The summary and presentation portion of the below will follow shortly. Below is the full discussion of the meeting
Minister’s opening remarks
Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, said she had received a handover report from previous Minister Shabangu, and would remain in contact with her should she need anything. Her approach was also informed by the National Development Plan and the past 25 years of the country’s democracy. However, it was not only about the past 25 years, but also the next 25 years and what kind of a South Africa one wanted to see. As Minister of Social Development, she would contribute to the South Africa the people wanted, and called upon all South Africans to contribute as well.
She believed that using being poor as an excuse to get somewhere in life was something that needed to be changed. After 25 years, it should really be the most vulnerable who were receiving the social grant, and the number of people receiving the social grant should be reduced. This meant that the government needed to step up across the board. The infrastructure had to change. Roads, health, education must change -- these things had to change in order to create a conducive environment for people to stand on their own, but without removing the structures in place to help those who cannot help themselves.
The majority of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) clients were young people who should be planning for their own retirement, because retirement planning starts at the age of 25. There was a need to rethink the approach and change the narrative to what social development was really about. Social development was about empowering each and every individual in society, firstly to see value in themselves, because when they see value in themselves, they see value in their family, their community and their country.
The Minister said that she was brought up by her grandparents who did not have a SASSA or National Development Agency (NDA) to go to, but what they had was the will to make sure that their grandchildren did not end up as domestic workers like themselves. The same decisions needed to be taken today, and the advantage was that people now had somewhere to go for this kind of assistance. Government had to create the environment for people to better themselves. She called upon the Department and the Committee to make sure that whatever had not gone right in the past 25 years, the same mistakes should not be repeated.
In conclusion, the Minister said she was open to very serious discussions with the Portfolio Committee, and commented that the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) had had workshops at the beginning that had brought together the Department and all Members of the Committee. From the very beginning, they had had an appreciation of where they were going so that when they held each other accountable, they had an appreciation of the what the Department said they would do from the beginning.
The Chairperson commended the Minister on her address. He emphasised that although people may be born in poverty-stricken environments, they were inherently capable. The environment needed to change in order to liberate people’s energy. One must never allow people to believe that they were poor. There was nothing as dangerous as a state of mind.
Mr Mzolisi Toni, Acting Director General: Department of Social Development (DSD), and his team presented the strategic plan and annual performance plan (APP).
Discussion on DSD challenges
Mr D Stock (ANC) referred to some of the problems faced in the 5th Parliamentary administration, and said that non-compliance with legislation was one of them. Some of the processes, such as supply chain management, were not followed. He was also impressed with the opening remarks by the Minister. He wanted to know what processes would be put in place to ensure that the problems faced by the fifth administration were not repeated. He would like to know what measures had been put in place to ensure that the APP targets were met.
Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) said monitoring of the implementation of the policy framework on the accreditation of diversion services was taking place in five provinces, so why was it not being implemented in all nine provinces? She made further enquiries into the frameworks of the disability rights awareness campaigns, and asked if the Minister had sat with the Department and figured out how they were going to approach this, or if they were going to duplicate already existing frameworks. She also said that there were often disabled people standing on corners or outside shops asking for help, and to her knowledge those were people were receiving grants, so they were probably being used by family members for financial gain. She would like to know how the Department was going to deal with that situation and make sure that the social grants were actually being used to take care of these people.
Ms B Masango (DA) asked the Minister what her view was on the Children’s Amendment Bill and the response that had come from civil society on it. With regard to the social work scholarships, had the actual education funding been paused to funnel the money towards funding jobs for graduates, as had been agreed upon in the last term?
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA) said that during the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President mentioned that early childhood development (ECD) would be moved to a certain department. Had it been moved to the Department of Basic Education and the funding been channelled there, or was the Department of Social Development still funding it? She asks how far they were with the investigations into the social grant fraud cases, and if a detailed report could be provided with this information.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) thanked the Minister for her opening address, and said that she had motivated everyone. With regard to the ECD moving to the Department of Basic Education, was this something that was going to happen immediately or was it something that would be implemented gradually? Did the Department have a database of all the ECD centres that could be accessed by the public at any time? This would be beneficial in identifying illegal ECD centres. Were there channels to report illegal ECD centres? With the reduction of staff, she asked at which level this reduction would be taking place, and how many women would be affected by this reduction? She commented that the performance targets from the fifth Parliament had not been met -- out of 68, only 35 had been achieved -- and she would like an explanation and an indication of how the Department was going to make sure that it met its targets this time around. She also asked if the SASSA migration to the South African Post Office had taken place. The budget for machinery and equipment had been reduced under Programme 1 (administration), and she would like to know how this would affect the performance of the Department. She also asked about the reasoning behind the budgetary decline in the substance abuse programme and the social workers’ scholarship. She asked how many of the social work graduates were currently employed.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said that there was a gap that needed to be addressed, which was evident when seeing children begging on the street, especially during the school holidays. Social work graduates were unemployed, and this had to be addressed urgently. There were 114 funded posts that were vacant, and she wanted to know why this was the case. She asked if the Department would work with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, in order to maximise the amount of funding available. She commended the development of the inter-sectoral policy on sheltering service, but would like to know what was being done in the meantime because policies did take a long time to implement and for the results to start showing.
She asked the Minister how she would be addressing the gender-based violence crisis. She hoped that the Sixth Parliament would be addressing critical issues, as the Fifth Parliament had rightfully focused a lot on the SASSA scandal. However, action needed to be taken on other issues such as those affected persons with disabilities, and she asked why sign language was not being taught in school and why the government was not meeting their requirement of having at least 2% of their staff comprised of persons with disabilities. She would also like feedback on the Children’s Amendment Bill. She commented that the Department might not have enough funds to make sure that all social work graduates were employed, and asked if other departments, such as the Department of Basic Education, could absorb these graduates and create employment for them.
The Chairperson said that sometimes people underestimate how engineered and socially entrenched patriarchy is. He said that even men need help, and that boys were taught from a young age that it was disgraceful to be like a girl. Boys had to demonstrate how powerful they were over women in everything that they did. He was an athlete growing up, and it was embarrassing to be overtaken by a girl. When programmes were put into place to empower women, some men hated this. In Cuba, new attitudes were being developed in schools at a very young age. Society needed to envision a South Africa where social assistance was not required, and that it was not embarrassing to have this vision.
Minister Sisulu said that Members must appreciate that they were new in the social development environment, and that they really needed to get a grip on what was happening. There had to be a workshop that brought the Department and all Members of the Portfolio Committee together. She would invite the Chairperson to their next meeting, where they would be meeting the entire staff, and the Chairperson could address them and let them know what the expectations of the Portfolio Committee were. This was to make sure that the entire staff was appreciative of the new way they wanted to do things.
Mr Toni said that the key question that had been asked was related to the action plan for the targets that they had set out to meet. The Minister had answered that, and the Committee Members seemed to have been impressed with the answer. They needed to organise themselves as the engine that would drive the delivery of the targets. They had spoken about the issue of structures, and there had been a lot discussion around that. It had been raised with the Minister, and they were working to resolve it.
Ms Connie Nxumalo, Deputy Director General: DSD, said that the scholarships had been stopped as in 2018 they did not have any new students, but it should be remembered that there were already students in the pipeline, and the money was being used to service these students. They currently had a backlog of more than 5 000 unemployed graduates, including those who had already graduated this financial year. Collaboration with other departments was in progress, and it was something the Minister would bring up at the Cabinet meeting.
On the issue of social crime prevention and accreditation of diversion services, what the DSD had done was to look at the number of diversion programmes that were accredited in each province, and they would start with the provinces with the highest numbers. Regarding the Children’s Amendment Bill, Members who were in the Fifth Parliament would remember that this Bill was submitted to the Speaker of Parliament in February 2019, and all they were waiting for as a Department was the Parliamentary processes to take place. They had also trained about 800 social workers who would be able to facilitate the adoption processes. Adoption was a free service of government. She believed that it was one of the ways in which they could alleviate the foster care backlog.
She said that there needed to be mechanisms in place to regulate shelters. In addition to this, they had to come up with the Victims Support System Bill, and should be tabling it in Parliament this year.
The substance abuse budget had declined because they had now transferred money to the provinces for the running of the treatment centres, and had agreed to this with National Treasury.
Regarding ECD, since the SONA there had been a team working with the Department of Basic Education, and it would be leading the implementation of the integrated childhood development programme with the support of the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health. There was also a database of all registered ECD centres. She was aware of ECD centres that were not registered, and some that were even abusing children. They wanted to lead a registration campaign and have parents demand a registration certificate before registering their child at an ECD centre.
The Minister said that the social workers were a big concern. It would better to have more social workers in a community than policemen and women. In Cuba, one could ask any person in a street, and they could tell you what the problems of that street were, and which families were needy, and this was the work of social workers and doctors in the community. What they needed to do was take a step back and inquire into the true role of social workers and where they had to be deployed. They should tap into the private sector to develop a relationship between the private and public sectors in order to produce the best people, which would also benefit the private sector.
Mr Khumbula Ndaba, Deputy Director General: Department of Social Development, said some of the issues remained beyond their control, such as approval by Cabinet of some of the Bills, like the Nonprofit Organisations (NPO) Amendment Bill. When one looked towards the end of the financial year, one could see that targets that were not fully met were targets which were still in progress. They would give more detail on the targets not met when they received an invitation to present their annual report.
Ms Busisiwe Memela, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), presented the entity’s APP and budget for 2019/2020.
Ms Van der Merwe said that the South African Post Office (SAPO) and SASSA should have been working together a long time ago, and that a private company should have never made billions of rands from the state and have grant recipients defrauded. She was concerned about the renewed instances of fraud which were especially targeting pensioners. She was disappointed that the investigations were taking months to process. When people go to SASSA offices, they are told they need to go to SAPO, and when they get to SAPO they are sent back to SASSA. She would like to know how many investigations were currently taking place, how far they were with these investigations and how far the Hawks were with the investigations. Had security at cash points been tightened, as some of the cash trucks may be targeted for theft? She referred to a bed-ridden pensioner who had been waiting six months for a representative of SASSA to visit, and she wanted to know if SASSA had enough people to do these home visits.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked why SASSA did not attach conditions to receiving grants. Conditions might help in alleviating the problem of children having children, and parents using the money for drugs and alcohol. She also raised a concern that at 15h45, some SASSA employees were slamming doors in the faces of elderly people, saying that their time was up. Respect and dignity had to be shown by officials to these older persons.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) says there was an opportunity for this administration to make a difference to the children receiving SASSA grants, and she was referring specifically to young women. There needed to be some programme through which they could get young people off their dependency on SASSA. She added that service levels on the ground had to be improved
Ms N Mvana (ANC) said it had been reported that grant cards were going to categorised according to colours so that people did not go and collect grants on the same day. She said one would find long queues of people waiting to collect grants, particularly in the rural areas. She would like to know if this categorisation had taken place. She also asked if they could fast track the issue of awareness in terms of understanding the green card and yellow card that older people were being changed to. What was going to happen to people who had cards that did not belong to them, such as loan sharks?
Ms A Motaung (ANC) said she did not understand the issues with the biometric programme, and why there was a delay on this. While they delayed the biometric system process, fraud was taking place in the townships. How was SASSA dealing with this current fraud? With the agreement between SASSA and SAPO, how was SASSA going to make sure that SAPO complied, because in most cases one have beneficiaries waiting in long queues, and there was no shelter outside. How was SASSA going to make sure that payments happened even in the most rural of places, and when were they going to increase their footprint in areas like Daveyton, because people were still travelling to the central business district (CBD) areas. Why did SASSA rely so much on the Department of Public Works? Why was the issue of foster care taking so long to resolve?.
Ms Ngwenya asked what the criteria the SASSA doctors used to determine whether someone qualified for grants or not. Some patients would go to a private doctor who would certify them unfit to work, thus requiring a grant, and when these patients saw the SASSA doctors they were told they were fit to work, and thus did not qualify to receive a grant. She found the SASSA doctors very arrogant and not willing to help. Why were so many foster care grants under review, and why was the Department of Justice involved? How much had been allocated to the foster care grants, and how much had been spent so far? Were performance reviews conducted for the staff of SASSA, and was any customer care training given to them? Most of the SASSA offices were in towns, and she argued that they should be closer to the townships so that people could access them more easily.
Ms Masango wanted confirmation that a large number of the fraud cases were due to SASSA not using the biometric system. The CEO had mentioned something about a pilot project on the reinstatement of the biometric system, and she would like to know why the project was being piloted if it was one that would help to eliminate fraud. Why not just implement it at a full scale? She would also like the communication at SASSA, and between SASSA and its recipients, to improve. There was a programme in SASSA called the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP) and she would like to Minister and the CEO to read through it and help her understand how this was a good investment. She asked if the senior manager on fraud could indicate how much money was involved in the fraud cases, and how much had been lost by SASSA.
Ms Bilankulu asked the Minister how she planned to tackle the long list of financial misconduct cases, and questioned the long time it takes to solve them, which wastes a lot of money. Infrastructure was also a challenge, and SASSA’s facilities were unfriendly for the recipients. Post offices sometimes would have only five to 10 chairs, and the rest of the people were standing and there were no restrooms. Why were they planning only on reducing irregular expenditure, and not eliminating it altogether?
Mr Sipho Zwane, General Manager: SASSA, said that there was indeed a problem with the SASSA doctors, and says that the doctors used an assessment tool before they made a decision. The disability grant was divided into two parts -- the temporary disability grant and the permanent disability grant. They would be able to give clarity on the issue during the workshop.
Ms Memela said that they might not be able to answer the questions adequately today, so she would like both the Department and the Agency to take the questions and they would see how they dealt with them at a later stage, so that Members could be empowered by the answers. The issue of the pay points and infrastructure was a very serious one, and they needed to deal with it immediately. She said that setting up pay points was very expensive. She added that with regard to war veterans who received a grant, one would find that some of them were Second World War veterans, while others had participated in the Korean war.
The Chairperson said an audit should be done to assess whether a person was from the apartheid era, so that legality was followed with regard to the special pension received by veterans. He said that it did not help to ignore them.
Regarding the conduct of SASSA staff, the staff did receive customer service training, and refresher courses were provided. Sometimes it became difficult to regulate the conduct of a person when that conduct was something they had learnt at home and had joined the organisation already having that attitude. Previously it had been suggested that they place complaint boxes in the SASSA offices, and maybe that was something that they needed to pick up on again. She said that many of the boxes had been stolen, and she believed they had been stolen by their own staff members.
A question had been raised as to whether SASSA had finalised its staff establishment. She said that SASSA had an establishment, and the first one had been finalised in 2009, and “panel beaten” over time. They now needed to ask if they were still correctly configured, given the improvements in technology and the change in their business processes. They would be undergoing a business process reengineering, which would also look at whether they had the right number of staff.
There was an issue with the Gauteng office being too small, and why the local offices were in the towns. The CEO had mentioned something about a 10-year infrastructure plan which was aimed at seeing whether they had the right offices in the right places. The plan was to gradually move offices in remote areas closer to where the SASSA recipients stayed.
She says they relied on the Department of Public Works because when they did procurement, they did it through that Department.
They had been struggling to find a building in Daveyton, but they were still working on it. They were establishing a new office soon in Atteridgeville, which would help take some of the load off the Pretoria office.
Performance reviews of staff took place twice a year -- one mid-year review and one annual review. Sometimes the supervisors did not look at the soft issues when they evaluated the staff performance and look at whether the individual had delivered the numbers. They were constrained by the tool that they used, which was the tool that applied to everyone in government, so it did not take into account the fact that they performed different functions. They had suggested that a different tool be used for people who interacted with beneficiaries.
She said it was a pity that some of the vacancies could not be filled just yet, but they did have people acting in those positions in the meantime. They did not want to end up in a situation where they were overstaffed and had to retrench people, so they were cautious about the filling of posts until they finalised the business process reengineering. In the next months, they would be doing a high-level redesign.
The Minister said there was a need to personalise issues and get people to think along the lines of what would they do if this was their mother, uncle or aunt. She believed that on the other hand, the system and the institution must make it easy. They had to find another way to facilitate suggestions and complaints, because there was technology today that could do away with having to put things in a box. One of the problems was consequence management, and it was something they did not manage very well.
Mr Abraham Mahlangu, Chief Information Officer (CIO), SASSA, said that there were a lot of questions with regard to fraud, and he had been appointed to head the fraud unit. He was working on preventive measures and detection instead of chasing after those who had already committed fraud. They were currently sitting on 20 251 cases, and had decided to employ their analytics and business intelligence tools so that they could see where the root of the problem was. They had detected that the main weakness in their system was that officials at the local offices were able to change the bank details of the recipients. The 2 800 cases that had been reported in the media were true, and many were attributed to 13 officials, mainly in the Eastern Cape, who had been changing the banking details of grant beneficiaries. They had been working closely with commercial banks and the South African Reserve Bank.
Ms Abrahams said her question on attaching conditions to the grants had not been answered, but because they were pressed for time, she would not mind the secretary giving her a written response.
The Chairperson said that all questions were important, and he remembered Ms Abrahams’s question. In other countries, there were certain programmes that a child should be under when they were receiving the grant. In South Africa there were no other responsibilities to receiving a grant. It was unconditional and as a result, there was no disincentive for the abuse of the system.
National Development Agency (NDA): Discussion
Ms Thamo Mzobe, CEO: NDA, presented the annual performance plan of the Agency.
Ms Van der Merwe asked if her understanding was correct that the cost of staff was higher than the cost of the actual programmes which formed part of the core business of the NDA. She would also like them to elaborate on programmes aimed at getting young women off social grants. What was being done to increase the partnership between the NDA and the private sector?
Ms Abrahams asked for the exact date of the “infamous” workshop that was meant to take place. She also asked if what they were saying was that if the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) came through the NDA, their time would be shorter than if they went through the Department. If so, should they be going out and telling everyone to come via the NDA -- would they have the capacity for that?
Ms Van der Merwe asked if there should not be a more aggressive interaction between the NDA and, for example, the public broadcaster. She felt they were missing a very important tool in the form of the SABC to advertise the NDA. This would help them become more known, and people would have their name at the back of their minds.
Ms Ngwenya referred to the matter of international donors, and asked if a civil service organisation found a donor on their own, they should bring that donor to the NDA to facilitate the whole process. She would also like to know if the NDA had roadshows where they went to the townships and spoke to people so that they got to know the NDA and the work they did. Was mentoring an ongoing thing, or did there come a time when they let go of the organisations to be on their own? With regard to publications, she would like to know if they meant magazines, newspaper, etc, and where could they get a hold of them, because she had never seen any.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana saidt she was impressed to see two women CEOs present. She hoped that in the future, the Director General of the DSD would also be a woman. She said that gender mainstreaming needed to take place, starting from now. Regarding infrastructure, since the buildings were no longer in use, she would like to know if they would remain unused, or if there was something they could do to help the community.
Ms Mzobe said that the NDA aimed to reduce the number of youths receiving grants, and it was important for other government departments to help in this regard. There was a uniform budget channelled to women in agriculture and textiles. She said that development was a journey, and they were working on a turnaround strategy. They wanted to interface their information communication technology (ICT) system, because the systems were not integrated, and this was something that was happening throughout government.
NPO registration was done online. Sometimes when they did roadshows, they would have the Department with them to immediately register NPOs and issue a certificate. She agreed with the fact that the NDA had not been too visible, and that they thought having physical offices would help. They had since partnered with SABC 2 on agricultural programmes. These programmes would not only cover the good stories, but also the challenges faced.
With regard to what happens when private sector companies attract foreign investors, the CEO said that often what happens was that the donors would not work with these organisations unless they were recognised by their government, and this was when the NDA steps in to help facilitate. The NDA had a partnership with Ernest & Young with regard to attracting donors.
Ms Susan Khumalo, Chief Operating Officer (COO): NDA, said they had development officers in all provinces who were responsible for the implementation of the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) development model. They monitored and produced reports that laid out the progress of each CSO. They were also trying to work on a planning framework that did not focus so much on number of CSOs, but rather on the outcome and quality of work they were producing for the CSOs. They would rather have fewer CSOs that they supported, and ensure that the outcome was visible, but this was something they were still arguing about within the organisation.
The Chairperson said that it was good that Ms Khumalo could see that there were still things that they were arguing about within the organisation. He said that the only way they could produce was if they were frank and brutally honest with each other. It could not be happening that in 20 years they were still arguing about whether to move away from numbers, and focusing on impact. This showed that the question had not been attended to properly. They needed a special session so as to get a turnaround in this area.
The Minister said that they needed to work on the issue of visibility. The NDA was supposed to assist the Department in the development of the individual she had spoken about earlier on. There needed to be an appreciation and understanding of what was national development. There had to be a conversation with regard to who they were empowering, where were they situated and what impact they had. The organisation could not be there for the sake of being there, but their impact must be felt. There was no way the NDA, SASSA and the Department could work in isolation. As a Department, they were identifying other departments that could work with them a well.
The Chairperson, in closing, said the keyword was an integrated approach with other departments.
The meeting was adjourned.