The Committee was briefed by Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) on its new mandate, the audit process, the five audit opinions it expresses, root causes of poor audit outcomes, key recommendations and the role of oversight. Emphasis was put on AGSA’s extended mandate following amendments to the Public Audit Act which became effective on 1 April, 2019 and introduced three key powers: AGSA can now refer material irregularities, take remedial action and issue a certificate of debt.
AGSA spoke on the audit outcomes of the Social Development portfolio for the past four years. The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA) had an unqualified audit opinion for 2014/15 and 2015/16, but the situation worsened thereafter. In 2017/18 none of the three entities (DSD, NDA, SASSA) received a clean audit and SASSA regressed from unqualified to qualified audit opinions. Root causes include inadequate monitoring of compliance with legislation, lack of training and instability in key positions. Audit outcomes for 2018/9 were not provided as these are still in process.
Members asked about the retrospective applicability of the new Amendment Act, accountability processes for irregular expenditure within departments and entities, the legal implications of Accounting Officers who receive a certificate of debt, and the legal consequences of failure to implement disciplinary steps.
The Department of Social Development (DSD) gave a response to the findings and recommendations made by High Level Panel Report on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change, with the presence of the Deputy Minister of Social Development. It presented the Department’s intermediate actions and long-term plans to adopt the recommendations which dealt with language, refugees and migrants, sexual offences data, access to child support grants by child-headed households, lapsing of foster care grants due to caseloads, definition of disability, means test, SASSA capacity and transparency challenges, collusion between commercial sector and administrators of grants; grants are not indexed against inflation, as well as those to do with Welfare Services and Community Development.
Members asked which stakeholders DSD will be working with to address the sexual offences database, the interplay between DSD and the Department of Basic Education in addressing sexual offences in schools, its plan to deal with the gaps identified by the report, time-frame for implementation of the intermediate actions and long-term plan, capacity of South African police to deal with victims of sexual offences, access to SASSA grants by non-South Africans and the operationalisation of substance abuse treatment centres and halfway houses.
The Chairperson proposed that the High Level Panel recommendations be integrated as an element of the DSD quarterly progress reports so the Committee is able to critique everything, including the High Level Panel recommendations.
The Chairperson said that the past week had been a very bad, and one of the most testing weeks in the country for gender based violence. The people of South Africa are finding themselves helpless in the face of events. There is common understanding that this is a national crisis that cuts across and the response is simply to be coherent. The Social Development Department (DSD) has a huge role to play in the space.
Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) briefing
Mr Lourens van Vuuren, Business Executive, AGSA, identified three objectives for the briefing:
-provide clarification on the function of AGSA, as well as the concepts and terminologies it uses;
-take the Committee through the audit outcomes of the Social Development Portfolio for the last four years;
-cover the amendments of the Public Audit Act (PAA), which became effective on 1 April 2019 and introduced the concept of material irregularity. This has had an impact in the environment in which AGSA audit and exercise oversight.
Mr van Vuuren stated that AGSA’s objective, when engaging with Portfolio Committees, is to empower them to exercise oversight, and this is done by sharing key information. The audit outcomes for 2018/19 are still in process.
AGSA has a constitutional mandate and, as the supreme audit institution of South Africa, exists to strengthen the country’s democracy by enabling oversight, accountability and governance in the public sector through auditing, thereby building public confidence. AGSA provides assurance that the Annual Financial Statements (AFS) are free from material misstatements, reports on the usefulness and reliability of the information in the Annual Performance Report (APR), reports on material non-compliance with relevant key legislation and identifies key internal control deficiencies that should be addressed.
The Audit Process
On risk assessment, auditors agree on the terms of agreement to ensure a clear understanding of responsibilities of the parties, objectives of the audit and access to information and the reports to be provided. Thereafter, auditors plan the audit and perform risk assessment procedures to determine the number and type of procedures to perform. Procedures are performed to obtain evidence that the financial statements and annual performance report do not contain material misstatements and that key legislation has been complied with. Finally, auditors prepare management and audit reports. The audit report is published in the auditee’s annual report, it informs those responsible for oversight, the public and others of material misstatements in the financial statements, material findings on the usefulness and reliability of the performance report, material non-compliance with key legislation in specific focus areas, and deficiencies in internal control identified during the audit.
AGSA shares insights on the root causes of audit outcomes and recommendations on corrective actions needed for improvement and sustainable outcomes through briefings to the parliamentary committees.
AGSA expresses five audit opinions:
- A clean audit is when the financial statements are free of material misstatements and there are no material findings on reporting on performance objectives or non-compliance with legislation.
- A financially unqualified opinion with findings means the financial statements are free of material misstatements, but material findings have been raised on either the reporting on predetermined objectives or non-compliance with legislation, or both these aspects.
- A financially qualified opinion with findings is when the financial statements contain material misstatements of specific amounts and disclosures, or there is insufficient evidence for AGSA to conclude that it is not materially misstated. The auditee will also have material findings on predetermined objectives or non-compliance with legislation, or both these aspects.
- An adverse audit opinion is when the AFS contain so many material misstatements that AGSA disagrees with almost all the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements.
- A disclaimed audit opinion means the auditee provided AGSA with insufficient evidence for most of the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. AGSA is therefore unable to conclude or express an opinion on the financial statements.
Audit outcome trends
Root causes of continued poor outcomes:
- blatant disregard for controls, compliance with legislation and AGSA recommendations
- continued capacity gap in administration
- vacancies and instability slow down systematic and disciplined improvements
- unethical behaviour in the administration and/or by political leaders
- leadership inaction/inconsistent action to address persistent transgressions which creates a culture of “no consequences”
Social Development portfolio audit outcomes
Mr Faizel Jogee, Senior Manager, AGSA, said that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA) had unqualified audit opinion on financial statements from 2014/15 and 2015/16, but the situation worsened thereafter. In 2017/18 none of the three entities (DSD, NDA and SASSA) received a clean audit opinion and SASSA regressed from unqualified to qualified audit opinion.
DSD received an unqualified opinion with findings on compliance with legislation. Non-compliance was reported in procurement and contract management processes that did not adhere to local content and production, especially with advertising and purchasing not sourced from local suppliers. This resulted in non-compliance with the Supply Chain Management (SCM) legislation. The root cause was that management did not review and monitor compliance with applicable legislation, especially on local content, to ensure that the requirements from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) were met. Further, there was no head of SCM to ensure legislation changes are being updated in SCM policies.
SASSA received a qualified audit opinion for material misstatements on the completeness and accuracy of the irregular expenditure. Compliance with laws and regulations was not monitored, resulting in non-compliance with procurement and irregular expenditure was not prevented. Irregular expenditure must be investigated to determine if somebody is guilty. If somebody is found guilty, a recovery process is initiated; if nobody is found guilty, a process of condonation is initiated. In terms of the legislation, there are appropriate authorities that condone, in many instances this is the National Treasury. There was a lot of irregular expenditure that was not condone by the appropriate authority, and instances where the person who approved the irregular expenditure also approved the condonation. Reported achievements on performance information were not found to be reliable. The root causes are non-compliance with implemented controls within supply chain management by the SCM staff due to lack of training and instability in key positions.
NDA received an unqualified opinion with findings on compliance with legislation and performance information. Non-compliance was reported for procurement and contract management processes not adhered to. Disciplinary steps were not taken, procedures for effective performance monitoring were not established, material adjustments were made after submission to avoid a qualified opinion and effective steps to prevent irregular expenditure were not taken. Reported achievements on performance information were found not to be reliable. The root causes include slow response by senior management in addressing audit recommendations; lack of consequence management; lack of appropriate systems to compile reliable performance information; inadequate review and monitoring of compliance with legislation.
Key recommendations for DSD, SASSA and NDA:
- management should prepare an action plan to address audit recommendations and the implementation of this plan should be timeously and properly monitored;
- investigations into transgressions against legislation should be conducted and steps taken against transgressors within specific timelines;
- vacancies in critical positions should be filled.
Public Audit Act amendments – the key expansion of AGSA mandate
Mr Lourens van Vuuren noted the key changes introduced by the amendments.
- refer material irregularities to relevant public bodies for further investigation
- taking binding action for failure to implement AGSA recommendations for material irregularities
- issue a certificate of debt for failure to implement remedial action if financial loss was involved
The definition of 'material irregularity' is any non-compliance with, or contravention of, legislation, fraud, theft or breach of fiduciary duty identified during an audit performance that resulted in, or is likely to result in, a material financial loss, misuse or loss of a material public resource or substantial harm to a public sector institution or the general public
The presentation addressed examples of material irregularities, material irregularity versus irregular expenditure, legal obligations of an accounting officer to address irregularities and implementation of the AGSA expanded mandate. The expanded mandate commenced on 1 April 2019. The implementation of the amendments would follow a phasing-in approach to allow for:
- Responsibly align the organisational resources with the demand placed on AGSA
- Develop understanding of the required additional resources to implement the powers
- Reassess audit methodology and the audit process to accommodate the additional work
- Develop requisite content and capacitate the audit teams via extensive training
- Develop tools and system to facilitate remedial action and referral processes
- Build adequate support capacity
- Ensure AGSA is able to fund the additional effort
- Develop an adequate materiality threshold to ensure value for audit fees
- Enhance the relevant internal processes to ensure adequate accountability reporting
- Ensure AGSA external partners are adequately prepared
- Establish relationships with the identified public bodies that will investigate AGSA referrals
- Create required level of awareness of the Act and regulations in the external environment
- Extensive engagement with stakeholders such as accounting officers and authorities, executive authorities and audit committees, media, professional bodies, civil society, audit firms.
Role of Executive Authority
- Insist on credible and frequent reporting on state of financial and performance management
- Use reports to monitor, direct and support accountability
- Set the tone for accountability and consequence management by investigating allegations of financial misconduct and irregularities by accounting officers and authorities
- Share any knowledge on possible material irregularities
- Monitor the implementation of the recommendations on material irregularities
- Support referral and remedial processes, including recovery of debt, if required.
Role of oversight structures:
- Use information in the audit report on material irregularities for accountability and oversight purposes, insisting on timeous implementation of recommendations
- Use reports tabled on progress with material irregularities to oversee and influence progress made by public bodies with investigations and executive authorities (for recovery of debt).
The Chairperson expressed his concern with politicians running away from being responsible for corruption if the rules articulated in the presentation are not implemented.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked for more clarity on the yellow and purple colours in the graph on slide 18. She asked if the acting Supply Chain Management person assumes responsibility for compliance mentioned in the presentation. She asked if there is anyone in a closer position to expect accountability from officials and departments such as NDA and SASSA, in case no one is found guilty. She asked about the broadness of the definition of material irregularity. Can the definition not be made more specific to address this problem?
Ms B Masango (DA) asked if the Social Development entities are going to go forward to address the audit action plan or are they going to continue going backwards, especially DSD for 2018/19; as the Amendment Act was only brought into operation in April 2019.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) said that the presentation was very depressing with regards to the kinds of irregularities faced in the country. She suggested that information on the history of irregular expenditure in DSD should be provided to give more clarity on where the department stands within the big picture. She asked for contact details of the presenters so that questions can be asked at a later stage. She asked what the implications are for the accounting officers who receive a certificate of debt. Legally, what would force them to do what is required? She is afraid there are no implications at all. She asked for a case study of what happened to the accounting officer after a certificate of debt is issued. Is AGSA allowed to initiate a criminal case against accounting officers, senior managers and others who are slow to respond? Do you have any legal right to take these people to court? She asked if there is an independent board to which accounting officers respond to and, if so, what the requirements are.
The Chairperson pointed that there is probably no such case study as the Act was only implemented in April. He suggested the situation calls for an independent professional board.
Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) asked what is done about those whose reports are unreliable, as far as the law is concerned. She asked what the law says about individual failure to implement disciplinary steps more than once. Is it possible for an individual to keep on doing things wrong and still remain in that position?
The Chairperson highlighted the goodness of the legislation when in the hands of an honest politician.
Mr van Vuuren replied that the recommendations given during AGSA normal audit processes are not legally binding. It is only when a material irregularity is identified and recommendations are made to the accounting officer to act, that those recommendations become important. If they are not implemented then it becomes remedial action.
Mr van Vuuren replied that the definition of material irregularity in the legislation is not going to change. For initial implementation, only the first part of the definition is being considered by AGSA, not the full definition. It is narrowed down to specific non-compliance that result in financial loss.
Mr van Vuuren replied that it is not AGSA’s responsibility to recover any losses, it is the Executive Authority’s responsibility using the normal legislation in South Africa.
Mr van Vuuren replied that it is not AGSA’s responsibility to report to SAPS. AGSA can only refer matters.
Mr van Vuuren replied that, if disciplinary action is not taken it is because consequence management is not taking place. That is when AGSA responsibility stops. Oversight parliamentary committees must then hold the entity accountable as to why the laws are not being executed.
Mr Jogee replied that the yellow means that DSD and NDA received an unqualified audit opinion on the financial statement which is satisfying, but there were findings due to non-compliance with legislation or performance information. The purple means SASSA received a qualified opinion, meaning AGSA was not satisfied with the financial statements, and there were findings on compliance with legislation or performance information.
Mr Jogee replied that responsibility falls within the Chief Financial Officer department so action should be taken within that department to ensure compliance with SCM legislation is taking place.
Mr Jogee replied that there is continual disregard for compliance and there is irregular expenditure, especially with NDA, that is not being investigated and nobody is being held responsible for those consequences, therefore making it unable to recover or write off the irregular expenditure. For SASSA, there are investigations but they are taking years to complete. Non-compliance continues to happen due to lack of action. There is a need to ensure the investigations occur and are finalised so those responsible for irregularities are held accountable.
Mr Jogee replied that AGSA will provide data and a full analysis of the Department's history of irregular expenditure, including the figures for 2018/19.
Mr Jogee replied that the NDA does have an external board as its accounting authority and it is appointed four years. As for SASSA, in terms of its legislation, the CEO is the accounting authority.
The Chairperson reinforced the importance of getting the updated statistics as soon as possible, especially on the irregular expenditure not yet dealt with.
The Committee agreed that they need a meeting with AGSA to discuss the irregular expenditure.
Department of Social Development response to High Level Panel Report
Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister of Social Development, provided an overview of what the brief was about. The Department will present to the Committee the areas of the High Level Panel Report that affect Social Development and how DSD will address those. Also, learning from the previous presentation by AGSA, the Department will highlight the most important areas to follow that process.
Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi, DSD DDG: Strategy & Organisational Transformation, noted that the Sixth Administration has to ensure that the recommendations of the High Level Panel (HLP) Report are implemented to accelerate fundamental change. She proceeded to identify the HLP findings and recommendations and reported on the Current status quo/interventions by Provinces; as well as DSD's Intermediate Actions and Long Term Plans. The findings and recommendations encompassed the following topics in the DSD programmes of Administration and Comprehensive Social Security: language, refugees and migrants, sexual offences data, access to child support grants by child-headed households, lapsing of foster care grants due to caseloads, definition of disability, means test, SASSA capacity and transparency challenges, collusion between commercial sector and administrators of grants; grants are not indexed against inflation. The meeting did not have sufficient time to address the recommendations on Welfare Services and Community Development:
On the Use of Official Languages Act finding, the HLP Report recommended that Parliament needs to ensure implementation of the Act such as departments setting up Language Units. While this exists for the national government, for provinces such as the Eastern Cape there is no dedicated Language Unit to ensure the use of official language, and this includes the provision of interpreting services in the department outreach programmes.
Intermediate actions include the implementation of the language policy by DSD, quarterly reports to the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) on the implementation of the Act and ensuring that DSD documents are translated and edited properly for easier access. Long term plans include the establishment of Language Units, and mainstream the use of languages in DSD frameworks and policies.
In the Northern Cape, there were no funds to establish Language Units and they were assisted mainly by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) for translation of documents. In the North West, the implementation of the Official Languages Act is not 100% but they ensure that when they have outreach programmes the documents are translated in the languages of the communities. The Western Cape has Communication Units with language practitioners and gets support from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) of the province.
On the findings about refugees and migrants, it is important that people and communities are trained to understand population policy, demography and planning. There is a short-term planning programme on Population Migration, Sustainable Development and Human Rights developed by the National Department which is being rolled out to the nine provinces. The Committee must understand the importance of monitoring the implementation of these policies by DSD as the custodian of population policies.
On the findings on sexual offences data, the recommendations are lack of publicly available, comprehensive, accurate data in both public and private sectors as a constraint to the evaluation of efficiency, equity and quality of the system. In the Eastern Cape, for example, the province collects data on victims of crime and violence who are referred to the department for psychological support.
Intermediate actions by DSD include engagement with different data producers, especially SAPS. Data collected on gender based violence should be disaggregated by age, gender, crime committed, race and geographical location. One of the objectives is to make reliable and up to date information on human and population development available. Long term plans include addressing research gaps and appropriate interventions; continuous technical support to stakeholders on population policy priorities, especially on data collection and dissemination.
Comprehensive Social Security
One of the HLP Report findings was that child-headed households (CHH) cannot access child support grants (CSG) for themselves. The Act should be amended to enable teen mothers and child-headed households to receive the CSG for themselves and the children in their care. They need to be above the age of 16 to access such grants. One of the amendments of the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, which was tabled in 2018, seeks to address this and allow child-head households to address this grant.
It was found that there is no provision for supervising adults to assist CHH to access the CSG. It was recommended that the Act should be amended to align it with the Children’s Act, allowing supervising adults supporting child-headed households to apply for the CSG on behalf of the children under their supervision. The definition of a caregiver is sufficiently broad to allow supervising adults to apply for the CSG on behalf of the children under their supervision. The conduct of supervisors is better regulated in the Children’s Act.
Another finding is that social workers cannot deal with foster care caseloads, hence court orders are lapsing. The HLP Report recommended that the Act should be amended to deal with the lapsing of foster care grants. All provinces have put strategies in place to manage the foster care backlog which include recruitment of social workers, implementing Letsema programmes, functional foster care forums, monitoring tools as guided and supported by the National Department. Mpumalanga has strengthened their engagement with the Department of Justice. The Children’s Amendment Bill has already been tabled in Parliament on 19 February 2019 to deal with this matter. DSD’s long term plans are to follow necessary legislative processes to amend the Act.
It was found that there is no definition of what constitutes a disability. It was recommended that the Act should be amended to include a widely accepted definition of disability. Currently, all provinces utilise definitions provided for by UN Convention as well as the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Mental Health Act.
Intermediate actions by DSD include conducting consultations internally and externally on the widely accepted definition of disability; conduct impact assessments and amend regulations to provide more clarity on qualifying criteria for disability grants. In the long-term, DSD will amend the Act.
The means test led to exclusion and is complex for the public to understand. It encourages the concealment of income which exacerbates corruption and fraud. Recommendations were either simplifying or eliminating the means test. Actions include developing policy on the universalisation of the Older Person’s Grant and Child Support grant and developing legislation to implement this.
Findings pointed to the capacity challenges at SASSA, which need to be resolved. As part of the preparations and readiness process for insourcing of the payment system, SASSA’s capacity model will be reviewed in 2019/20 paying special emphasis to the payment function. SASSA is planning to investigate 70% of reported fraud and corruption cases over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The Human Resources Plan and capacity model were reviewed and approved by the Acting CEO. A review aimed at determining the staffing capacity to address service delivery for biometrics and enrolments was completed in 2017/18. Long term plans include finalizing a reviewed and approved organizational structure with 95% of funded posts filled.
On the HLP Report finding on lack of transparency at SASSA, DSD is currently undertaking a review of SASSA Act with an aim to approve its governance, with the long-term plan of amending the SASSA Act.
The HLP Report recommended that collusion between the commercial sector and grant administrators should be reported to the Public Protector, Special Investigating Unit (SIU), Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) or National Credit Regulator (NCR) for investigation. SASSA has an in-house fraud hotline besides the DPSA hotline. The Department intends to set up an Inspectorate for Social Assistance to investigate such acts.
The HLP Report found that grants are not earmarked. Poor households and communities are most likely to find the conditions difficult to meet. Conditions are most probable to result in discrimination against those who are already disadvantaged in access to basic education and health care. DSD is looking at the feasibility of linking the CSG with other services to ensure all beneficiaries are able to access the basic services needed. DSD is focusing on developing a discussion paper on this in 2019/20. The paper will be consulted on with public representatives from various communities to critique and provide inputs to assist the proposals in a continued effort to ensure provision of social assistance to all poor and vulnerable citizens.
Another finding was that grants are not indexed against inflation. Grants are linked to long term inflation. The DSD base year was 2012/13 until 2017/18 with the introduction of an increase in VAT. These increases are however at the discretion of the Ministers of Finance and Social Development. Long-term plans include amending legislation to allow for indexation of grants.
The findings and recommendations on Welfare Services and Community Development were still to be presented, but due to time constraints, the Chairperson interjected and suggested that the Committee, who had received a copy of the presentation beforehand, use the remaining 20 minutes to ask their questions.
Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) proposed that the DSD team answer questions from the previous week's meeting on Foster Care.
A DSD official noted that the Committee had agreed to meet with the Department on 18 September, regarding those questions on Foster Care.
The Chairperson suggested that last week’s Foster Care questions are answered at a later stage and that only questions on this presentation are raised.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) asked what stakeholders DSD will be working with to address the sexual offences data and doing the research. She asked if DBE will be one of the stakeholders at the heart of this research so that the question of sexual offences in schools is addressed. Do we have a database of teachers who rape, molest or sexually abuse children? Teachers go from province to province because there is no data that is identifying them as molesters. She referred to the foster care grants as the Mpumalanga MEC had indicated last week that she is nowhere near ready to meet the targets by the court deadline. The Department said that Mpumalanga has strengthened its engagement with the Department of Justice. What does that mean?
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said the High Level Panel Report was great and she was inspired by the work that was put into it. She asked how DSD tracks and deals with the gaps identified by the High Level Panel Report. When identifying those gaps, is there a overall strategic plan for DSD to track where they are? She noted that, from an organizational perspective, the same things are done over and over again and the same questions are asked, but there is no high level view in terms of the whole organisation. Is there a tracking mechanism that actually deals with Social Development implementation of the High Level Panel Report? There are capacity problems that have been identified over and over and, in some way, there now needs to be a strategy – money, training of people, engagement, collaboration. What are those steps that DSD is doing? She asked how DSD programmes with municipalities spill out to communities in terms of human rights, for example. Are there think tanks happening to combat what communities are facing now?
Ms Masango suggested that DSD as the custodian of population policy should brief the Committee on it. If this report is saying that there is no reliable data, what would the briefing be about? Most of the intermediate responses are about policies that have already been developed. Is it possible to have a list of policies in response to the High Level Panel Report that have been developed and submitted to Cabinet or Parliament? What is the status of these policies that are being referred to here? She noted that the lack of communication from DSD, NDA and SASSA has been discussed before, and that communication strategies must be continually developed and worked on. Information is needed and people must be empowered by knowing what the Department is doing. This is especially important with the Children Amendment Bill, to ensure that there are resources and capacity to implement it. Lastly, what is the role of DSD when it comes to Early Childhood Development (ECD) and what is the role of the Department of Basic Education (DBE)?
Ms T Mpambo-Sibukhana (DA) asked what the time-frame is for SASSA’s plan to investigate 70% of reported fraud and corruption cases over the MTEF. She asked for the status of previous investigations and how many prosecutions it had executed. She asked what DSD has done, in collaboration with SAPS, on rape cases and sexual offences. When victims go to the police station to report they become the “laughing stock” at the station. The police are not capacitated and mentioned the challenge of language fluency in different provinces. She asked who is receiving SASSA grants.
Ms Abrahams asked if DSD can make a commitment on when the outstanding Free State substance abuse treatment centre will be completed. The Annual Report states that DSD is requesting just over R14 million from the conditional grant funds to be used for that Free State treatment centre. Has that R14 million been approved by the National Treasury yet for the completion of that treatment centre? She pointed out that DSD’s intermediate actions say that it will operationalise public substance abuse treatment centres in North West and Free State, however there is still this one which still has not been completed. How do we operationalise it? She asked what the Department means by "long-term" plan. She asked if there is communication between DSD and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) about DSD plan to build a treatment centre and a halfway house in each province. She understands that DSD operationalises the treatment centres but not the actual physical buildings, which fall within the mandate of DPWI.
Ms A Motaung (ANC) asked for a list of corruption and fraud cases that SASSA has solved. She asked for a time-frame for DSD establishing the Inspectorate for Social Assistance. She asked DSD to brief the Committee on the 10-year period discussed the previous week.
The Chairperson proposed that the High Level Panel recommendations be integrated as an element of the DSD quarterly progress reports so the Committee is able to critique everything, including the High Level Panel recommendations.
Ms Vilakazi replied that DSD has tried to institutionalise the findings of the High Level Panel and come up with the improvement plan so that we are able to monitor the problems according to the recommendations.
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, DSD Chief Director: Monitoring and Evaluation, replied that "intermediate" action means what will be done annually and "long term" action refers to five-year plans.
Ms Conny Nxumalo, DSD DDG: Welfare Services, replied that Social Development is part of the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP), partnering with the Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster.
On the sexual offences database, Ms Nxumalo replied that the Child Protection Register has a Part A and Part B. Part A keeps records of children who have been violated or abused while Part B records those who have been found unsuitable to work with children. The challenge is that employers are not submitting for screening their candidate employees who will work with children, and these candidates end up being employed within some of these departments, schools and other places with children as security and personnel. There is also the Sexual Offences Register, which is located within Department of Justice and it keeps data of all those convicted of sexual offences so it is possible to identify those unsuitable to work with people with disabilities and with children. DSD is trying to integrate these registers.
Ms Nxumalo noted that it was Free State, not Mpumalanga, that said they will not be able to address the foster care deadline. Mpumalanga will definitely meet its target.
Ms Nxumalo replied that DSD will send details to the Committee on the Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) determination and how it is structured.
Ms Nxumalo replied that the timeframe set for Free State to complete the substance abuse treatment centre after receiving DSD support was February 2020, but there is no certainty on whether this deadline will be met. DSD has had to continually support them as they have been repeatedly disappointed by Public Works and its contractors. Free State has already appointed several contractors to take over and build.
DSD is planning to approach the construction of one treatment centre and one halfway house in each province in the long-term through the Substance Abuse Treatment Conditional Grant. It works better than the normal building through the Department of Public Works, which takes five or ten years. Within the past four years, DSD has managed to build four treatment centres in different provinces using the same approach.
A DSD official replied that the Department does promote migrant integration. After the first xenophobic attacks in Durban and in Gauteng, DSD and international organisations specialising in migration began to collaborate on the integration of migrants in South Africa through community mobilisation and training. Schools and youth from the communities are engaged on these matters, which bring good results in integration.
A SASSA official suggested that a comprehensive written report is sent to the Committee on the fraud investigations and numbers prosecuted, as well as the other questions related to SASSA.
The Committee agreed that the SASSA written report be sent by Monday 16 September to the Committee.
A Department official replied that it currently has a few officials operating as the Inspectorate on Social Assistance. The Social Assistance Amendment Bill will be coming to Parliament quite soon. The number of non-citizens accessing the SASSA grants is going to be unpacked.
A DSD official replied that the Department is developing an action plan to address the High Level Panel recommendations so that DSD can accelerate fundamental change.
Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu said that the Department would ensure that by 16 September the Committee would received the written reports.
The Deputy Minister replied that the Minister and the Minister of Basic Education are engaging on Early Childhood Development (ECD).
The Deputy Minister replied that the foreigners that are accessing grants are those that have refugee status and are constitutionally entitled to social security in South Africa. Anybody else, outside of that, accessing grants constitutes fraud.
The Chairperson reiterated the importance of institutionalising the High Level Panel Report.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) said that the Committee did not do justice to High Level Panel Report in this meeting at all. She requested that Members have the entire 600-page High Level Panel Report printed so that they are able to ask questions and raise concerns.
The Chairperson thanked everyone and adjourned the meeting.