The Select Committee met for a presentation by the Department of Social Development (DSD) on its budget vote, its 2015-2020 strategic plan and annual performance plan (APP) for 2019/20
The Minister briefed the Committee on what each province had indicated as their immediate needs. She also stressed the importance of departmental collaboration. The main issues raised were the plight of qualified but unemployed social worker graduates, substance abuse within communities, and the challenges that emanated from the migration of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) functions to the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
Members asked a variety of questions related to the challenges existing in their specific provinces, as well as over-riding issues involving the national Department. These included the ECD and DBE issue, the large number of unemployed social workers, the DSD’s reduced targets, the registration and monitoring of non-profit organisations (NPO), social grants being fraudulently abused, crime and gangsterism in the Western Cape, compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA), combating HIV and AIDS, dealing with substance abuse, and assisting students in financial distress.
Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, said the most important thing for her, as Minister, was to ensure that she, the Acting Director General and the other members of the Department of Social Development (DSD) were all committed. The Department needed to be on the same page to meet the same goals, and to do so smoothly. Other contributors beyond the Department also needed to participate to ensure that the Department was successful.
Social development was more than what people narrowly described it to be. Since 1994, the DSD had always described social development properly. However, somewhere along the line, social development had been narrowed down to include a few things. In the African context, it had been narrowed down to social grants, social assistance, etc, but it was way bigger than that. The Department wanted to expand from that narrow view, and in the future have social development understood for what it really was, which was about putting people first. She commented that all the Members and guests in the room were also candidates as clients for social development. The reason the focus was on the most vulnerable and creating an environment where all citizens saw value in themselves, was because South Africa was coming from a history that excluded many people.
The cry right now was, what was the government going to do collectively that was going to change the lives of those people? The African National Congress (ANC) had to provide the lead, but that did not mean that others in different political parties had no role to play. While there was time for politicking, the people on the ground were not always interested in the politics. All they wanted was help with the challenges they faced every day. South Africans wanted to know when they would have water, when the electricity would be fixed, and when they would live in safe and secure communities. The demand on the ground was big.
The Minister said it was important to empower communities, individuals and people, so they could see value in themselves. Once they saw value in themselves, they could see value in their surroundings, their communities, other people, and their own country.
The Department would be sharing a portfolio approach. 25 years of experience had proved that there were challenges when the Department acted in silos. The mission and vision could be seen as different from each other, but it was one. She asked the Committee to see the Department and its agencies as one -- they could not act in isolation.
No one liked to be referred to as “the poorest of the poor.” At some point, the Department and the Committee needed to work together so that South African cities and communities were not referred to as the poorest of the poor. Other relevant departments and agencies had to work with the DSD to achieve this.
She referred to the past weekend, and the Department’s recent work on crime and violence, and their full participation in the summit, but still felt that other departments needed to realise what the DSD was all about.
The Department was tabling the budget vote 2019/20, and last week it had had its first special meeting with social development Members of Executive Councils (MECs). She was happy that most of the MECs had been there, and those who had been unable to attend had apologised and sent representatives. She felt it was wise to host a meet- and-greet, where the Department and the MECs could take note of the high-level issues that were being grappled with. This had given the MECs the opportunity to raise issues that each community was facing. Most of the work that needed to be done would happen at the local level. She wanted the MECs to know that the Department depended on them, and that they would be able to monitor their local programmes and build a close working relationship.
Overall, from each province, the main issues raised were the plight of qualified but unemployed social worker graduates, substance abuse issues within communities, and the challenges that emanated from the migration of Early Childhood Development (ECD) functions to the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
The Minister said that it had become clear that moving forward, there were a lot of opportunities for collaboration to attract stake holders and key partners. It was time to pull assistance from the private sector as well. The private sector also benefited from peace and stability within communities.
The MEC from the Eastern Cape had said that there was a need for institutional support for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which were providing support to cooperatives and dealing with challenges from school learners. The Minister felt that NGOs should never be seen as a nuisance, but they should be seen as people who could assist the Department. However, NGOs still had to follow and appreciate their guidelines.
From the Free State, the MEC had indicated that there was a need for the establishment of an infrastructure grant, so that infrastructure that was relevant to social development could be implemented. They had also mentioned that the Free State would like to would like to move away from the welfare focus and move toward development. The province would like to increase the disability employment equity target to 7%. Most provinces aimed for 2%, but the Free State saw that percentage as a minimum.
The Gauteng province prioritised the need to eradicate substance abuse, the registration of early childhood development (ECD) facilities, providing food security to the needy, and social economic reintegration of children and youth living in the streets through performing and creative arts. The Minister commented that it was painful to see children performing and dancing on the streets for money. She felt those children should not be performing and dancing in the streets, but rather performing in theatres.
The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province indicated a need for protection services for abused and raped elderly people. The elderly were left at home alone, and thugs and rapists took advantage of them. The Minister observed that it was one of the biggest challenges the province faced. The province also would like to strengthen relations with municipal mayors to boost substance abuse programmes and strengthen youth development academies in partnership with technical and vocational training, thereby empowering youth from rehabilitation institutions with market responsive skills. The Minister said that children who struggled with substance abuse moved from one rehabilitation centre to the next, and then returned home because centres could not keep children for long. It was a heavy and difficult burden for parents.
In Limpopo, the main issues had been related to gender-based violence, substance abuse, providing food security, dealing with school crimes committed by and among learners, and the need to reform, coordinate, and institutionalise good governance in non-profit organizations (NPOs). The Minister said that the DSD would present an approach in relation to the NPOs.
In Mpumalanga, the MEC had highlighted the need for more social workers, support for early childhood development, provision of residential care for the elderly, support for cooperatives, farmworkers and children, substance abuse programmes, and the need to facilitate social integration for youth who were in rehabilitation centres.
North West province had indicated there was a need for a programme that discouraged the normalisation of the gangster phenomenon among youths and communities. Gangsterism was becoming a serious plight in areas outside of the Western Cape. She felt that the movement of gangs and drug dealing needed to be dealt with.
The Northern Cape was dealing with endemic alcohol and substance abuse, and required support in areas such as early childhood development.
The Western Cape had an aging population that needed relevant infrastructure and support, and also had to provide ECD support to communities. The province needed drug treatment amenities specifically for teenagers, and was facing serious issues of crime and violence.
Minister Zulu said it had been resolved that the National Department on Social Development would prioritise the provinces’ issues, and urgently respond to them within the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). This would require coordinated efforts, and the DSD had to look at how all the APPs of the Department and provinces related to each other. The work that the DSD did could happen only when they held each other accountable and they understood what each other was doing.
The Minister said she understood the oversight role and responsibilities of Members of Parliament (MPs). They represented communities, and the ANC had been elected to lead the government because it was elected by the majority. However, the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and other parties were also elected to represent communities. Those communities were expecting delivery. Everyone the Department worked with needed to appreciate the roles and responsibilities of MPs. Oversight allowed the DSD to hear people who they would not otherwise hear or see. When the Portfolio Committee visited the communities, it was important for the Department to listen to the Members. Oversight would inform whether the social development portfolio was delivering the mandate in meaningful ways that change the people’s lives.
The consensus from the Portfolio Committee had been the institutionalisation of the objective setting approach, internal strategic alignment, programmatic synchronisation, the intention to carry out the mandate with a common purpose that was informed by the people’s aspirations, and steadfast commitment to strengthen the portfolio’s relationship with Parliament in the service of all South Africans.
Ms Zulu said that when she was appointed Minister, the first thing she did was read the Legacy Report from the Fifth Administration. She felt that many of the objectives that had been carried out by the previous administration should also be carried out by the Sixth Administration. It was as if she was starting from scratch -- the DSD needed to build on what was good, and look ahead.
She went through the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR), saying the report made it clear what the Department had to focus on. That would be carried through into this administration. The Auditor General’s (AG’s) report would also be acted upon.
Consistent with the administration’s mandate, and in pursuing the NDP, the Cabinet lekgotla recommendations and the Minister’s handover report would also be followed and appreciated.
Minster Zulu said that South Africa was part of the world and a signatory to many agreements, yet there were people who still saw it as a developing and needy country. The Department would tap into the resources of those people who would like to help. This focus would enhance several DSD programmes, plans and goals.
She was confident the Department had the promise and potential to give dignity to the people of South Africa. When people were empowered and saw value in themselves, they could strive for a better life. This was possible for the Department to achieve.
DSD Budget Vote, Strategic Plan 2015-2020 and Annual Performance Plan 2019/20
Mr Mzolisi Toni, Acting Director General: DSD, took the Committee through the presentation for the Social Development portfolio. This covered the purpose, DSD strategic overview, alignment of the strategic plan with the APP, the APP for 2019/20, and the DSD’s financial outlook.
(See attached document).
Ms A Maleka (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked about the continued support for ECD, and how some centres were not registered. What was the Department doing to assist those centres to meet their requirements? She noted a decline in the performance targets set by the Department, compared to previous years. What was the reason for the decline? She appreciated the budget allocation to the provinces, and requested the Department to monitor these provinces.
Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) asked about the migration of ECD to the Department of Basic Education (DBE). He said that it was a tedious process, and asked how they were doing in that regard. He also asked about people who were working, but were also utilising social grants. Was there a system that could monitor that? What interventions in that regard were being considered? With HIV and AIDS treatment, was one seeing a difference in terms of people who were receiving support from the government? He mentioned NPOs who were not following their regulations. How was this being monitored, or was that not a part of the Departments operations?
Ms S Luthuli (EFF, KZN) discussed the high level of fraud taking place with social grants. What was being done about this? She referred to old age homes in rural areas in her province, and said they were not being assisted enough. Was there a programme that could assist these homes?
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) sought clarity on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) amount that had been allocated by the Department. What was the integration between the Department of Education and the DSD? She referred to the struggles of students with housing, food, and other expenses, and asked how they could be assisted. How could money from the DSD be accessed by students who needed it? Within the HIV and AIDS NGOs, what was the integration with the services of the DSD? She pointed out that HIV and AIDS was still on the rise amongst young women. What mechanisms were in place? How was the Department monitoring how well these NGOs were performing? For abuse centres, and the appointment of social workers specifically with the Northern Cape province, it had been indicated that the mental health institution and the substance abuse centre in Kimberley was up and running, yet the place was empty. When would there be clarity on when it would be up and running? What was being done to ensure that the building was completed? She asked about grants to ECD facilities. It was R150 per child, but was that enough per child? Was that enough to sustain all the people working there, such as teachers and other caregivers?
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked if the DSD was collaborating with other departments who were also responsible for matters relating to substance abuse. She described how other departments were able to collaborate with each other to resolve issues. What measure was place in the Department to ensure that there was a better management of their administration and travel costs? This was an issue highlighted by the National Treasury. How far was the DSD in the evaluation of foster programmes and ECD assessments?
Mr M Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo) asked about the moving of the ECD to the DBE. Which components of the ECD would be moved to the DBE? What was the effect on the personnel in the Department? Was the DSD giving the DBE an asset, or was it going to throw its liabilities on to them? Would the staff complement be transferred? He also expressed concern about Departmental travel. He asked about money that was being sent to provinces. How were they using it? Could every cent be accounted for? What were the impacts of the programmes on poverty that it was trying to eradicate? He commented that the Department may lack the capacity to implement some of its programmes. Was there some inter-ministerial committee, or something similar, relating to issues like ECD, systemic drug abuse? What was the DSD’s collaboration with the police on this matter, particularly the narcotics division? He was concerned about compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and said that the regulations needed to be followed.
The Chairperson referred to violence and safety within the Western Cape. Last weekend, 50 people had been killed in the province, and 43 had been killed this weekend. She said that the army had been sent in, but it would not be the solution. It had become a bigger issue, and had escalated. The drug problem in the Western Cape had also increased. She asked about the transfer money to the provinces, and how the DSD ensured that it was being used for the right programmes. There were not enough social workers – was it placing social workers in the right communities? Were they accessible? Regarding safety, people were not coming out to give evidence in cases of violence. What was being given to them for protection? Was the DSD following the programmes that had been implemented to assist the communities? Were they really programmes that would assist?
Mr Nchabeleng spoke again in reference to the 43 deaths during the past weekend, and pointed out that close to 2 000 people had died within the last year in one area. He felt there was more to this issue, and that the Committee should not be asking the DSD questions that may not fully be their responsibility. He said that Parliament was in a “war zone.” The army had been deployed to help fight crime, but the criminals were intensifying the struggle.
Ms Connie Nxumalo, Deputy Director General: Social Welfare Services, responded on the questions about ECD, drugs, HIV and AIDS, and social workers.
With ECD, she said there had been a lot of recent mushrooming of ECD facilities. The Department did have a registration regime for ECD centres that needed assistance. The regime allowed for departmental support. Part of the present grant was for infrastructure to support those centres that were not meeting minimum safety requirements. With the migration of ECD to the DSB, the DSD would still be responsible for children aged from zero to four. The DBE would receive the overall leadership and coordination of ECD in the country.
She said that the work on drug abuse was done through the National Macro-Organization of Government (NMOG). There was a forum where both departments were meeting, including the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and Treasury. The intent was to ensure a smooth transition. She also noted that there was an inter-ministerial committee during this transition, with additional technical structures.
Ms Nxumalo explained that health was important, since the first 1 000 days of a child was the sole responsibility of the Department of Health. Even for ages zero to four, the BDE had a role to play in terms of curriculum and training of practitioners. The DSD was not the expert in training, so other departments would adopt that responsibility.
The grant was R150 per child, per day, per attendance for 264 days. This was broken into three parts to include nutrition, learning support material and stipends. Practitioners received stipends, not salaries.
The Department was leading and implementing the national strategic plan’s Goal Four for HIV, AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and tuberculosis (TB). It was focusing on social and structural issues with HIV and AIDS. The Department helps to fund the SA National Aids Council (SANAC) with R30 million for operational costs. The Department had not yet evaluated social behaviour change, but would evaluate later, to check the impact of the programmes it funded.
Mr Fhumulani Neishipale, Deputy Director General: Community Development, answered questions about NPOs. He thought there was an issue of mushrooming of NPOs in terms of the registration. The DSD was responsible for the registration of all NPOs in the county. NPOs, once registered, needed to report back to the Department. The NPO Act also provided an opportunity for recourse from the public.
The DSD had a policy and guidelines on how funded NPOs had to be monitored. Reports from NPOs were scrutinized, and at the end of the year, the Department still found NPOs that submitted dodgy reports. When it was found that NPOs were non-compliant, they would lose their registration.
Ms Nxumalo spoke on the issue of NSFAS and the money that the Department transfers to it. It was allocated as a scholarship for social workers. It could not be accessed by every student. Since 2018, the Department had stopped accepting new intakes. It was unable to appoint graduates, so part of the scholarship money had been made into a grant so that the Department could appoint social workers who were already in the field.
There were not enough social workers. South Africa needed 55 000 social service professionals. The DSD hoped to take a ward-based approach to best serve the different populations. There were over 7 000 social workers without employment. There need to be collaboration within both the public and private sectors so that social workers could deal would all the issues that South Africa faced.
Ms Nxumalo said that as far as she was aware, the substance abuse centre in the Northern Cape was operational.
With substance abuse and collaboration, she said there was an inter-ministerial committee that dealt with this issue. There was also an established central drug authority. This authority reported to Parliament on an annual basis.
Mr Nchabeleng reminded the Department that it was best to say if they do not know the answer to questions. He said that the Committee had received a different answer from the Department of Health about the Northern Cape facility.
Ms Raphaahle Ramokgopa, Executive Manager: Strategy and Business Development: South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) discussed social grants. She explained that some people who were working, were eligible for some grants. SASSA had not succeeded in completely seeing how much each individual was making. However, the Department frequently asked for this information from grant recipients. The Department could do a calculation based upon income, to determine how much each recipient could be given. The challenge was with people who were working in the private sector. SASSA did not have a system that interfaced to receive all the relevant information needed from grant recipients. Ccitizens were often not honest in their own disclosures.
For child support grants, most parents did not disclose who the fathers were. When officials interrogated, there was often a backlash from civil society organisations.
There was not a specific grant for people with HIV and AIDS. There was a temporary disability grant for people who were in ill-health. Most people with HIV and AIDS would fall into this category. Overall, the number of people receiving a disability grant had decreased over the years. SASSA had closed loopholes and placed internal controls on disability grants.
Regarding fraudulent grants, SASSA had been able to use internal controls to identify and capture fraudulent grants.
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Chief Director: DSD, spoke about the reduced targets, and said the Department ensured that its targets were aligned with priorities. There were numerous reasons as to why there were reduced targets. Other than the APP, the DSD also had operational plans that was about the daily work the Department was completing. Some of the targets were found there.
With the evaluation of foster care costs, he had noted the impact of the improvement in infrastructure. Evaluations about the changes within centres and ECDs would take place, as well as targeting treatment centres and other involved areas.
The Department would be conducting an evaluation of foster care implementation. It would like to see the extent to which the foster care process model had been implemented. From this, it could further improve the process. Other departments would be included in this evaluation.
The Minister reminded them that the fact that the year was very short should be considered. She also did not see value in placing too many targets within the APP. The Department needed to be aware of its own capacity.
She said she would like to focus on how the Department was supporting provinces. Rather than looking just at travel, the emphasis should be on the reason for travel.
Mr Toni addressed the PFMA question. He felt the Department was progressing nicely. Last year, it had received an unqualified audit. There were still some challenges with the Department’s supply chain, and a few other issues.
The Minister added that the PFMA was a difficult area. She hoped to move beyond a clean audit and also ensure that the Department delivered. She was not instigating non-compliance, but compliance should also consider that the Department had delivered. She referred to the importance of economic transformation and empowering small enterprises, and said there had to be a balance between compliance and delivery.
Mr Toni discussed the Western Cape safety issue. He urged departmental collaboration to work together and contribute in different ways. The Department felt it was important to make sure that communities took the lead in crime reduction in their areas.
The Minister added that there was a clear recognition that not only one department would be able to resolve this issue. A coordinated approach was critical. The DSD was one department that could work against crime and violence in communities. She felt a district-level approach was necessary. The National Development Agency (NDA) also needs to work with NGOs and communities to develop a comprehensive approach. The DSD had a responsibility to collaborate with other departments and stakeholders.
Minister Zulu said that when communities could not see themselves as a product of themselves, there was a problem. Giving dignity to the people required work and inter-departmental collaboration. The DSD was trying to build the South Africa that they wanted, but it had to focus on the persons inhabiting the South Africa that they wanted. Social development needed to include the people of South Africa. She observed that communities tended to pull back when they were not supposed to pull back.
The Chairperson said the Committee had gained a better understanding of the Department and its vision.
The meeting was adjourned.