The Minister, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, committed to direct accountability for the improvement of the Department and its entities. She said the Department had a culture of bosses and not leadership and this culture would need to change. The Department had fewer targets in the 2018/19 reporting period yet its performance was poorer. A culture had developed over the years where the entities were a free-for-all and were conducive to fraud, leading the Department to focus on consequence management.
The Auditor-General had found issues due to a lack of personnel in key positions, and internal controls. and it was essential that the DSD and it's entities had the necessary skills to do its work. Members said that it was fundamental for positions to be filled despite fiscal constraints.
Gender-Based Violence was a recurring theme throughout the meeting with both the Committee, the Department and it’s entities condemning the increase in the prevalence of GBV. The Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) was making strides with technology which traced the location of callers reporting incidents of GBV. The Minister agreed with the Committee that GBV programs needed to target all victims and not only economically oppressed victims. The Minister said that GBV required a program that was for 365 days not just the 16 days of activism.
R1.8b of irregular expenditure was reported across the DSD, NDA and SASSA. R78m of this amount was attributed to irregular expenditure within SASSA. At the request of the Chairperson, SASSA committed to tabling a report containing a detailed action plan on all the issues raised by the Auditor-General and which would include the investigation of irregular expenditure. A letter of demand was issued for R316m from Cash Payment Services (CPS) for which SASSA is awaiting a response and a further amount of R74m paid to CPS in 2017/18 for work performed where there was no contractual agreement was being engaged in court.
A request was submitted to Treasury for the return of a surplus generated through savings of R1b accruing from the move of SASSA from CPS to SAPO. A preliminary amount of R640m had been approved to be returned but the matter was not yet concluded. Members raised issues regarding grant payments that were not received by beneficiaries in September.
Minister’s Opening Remarks
Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, said that she took responsibility for the work that needed to be done within the DSD. She urged the Committee to raise issues, despite it being a new administration, as government responsibility passed on from one administration to the next.
She asked the Committee to recall the outcomes of a workshop which the Department, entities and Committee attended on 19 July 2019. The approaches determined in the workshop remained relevant. It needed to be understood that the Annual Reports being presented were based on past activities.
She said the adoption of the Portfolio Approach, inclusive of provinces, was indispensable to the Social Development mandate. It meaningfully neutralised the multiple accountability challenges which the Department and entities had encountered over the years. The Budget Review & Recommendations Reports (BRRR), Legacy Reports and the Auditor-General’s Reports had highlighted the weaknesses and challenges of the Department and the Department would focus on immediate action towards solving these issues.
She said the National and Provincial government’s role had been explicit in most discussions. The Department agreed that it needed to draw attention to local spheres of government. President Cyril Ramaphosa had launched the District Model and the first experience gained from this model, in Lusikisiki, had shown how government was supposed to change the manner in which it worked. The Committee went to Lusikisiki and were preparing for eThekwini where they would apply lessons learnt from Lusikisiki. The District Co-ordination Models would serve as the institutional mechanisms through which agreements of the earlier workshop would be realised and therefore the outcomes based management of the Social Development mandate. The Portfolio Approach between the Department, entities, provinces and the institutionalisation of the district level of co-ordination model of delivering Social Development services should collectively eradicate the conditions that give rise to poverty.
Over the past few weeks, the Department and it’s entities conducted their strategy sessions for the 2019-2024 Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). The strategy sessions included the agencies. The biggest challenge of the Department was implementation and getting everyone to understand what the Department was trying to establish.
The Department had fewer targets (53) in the 2018/19 reporting period compared to the 2017/18 reporting period when it had 92, yet its performance, at 73%, was poorer than the previous year’s 78% score. Efficient target setting did not mean delivery and transformation of people’s lives and the workshop agreed that targets that were not met should not be the focus, rather the impact of targets not being met should be the focus.
The Minister then quoted a driver for the Department who said that the Department did not have leadership, it had bosses, based on his observations of how people in the Department related to him and to each other. She said this said a lot about the institution and this mentality and attitude needed to change. What was needed was leaders with passion for the people they served. She herself had seen it and felt it. It needed to change and that could only happen collectively. As much as it was the responsibility of the Director-General and Minister to rectify issues, it was also up to employees of the Department to find solutions.
She said concerns about the Department and its entities were valid, as attested by SASSA’s recent history in the courts. Most concerning, SASSA had a free-for-all, fraud-conducive culture that had developed at all levels of the entity over the years. This challenged the Department to uncompromisingly deliver on the social grant system and the focus was on implementing the recommendations of reports such as the Auditor-General’s (AG) report and strengthening the monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Some of the M&E would be dealt with within the office of the Minister so as to connect provincial and national M&E.
The National Development Agency (NDA) was the least visible and recognisable of the entities. The Minister said this was a challenge, as people needed to know about programs that uplifted people. The NDA was beset with serious governance, leadership, systems and compliance challenges. There were suggestions that institutional mechanisms were intentionally disregarded, if not weakened. A meeting regarding this has been conducted with the board and was being highlighted. Issues over the role of the board had emerged however, but this would be resolved as the direction and responsibilities of the board were not new and the King IV and other sets of guidelines had been developed over the past 25 years so there could be no contestations on the role of the board.
Both the Department and entities needed to develop a new culture towards having public servants within institutions who continued to invest themselves in growing South Africa. The Department needed to re- frame social development so that public, private and civic donor community efforts were directed and the development of the economy and its people became a big concern with the people at its center. The new culture must include a realisation of the South Africa that was wanted. The Department was currently considering all the issues that arose from her consultations with staff members of the Department and entities. The branch level consultative processes were nearing completion, with about two branches left to consult.
She said she was packaging the issues and recommendations of the Committee’s report and it’s activities undertaken during the fifth administration, the BRRR, the Auditor-Generals Report, the Cabinet Lekgotla Outcome and the handover report of Minister Susan Shabangu, among others, for action. This would ensure that they transcend the challenges faced by the Department and its entities and it would make the outcomes of the workshop, mentioned previously, on result based program planning, implementation and reporting, more practical. She would oversee the appointment of a permanent Director-General (DG); strengthen the oversight of entities through targeted M&E and adherence to corporate governments principles. The performance agreement of the DG, DDG and Chief-Directors would be directly linked to the results based strategic plans and annual performance plans, as well as institutionalising consequence management which has been one of the biggest challenges for the Department and its entities. She said the Department would work towards the priorities of the 2020-2015 medium-term strategic framework while delivering against the National Development Plan and framing the development reality for South Africa for the next 25 years.
Informed by this, the Social Development mandate would embody outcomes that ensured each South African was South Africa’s most valuable asset.
The Chairperson said that GBV was the immediate enemy of the country and emphasis and thought must be placed on this matter.
DSD: Annual Report
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Chief-Director of the DSD, presented the Annual Report 2018/19. For the seventh consecutive financial year the Department retained its clean audit on performance information. Another notable achievement was the production of a report on sharing social protection administrative data across government departments. This report reflected the academic performance of the 2018 Grade 12 Social Grant beneficiaries and highlighted the positive educational outcome in addressing inter-generational poverty and inequality.
A notable achievement was the consensus reached with social partners at NEDLAC on key reform recommendations which included, among others, the establishment of a single National Social Security Fund, institutional arrangements, governance and regulatory frameworks, and improved social assistance provisions.
The Department implemented the Active Ageing Program and hosted a National Older Persons Parliament in Free State in October 2018. The program included a Capacity Building Program, the South African Older Persons Forum (SAOPF) annual general meeting, a Choir Festival and the Golden Games. The Department finalised the implementation evaluation of the Older Persons Act, 2006 (Act No. 13 of 2006) and the report was completed. Subsequently, the Older Persons Amendment Bill was costed and the costing report was approved by the Welfare Services Forum.
The Department embarked on a process of reviewing the Plan of Action (POA) on Violence against Women and Children. The review consultations resulted in the development of a draft framework for the reviewed POA, with key interventions, theory of change and indicators to ensure effective reporting on the implementation of the POA. The GBV Command Centre continued to provide comprehensive, integrated services to victims of gender-based violence. The number of victims contacting the GBVCC increased considerably. The centre received and responded to a total of 120 707 calls, 19 005 “Please Call Me” messages and 582 SMSs.
The National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) was developed in consultation with the Justice Crime Prevention & Security (JCPS) Cluster, Social Protection, Community and Human Development (SPCHD) Cluster; and Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development (ESEID) Clusters. Further consultations were held with the Free State and North West Provincial Substance Abuse Forums, with the aim of assisting them to develop their plans for 2019/20. The Draft NDMP was also presented to MINMEC to solicit inputs. The Plan would be submitted to Cabinet in 2019/20.
The Department continued to implement social behaviour change programs which were aimed at reducing risky sexual behaviour among the youth. In partnership with SANAC, 15 National NPOs were appointed to implement social behaviour change programs such as YOLO, the Families Matter Program, Men Championing Change, Ke Moja, as well as Community Capacity Enhancement.
The Department continued its efforts of developing and facilitating the implementation of youth development and empowerment programs. A total of nine provincial youth leadership camps were hosted in each province. The camps culminated in the seventh national youth camp attended by 2 638 young people. The camps served as a platform for the Department and its social partners to empower young people on youth development issues such as inculcating positive values, exposing youth to preventative programs against social ills, and exposing them to opportunities for growth and development. These included their skills development, employability and enhancement of their livelihoods. All these efforts were part of the implementation of the Social Development Youth Strategy as well as Youth Policy.
Mr Clifford Appel, Chief Financial Officer for the DSD, presented the Annual Financial Statements. Savings were realised due to less participants being invited to annual outreach programs such as Active Ageing Program, Annual Youth Camps, Children’s Parliament, Human Trafficking, Candle- light day and World Aids day. The under-spending mainly related to delays in the payment to various national bodies as a result of the reclassification of expenditure in line with Circular 21.
NDA Annual Report
Ms Thamo Mzobe, Chief Executive Officer of the NDA, presented the Annual Report 2018/19. The NDA Board consisted of 10 members and was appointed for a period of three years commencing 4 January 2016 to 3 January 2019. During the fourth quarter of the reporting period there was a vacancy in relation to governance because the process of appointing the new Board took longer than expected.
The NDA reported an accounting deficit of R5.1m compared to a restated deficit of R4,1m in 2017/2018. The accounting deficit was due to timing differences between the receipt of allocation and actual expenditure. Some expenses incurred in 2018/19 were committed and funded from revenue recognised and received in the previous financial year. R229m or 93% of the available budget of R247m was spent.
SASSA Annual Report
Ms Raphaahle Ramokgopa, Executive Manager: Strategy and Business Development for SASSA, presented the 2018/19 Annual Report. SASSA’s performance improved from 64% in 2017/18 to 74% in 2018/19 with 29 of the 39 planned targets fully achieved. AGSA had raised no material findings on the usefulness and reliability of the reported performance information and the Agency’s financial statements.
92% (8 136 of 8 890) of funded posts were filled. This target was affected by the moratorium on the filling of posts within the Agency. The aim of the moratorium was to improve efficient utilisation of existing staff. The moratorium was partially lifted in February 2019 to appoint selected categories of staff at service delivery offices hence the major area of non-achievement was at head office.
SASSA had received a qualified audit outcome for the 2017/18 financial year and SASSA management developed and implemented an Audit Action Plan to respond to the 2017/18 audit factual findings. The actions taken resulted in improved audit findings for 2018/19.
In order to reduce inclusion errors and reduce social grant fraud, SASSA took a decision to biometrically enroll and verify all beneficiaries. For the period between 2014 and 2018, a payment contract with CPS was in place. All new beneficiaries and dependents were biometrically enrolled. Biometric data was migrated from CPS to SASSA. There was a bulk upload of all biometric data received from CPS into the Biometric verification engine (Biometric Identity and Access Management System). In June 2018, SASSA rolled out the implementation of its own in- house biometric enrolment system. The implementation was temporarily suspended due to a labour dispute between SASSA and the labour unions.
The turnaround time for processing social grant applications was reduced from 21 working days in 2014/15 to 10 working days in 2017/18. 98,88% (1 618 503 of 1 636 755) new grant applications were processed within ten days. More than 80% of the applications were processed within one working day.
SASSA entered into a collaborative agreement with SAPO to distribute grants. The agreement entailed SAPO providing social grants beneficiaries with Special Disbursements Accounts (a range of free services using the new SASSA/SAPO card). Services were phased in fully by 30 September 2018. This was achieved through a card swap project, which saw more than 7m SASSA/SAPO cards distributed to existing beneficiaries over the course of 9 months. Distribution by SAPO includes the National Payment System (NPS), Over the Counter and Cash Pay-points. By December 2018, social grants were no longer deposited through the old white SASSA card.
Mr Tsakeriwa Chauke, Chief Financial Officer for SASSA, presented the 2018/19 Annual Expenditure Report. Overall expenditure reached 83% resulting in a 17% under spending. Cash handling fees were reduced because of the termination of the contract with CPS, saving SASSA approximately R1b. The Annual Financial Statements received an unqualified audit opinion for the year ended 31 March 2019. The declared surplus for the financial year amounted to R1,2b. SASSA also received an unqualified audit opinion on performance information.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said that the DSD Annual Report presented at a previous workshop painted a different picture than the current presentation. The positive outcomes were presented but the negative impressions were not presented in terms of audits other than what the Minister mentioned in her opening remarks.
She said she had been at a meeting with Basic Education where issues with the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative (ASIDI) were expressed. The issues were mostly in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. What were the possibilities of addressing the problem through the NDA because these communities did not want the Department to proceed with the building of schools as the communities did not own the projects. The NDA was able to remedy this if they intervened and facilitated capacity programs within those areas.
She said the President had made a commitment to gender-based violence (GBV) efforts in the special sitting of Parliament. One of the key issues was that vulnerable women in communities did not have safe houses to escape to. Where there were safe houses, it was known to the community and thus no safety was provided. This was a critical matter. The President had mentioned intervention programs, but these had not come through. The DSD played a large role in dealing with GBV and she asked that the Minister comment on this matter.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) said the Minister’s comment about “having leaders and not having bosses” was profound. It highlighted the need for introspection to ensure that people could be passionate and not have an obsession with power and authority.
She concurred with Ms Suckers’ comment that the previous workshop and what was presented in the meeting were vastly different. She said that when the Minister visited Lusikisiki for the district model, there was a lady from the community that was assaulted by her husband. He stabbed her seven times and it was not his first attack against her, yet he was given bail of R1 000. She asked the Minister look into this matter.
On grade 12 learners that were beneficiaries of the social grant, she asked whether the data could be broken down into gender categories and over a five year period. She asked which other departments apart from Basic Education would be included in this sharing of information program.
She said the program for the elderly was found in Soweto and other townships in Polokwane but not in semi-rural areas such as Bekkersdal and Westonaria. The grannies in these communities needed this program because they were very impoverished and lived with orphans, so a focus was needed on lesser known townships.
The annual financial statements showed that two percent was saved on spending by inviting less participants to programs. Although two percent was small, it was concerning as there should not be under-spending in programs such those on human-trafficking. Instead the DSD should overspend on such necessary programs. She asked for an explanation on the under-spending.
She said the Department mentioned that the GBVCC had a hot-line. What was the hot-line number? Was it connected to the Thuthuzela Care Centres? Also, was there any feedback on the Thuthuzela Care Centres? She said she had visited a care centre in Khayelitsha where she found that safety was not guaranteed as victims flee to these centres in the midst of an attack and there were no security personnel to assist social workers at the centre in these instances. Also drug and prostitution related cases were presented at these centres and social workers were not equipped to deal with these issues.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) said there were draft bills and policies that were supposed to be submitted to Cabinet for approval. What were the deadlines given by Cabinet because there had been a delay in submissions?
Was there a launch date for the Single Social Security Fund and how did it differ from what the Department currently had?
On the sexual behaviour program which looked at youth engaging in sexual activity and contracting HIV/AIDS, she said the use of unsterilised needles as well as sex work, seemed to be neglected. How was the program’s impact being measured? Were the youths being tracked over a period of time? How was the impact of the once off workshops such as YOLO being measured? R500 000 was spent on youth camps with the intention of ensuring that youth become employable. How many of these youths were employed? How many were seeking employment?
The Social Work graduates program was intended to reduce the backlog of unemployed Social Work graduates through their appointment by provincial departments of Social Development. Eight of the provinces used this grant to maintain existing social workers and did not appoint new social workers. How did this program contribute to the reduction of social work graduates? The only province to employ graduates on a permanent basis was the Western Cape, which only employed 13 social workers. The grant seemed to be misused by many of the provinces.
The Annual Report did not make reference to the referral pathways that the GBVCC makes. It also did not mention additional support to expand and capacitate NGOs working in the GBV sector since the commencement of the referral pathways and the increase of GBV victims. Furthermore, 120 707 calls were received. How many of those clients were actually referred to NGOs and how many were taking up support?
Could the DSD commit to a date to submit the African Integrated Program of Action to Cabinet? There was a reported R100m savings on the child support grant budget. Savings in this regard was taking food out of children’s mouths. If the savings continued, was it not an indication that the DSD was failing to get the grant to the child? Could the DSD consider registering pregnant women who were in need of a child support grant within the child’s first thousand days, so they could have immediate access to nappies, formula and perhaps even food for the pregnant mother?
The community care centres were funded by a German Bank. These centres were only in three provinces. What was the reason for that? Was this criteria set by the funder? The functions of the rights of persons with disabilities might be moved from the DSD to the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons living with disabilities. Was this finalised?
On the moratorium of filling posts, she asked why the post of DG was not filled yet? The presentation contained statements that conflicted with the Annual Report, stating that the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) was presented to Cabinet but the Annual report said that the NDMP was not presented to Cabinet. If it was not presented, why was this so and when would it be presented?
Did ABBA Specialist Adoption and Social Services operate across SA? Have they trained social workers in adoption services and if so, how many?
Ms B Masango (DA) said the Annual Report spoke of the social relief of distress regime as being fragmented, the legislative framework being outdated and the institutional arrangements as being de-funded This was reiterated in the SASSA presentation and she wanted clarification on what the DSD planned to do to administer it in such a way that it would allow the Committee to provide oversight and get rid of the challenges it faced currently.
GBV was a huge issue mentioned by the Minister. The country associated GBV with high level of unemployment that caused stressors. Would it go beyond this and look at GBV that occurred outside of economically oppressed people? The GBVCC responded to 120 707 calls. Was this a good sign of people having access to the centre or was it a sign of the increase in GBV?
What was the status of the Bosasa Youth Centres throughout the country? The National Social Security Fund was one of the targets that were met. She wanted further clarity on this and on the NEDLAC consensus?
Ms N Mvana (ANC) commended the DSD, as the homeless people around the Minister’s gate were no longer there. She further commended the DSD for clean audits for seven consecutive years, despite having a qualified audit this year, she encouraged them to strive for clean audits once more. She expressed her disappointment at the drop in performance.
Mr D Stock (ANC) wanted further clarity on the irregular expenditure of SASSA as it was reported that about R2b of irregular expenditure was found across the DSD and it’s entities. What amount of the R2b related to SASSA irregular expenditure? Why was some of the expenditure not condoned or classified as fraudulent activities? He sought clarity on the accountability measures and actions that needed to be taken by the Department. He said the DSD should take the Committee on board regarding recommendations or activity plans on what steps would be taken to address the recommendations of the AG.
If the biometric system was being suspended due to labour disputes, how would the irregularities and fraudulent activities in the system be managed and what was the interest of the union? Did it want to stop a system that benefited the country? When SASSA moved from the CPS system to the South African Post Office Services (SAPO), there was a fiscus saving of about R1b. Would this saving be used by SASSA or reallocated to other departments?
Ms J Manganye (ANC) said she hoped the Committee would see the fruits of the promises made by the DSD and it’s entities in the next few months. The Minister’s opening remarks touched the Committee as she had stated the challenges upfront and honestly.
Ms A Motaung (ANC) asked how the Department ensured that SASSA complied with the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with SAPO because the situation in townships was bad despite the plan looking good on paper.
Ms Mvana asked if there was a monitoring framework for compliance with the SLA between SAPO and SASSA to show that SAPO was rendering its service as residents of a certain area were unable to receive their grants. SASSA’s report was commendable, the details of the final figures gave a great picture of what was happening.
Ms Masango highlighted that some challenges were as a result of people in key positions being in acting positions for long periods of time. This meant there was a lack of urgency in responding to the Auditor-General’s requests and affected SASSA’s performance in audits.
What were the measures being taken for areas where there were no SAPO branches, no ATMs and required traveling long distances to go to pay points such as the case of Zonkizizwe?
Ms Abrahams asked if SASSA would be purchasing its own building. Was there a credible backup system now that SASSA was going digital? According to the Annual Report, 80% of grant applications were processed in one day. Did this mean that applicants applied and the next day they were on the system? Since the change over in systems, was there any illegal airtime and data deductions that have come up and how was it being dealt with?
The term of the NDA board ended this year. Would there be advertising for a new board or would the current board’s term be extended? When would the new board come into effect?
Ms Suckers asked if SASSA knew the reasons for the union holding out in the labour dispute. The labour dispute should be considered as a high priority. Was the dispute a sabotage to cover up labour issues related to criminality?
One of the weaknesses that the AG had identified was executive management for both SASSA and the NDA and the AG had said that the executive management was responsible for the losses which they were incurring. What would be done differently by management?
Was the Department attending to the issues of rural areas being the most affected by the lack of service centres? In the previous week, there was a case where people staying on the outskirts of the Free State traveled to Bloemfontein to access pay points only to find out that they were unable to access their grants until three days later. What were the measures taken to deal with audit regressions in the DSD?
Ms Ngwenya said the majority of fruitless and wasteful expenditure was on contractor invoices paid by SASSA for services that were not rendered in the amount of R78m. She wanted a breakdown of this. There has been a delay by SASSA in delivering proper consequence management. There were a number of unfilled positions within SASSA, other than the position of COO, which was recently filled. She wanted a breakdown of which other positions were filled and which were vacant? This would partially answer the question on an issue in the Auditor-General reports, because if there was no COO, it would explain why money was spent on services that were never rendered. There were six regions that did not have executive managers. How would this be remedied?
The Western Cape NDA offices were not effective. People were promised training that would commence in September. It was now October and no training has happened. Ms Ngwenya stated that she called to follow-up on this but received no assistance.
Response from DSD, NDA & SASSA
Mr Buthelezi said that about 59% of the grade 12’s that sat for the 2018 matric exams received children’s grants. Out of those, about 78% passed, with 36% obtaining a bachelors pass and 34% obtaining diplomas. The DSD was trying to demonstrate the outcomes of social protection interventions and that government’s efforts to improve the lives of poor children were working.
The Minister said that tracking the progress of beneficiaries of the children’s grant enabled the assessment of the value chain of support given through the DSD. The beneficiaries would not be required to do a means test as the tracking would also be linked to NSFAS. It would also help other relevant departments support the beneficiaries later on to ensure they continued to be empowered. It was a small sample, but a sample that could help towards the future.
Ms Connie Nxumalo, Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, DSD, said that the Active Ageing program was not based on more affluent townships but was ward based. She acknowledged that there were no service centres in some areas. This was problematic as the Active Ageing program was lead from these centres. The province needed to ensure that a service centre was established.
Documents that need to be approved included the Mini Drug Master Plans (MDMP's). The DSD was planning to present the Drug Master Plan to Cabinet at the next sitting which was scheduled for October 22, 2019.
The Social Behaviour Change program was not yet evaluated as it was only established two years ago and evaluation only occurred after three years. The program had multiple sub-programs which the DSD was working with, such as SWEAT, an organisation that specialised in working with sex workers. Thus sex workers and the LGBTI community were being included in programs.
The contraction of HIV/AIDS through the use of dirty needles and drug use was dealt with in the new drug master plan.
When the DSD initially presented on the employment of social work graduates program, it was stated that the grant would be used to employ graduates and maintain their employment as the grants were not renewed annually. The Western Cape did not employ 13 social work graduates but they were appointed on a contractual basis. The DSD had disapproved of this as social workers should be appointed on a permanent basis.
The Community Care Centres were only built in three provinces as the criteria was based on the number of orphans and vulnerable children in each province. The highest was in Kwa-Zulu Natal followed by Limpopo and the North West. Thus, it was agreed with the funders to start there.
GBV safe houses were definitely not safe enough. It has been found that a network of shelters had publicised the location of these safe houses on their websites. This has been condemned by the DSD as this was an infringement on human-trafficking law.
NPOs were supported by government since the establishment of the call centres, such as the R50m budget allocation from the Criminal Assets Recovery Account, which was specifically allocated to support civil society organisations that assisted GBV cases. The GBVCC was a highly sophisticated program and the Minister was willing to host a Committee visit to the GBVCC so that the Committee might have first hand experience of what happens at the centre such as the online counseling and referrals. The Command Centres also enabled connections to the South African Police Services.
The Minister stated that the use of technology at the GBVCC helped with to trace the location of an attack. Thee DSD would be at the GBVCC on Friday, with the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities and the Committee was invited to also be present.
The Minister agreed that GBV programs needed to target all victims and not only economically oppressed victims. She made an example of Dr. Thandi Ndlovu who was not an economically oppressed women, but was a victim of GBV. Thus, all victims need to be considered. The DSD and its entities needed to use all possible platforms to raise awareness on GBV. It should constantly be worked on, whether it was on the agenda or not. GBV required a program that was for 365 days, not just for 16 days of activism. It was not a case of compliance, it was about condemning such behaviour.
Mr Appel said that the GBVCC used dual location mapping, which had shown that the prevalence of GBV had increased, even in affluent areas. The DSD had compared the cases opened with SAPS to the GBVCC calls. It found that calls received did not translate into SAPS cases and some SAPS cases were not the result of the GBVCC. A closer relationship between the GBVCC and the Criminal Justice Departments was required.
Ms Brenda Sibeko, Deputy Director-General: Comprehensive Social Service of the DSD, said the child support grant needed to include children from early on. From a policy perspective, the way to improve early access of children into the child support grant was from the time that a mother was pregnant. Linking child support grant beneficiaries to other government services was ongoing work. For example, pregnant women’s needs were primarily dealt with by the health department but other departments needed to collaborate to ensure that newborns had birth certificates and could easily be accessed by SASSA.
The National Social Security Fund was still a policy proposal at this stage. The proposal acknowledges that there is a gap in dealing with old age poverty despite the old age grant. Working citizens were encouraged to invest in private pension funds, however it was not mandatory. The National Social Security fund proposed to make it mandatory, irrespective of employers co-contributing to the fund. This would prevent people from withdrawing their pension funds when moving to new employment. It still needed to go to Cabinet before it could be implemented. There was no deadline as yet. The relief funds were based on legislation from 1978 which allowed for different funds to be established such as social and disaster relief funds. The DSD had decided that all these funds needed to be consolidated into one fund to make it administratively cheaper, efficient and coherent.
Mr Peter Netshipale, DSD Deputy Director-General: Integrated Development, said the youth camps started in 2012 with the aim of empowering the youth by providing leadership skills in collaboration with the Department of Defence. It took youths between the ages of 17-24 from rural areas, orphans and vulnerable children and trained them with follow-ups being conducted. After the first three years of implementation, it was found that 6% of about 4 500 participants were employed, 511 were trained and 32 had formed sustainable businesses or NPOs. The youth camps worked on self-esteem, personal development plans and were very fruitful. The Committee was invited to visit a camp over the December period when it was held.
Mr Mzolisi Toni, Acting Director-General of the DSD, said the post of Director-General and Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services were posted at the same time. Cabinet did not process the approval of the two selections as all departments were told to wait for the new administration. The Minister was now restarting the Cabinet approval process.
The matter of Bosasa was processed through Cabinet; it was an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) issue as other departments were affected as well. A Cabinet proposal was submitted, as Cabinet had said the Department had to move out of Bosasa. The Department committed to doing this by March 2020 but the liquidators had said that it should happen immediately. This was the process being managed at the moment to ensure that no crisis would occur that would affect the children in Bosasa centres.
The Minister stated that some provinces took the decision to deal with Bosasa themselves. Three provinces have had no problems with this, however six provinces required intervention to quicken the processes for the sake of the services that still needed to be rendered.
Ms Nxumalo said that the Thuthuzela Care Centres fell within NPA who appointed NGOs to run the psycho-social support. The DSD was now trying to assist the Thuthuzela Care Centres in the best possible way. Psycho-social support and intervention was critical when dealing with GBV and included victim friendly facilities in police stations.
Ms Busisiwe Memela-Khambula, Chief Executive Officer of SASSA, said that SASSA was top heavy and she was reluctant of filling positions for the sake of filling positions and thus had started a process of identifying what structures were needed in each region. SASSA now had an operating model that would be adopted this month to solve issues around strategy and high-level structures, then regional managers and other vacant positions would be filled. Some positions had been advertised already.
The Chairperson said that it was fundamental for positions to be filled, despite fiscal constraints. If the Auditor-General had found issues due to a lack of personnel, then it was essential that SASSA had the critical skills to do its work.
Mr Chaude was going to give context regarding SASSA’s share in the R1.8b irregular expenditure, however, the Chairperson interrupted him and requested that he table his response in a report which also included the investigation into the matter. Mr Chaude agreed to the Chairperson’s request.
He said SASSA had put in a request for the return of its surplus from Treasury. This was still to be concluded with Treasury. The return of a preliminary amount of R640m has been approved.
A letter of demand has been issued for R316m from CPS and SASSA was awaiting a response. CPS had 30 days to make good the payment.
He said there were three layers of action done to deal with irregular expenditure; the completion of the financial misconduct register list; the prevention of a re-occurrence through dealing with lease portfolios as this was where the greatest issue was in terms of irregular expenditure; and the last layer was to deal with consequence management which would be detailed in the submitted report. Out of the R78m of irregular expenditure, a transaction of R74m was paid to CPS for the period of 2017/18 for work performed with no contractual agreement in place and which was now being engaged in court.
Ms Dianne Dunkerley, Executive Manager: Grants Administration of SASSA, said that SASSA was engaging with the unions regarding the labour disputes that have resulted in the suspension of the biometric system. The dispute was caused due to staff access to the biometric system and the staff doing the enrolment of biometric beneficiaries and applicants. The union argued that the enrolment of biometric beneficiaries and applicants was an additional function and therefore wanted staff to get extra compensation for having to do this. SASSA however, did not see this as an additional function because it was a process that was being done before its relationship with CPS and had been brought back in an electronic format. It had been agreed with the union to separate the two issues and the first issue to be dealt with would be staff access to the system after which the second aspect, enrolment, would be looked at. Lots of progress was made and in the last meeting with the unions they agreed that staff access to the system was part of the automation process and not a standalone thing. The staff biometric access to the system was being rolled out in the Eastern Cape which was a hot spot. It would be rolled out in the other provinces as well. Issues around the integrity and confidentiality of staff information were cleared with the unions. A project plan was agreed upon for the enrolment of biometric beneficiaries and applicants which was due to be rolled out. Once it has been rolled out, a job evaluation assessment would occur so that the Union could see objectively that this was not an additional function. This may add time to the administration process, but all these issues have been resolved.
The SLA between SASSA and SAPO was monitored using a number of structures from the local level to the top. Where there was non-compliance, SASSA had written to SAPO demanded strict monitoring. The process of getting post offices up to standard would not happen overnight, but chairs have at least been put into some of the post offices as well as other dignity services. There was still a long way to go.
One- day processing meant that people making an application for a grant with all their documents in place at their local office would leave that office with a letter of outcome to confirm whether they qualified for the grant. It did not mean that money would be deposited into their account the next day. Payment extractions only happened once a month, thus any application processed before payment extraction would occur in the next month and anything processed after payment extraction would only occur the following month.
There had been no unauthorised deductions for electricity and airtime. The new SASSA card account did not allow for any EFT debit or stop orders. Where people used commercial bank accounts, they were entitled to sign for stop orders and SASSA has no control over this.
Ms Thandi Sibanyoni, Executive Manager of SASSA, said that SASSA had experienced several challenges with office accommodation as a result of an old agreement for SASSA to do its procurement for office space through the Department of Public Works. The SASSA Act allowed SASSA to procure office space for itself and SASSA was parting ways with the Department of Public Works. All avenues were being explored regarding office space. A ten-year infrastructure plan was developed which considered poverty levels and the possibility for growth in areas and this was being used to determine the cheapest and most sustainable way of having office space. Infrastructure has been built in Limpopo and the Northern Cape. In some instances, it was cheaper to build and in other instances it was cheaper to procure.
Mr Caesar Vundule, General Manager of SASSA, said SASSA ensured that all information of beneficiaries were replicated to prevent loss of information in the event a server malfunction. It was cheaper and safer to store information digitally than paper files. There were currently several interventions to prevent fraud and strengthen internal controls, such as account verification and internal audits of large sums of money. There was compliance monitoring, especially around issues that had been identified by the Auditor-General.
Ms Dunkerley added that SASSA made a direct deposit to SAPO through Bank Serve, where it reflects when the money has been deposited into the account. There were challenges in terms of people accessing money, such as the case of people traveling to Bloemfontein from the outskirts of the Free State. In this particular case, there was a system error on SAPO’s Integrated Grant Payment Solution (IGPS) which resulted in the money being reversed as it showed that people had received their money when in fact they had not. The reversal was done overnight and people were able to access their money the next day. Such system failures were being carefully monitored and were followed-up. SASSA made money available on the first of the month and cash pay points have expanded significantly however, it was very expensive to maintain and very high-risk. Beneficiaries have been paid and it was not a case of money not being there.
Ms Mzobe said that the board of the NDA expired on January 3, 2019. The new board was appointed and started on April 1, 2019, however their contracts were only valid for a year. The NDA has started the process of submission to the Office of the Minister to facilitate the recruitment process or the extension of contracts. This matter was still in progress.
The issue regarding training being scheduled but not taking place in the Western Cape, would be followed-up.
On the consequence management for irregular expenditure, she said the bulk of the issue was in the supply chain and it fell under finance and the investigation of the R2b that was reported on.
Since the board’s time lapsed in January, the recruitment of the CFO at that time had just closed and so the NDA was awaiting the processes of finalisation which it was anticipating to be at the start of the next financial year. This however, did not go as planned.
The Chairperson said that the Committee hated bad work and it wanted to disassociate the DSD and it’s entities from bad work. He reiterated the Minister’s point about leaders versus bosses and said that leaders had followers and bosses had subordinates. Subordinates complied as they did not have a choice whereas followers were inspired by leaders. Leaders left legacies and authority left laws.
The meeting adjourned