continued to deliberate on the concepts and legal implications of the Social Assistance Bill, clause by clause. Changes to the Bill included removing Chapter Four and effecting editorial changes. Issues that had been previously raised by the Committee were flagged after Clause 38. The Department agreed to re-examine the Bill and the Committee stressed that they were operating under severe time constraints. There remained uncertainty as to whether the Bill would go through to the National Council of Provinces.

MINUTES
Despite deep concerns that there was resistance from the NCOP for the Bill to come to them at this stage, the Committee highlighted that the situation was not of their making and decided to advance with deliberations.

Ms Borman (DA) requested the schedules for budget meetings and public hearings but was advised by the Chairperson that these were not yet available.

Chapter 3: Administration of Social Assistance
Clause 17: Recovery of sums overpaid
The Chairperson asked which section of the PFMA was being referred to in the changed Clause 17(2)

Adv Krull, the State Law Advisor, responded that the details were contained in the regulations of the PFMA. National Treasury could provide specifics.

Ms Borman felt more accurate referencing was needed.

Ms Rajbally (Minority Front) wanted clarity on whether it was the responsibility of the Agency to recover amounts paid to unentitled persons. Would the Agency accept this as it would be paying per voucher.

Mr F Makhiwane (National Department of Social Development) said it made provision for errors of payment. In such an event, money had to go back to the state and provisions to claim it had to be in place.

Clause 18: Appeal
The Chairperson asked whether the Minister was always the decisionmaker. Adv Krull explained that the Minister was responsible for putting appeal structures into place.

The Chairperson suggested that the establishment of a tribunal.

Advocate Krull said the establishment of a tribunal would result in quasi-judicial power or status. Various types of appeals were envisaged. It had been decided not to specify the type of tribunal, but rather that it would be best to leave it to the Minister to decide circumstances. The current phrasing was the best approach.

Ms Rajbally asked who made the final decision, the Minister or the Tribunal.

Adv Krull said that as soon as the Minister appointed the tribunal, his/her powers ceased as per common law. The Tribunal would be guided by the nature of the appeal.

Clause 19: Misuse of Social Assistance
The Chairperson asked what constituted misuse. Could an applicant misuse Social Assistance?

Adv Krull said misuse could be interpreted quite widely. However, a working definition could be included. Members were requested to help in creating the parameters of 'misuse'. To clear ambiguity, the beneficiary was the person who received assistance. The beneficiary role of the primary caregiver should be considered.

Ms Borman wanted to know how Clause 19(b)(ii) would be policed practically.

Mr Makhiwane said the Inspectorate would check the compliance of Agency applicants. Essentially the grant intended to alleviate poverty, and any related questionable actions needed to be investigated.

Mr Krull said that currently the human resources to police compliance was not there, but the general public often intervened and highlighted perverse occurrences on the ground.

The Chairperson felt giving the task to the social workers might be considered.

Mr Van Jaarsveld (NNP) said the enabling mechanism was needed even though community organisations could be relied upon. Systems within the community also had to be established correctly.

Clause 21: False representations
The Chairperson asked why Clause 17 and Clause 21(ii) were so far removed from each other.
Adv Krull explained that the sequence of clauses did not affect the document. Clause 15 dealt with
powers of the Agency, and Clause 20 dealt with offences.

Clause 22: Information to be furnished by Third Parties
The Chairperson asked about the definition of Third Parties. He was advised that sub clauses (1) and (2) defined them.

Clause 23: Power of agency to investigate
Mr Makhiwane said that the Committee's advice would be valued on ultimate responsible between the Agency and the Inspectorate.

Clause 24: Functions of Minister
Adv Krull proposed the deletion of the whole chapter since enumerating the functions of the Minister would not serve any purpose and such a listing could be potentially dangerous.

Mr Da Camara (DA) said that Clause 24(1)(b) needed to be a priority. Mr Krull advised that the concerns had been included in the regulation powers of the Minister as it was an important clause.

Chapter 4: Inspectorate for Social Assistance
Clause 25: Inspectorate for Social Assistance
Mr Makhiwane explained that the first important function would be to check that the Agency was applying the functions in accordance with the Act. This included checking out any suspicions of fraud.

Clause 28: Functions of the Inspectorate
Mr Van Jaarsveld asked "where the line was drawn", referring to Clause 28(2)(a) on investigations dictated by circumstances.

Adv Krull advised that Clauses 30, 31 and 32 would fall away.

Chapter 5: General Provisions
Clause 7
Mr Da Camara requested that the Committee take a closer look at Clause 7 (b). Officials said the definition of fully-funded had been used to avoid double dipping. Mr DaCamara felt that if it precluded institutions, that it denied children constitutional rights.

Adv Krull said the grant was reserved for natural persons and not institutions. Institutional funding was dealt with in a different way.

Mr Makhiwane agreed that organisations should not receive funds. The clause 7(b) disqualifier would be triggered if all three conditions were met, without which the child remained eligible.

The meeting was adjourned

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