Social Development Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report

Social Development

16 October 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Gungubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Available here once adopted: BRRR 2019 

The Committee met to discuss and adopt the Department of Social Development’s Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR), as well as make some comments on the foster care progress report that had been presented by the Department in September.

The Committee Content Advisor highlighted some of the key issues observed by the Committee in the annual report of the DSD, as well as the Auditor General’s (AG’s) report on the Social Development Committee. The Committee observed that the DSD’s annual report lacked proper focus on the issue of gender based violence (GBV) due, among other issues, to a lack of social workers in Thuthuzela Care Centres and the development of programmes directed at enhancing change in the lives of people through addressing their vulnerabilities. The Committee had a discussion on how the DSD could develop result-based programmes that were aligned to the SMART principle.

In the AG’s report on the Social Development portfolio, the Committee observed that the portfolio had regressed in improving key controls and addressing risk areas, hence promoting non-compliance with applicable legislation, policies and directives within the entity. As a result, there was irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The Committee discussed extensively the issue of consequence management in relation to senior officials who had been found to be implicated in irregular expenditure. It agreed that the DSD and its entities should develop an action plan for the mitigation of irregular expenditure.

On the foster care progress report, the Committee was not happy with the fact that the DSD was not going to meet its deadline. It was disappointed by the fact that factors leading to this included a shortage of social workers within the Department. It found this appalling, given that the DSD had spent a lot of money educating young social workers, who were now sitting at home unemployed. The Committee proposed that the DSD ring-fence funds for social workers.

Meeting report

The Chairperson told the Committee that there were still unresolved issues, including the progress report on foster care. At the Committee’s last meeting, Members had agreed that in order to meet the deadlines in respect of foster care they needed to fast track the Children’s Amendment Bill of 2019. The Bill had not been formally referred to the Parliament. This also applied to the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, which was a Bill from the previous administration. At the end of the administration, it had lapsed and needed to be revived, and the Committee needed to work with the Department of Social Development (DSD) in this respect.  He asked the Committee Content Advisor to highlight the key issues in the Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR).

Annual Report of DSD: Committee observations

The Content Advisor advised the Committee to first assess whether the observations in the report of the Department of Social Development had been captured correctly. She referred the Members to page 17, paragraph 8, of the draft BRRR. The Committee had observed that the DSD’s report lacked enough focus on the issue of gender-based violence (GBV). Key issues noted in this respect included the under-staffing of social workers in Thuthuzela Care Centres, limited implementation of programmes against GBV in affluent areas, and an unsubstantial relationship between the programmes of the DSD and its mandate to enhance change in the lives of people through addressing their vulnerabilities. The programmes focused on only intervention. For this reason, the DSD was wanting in respect of the SMART principle.

The Content Advisor told the Committee that it had observed that the DSD report contradicted the findings of the AG. The AG had given a negative opinion, but the DSD had presented a positive picture.

Discussion

Ms B Masango (DA) wanted to know whether the issue of specific impact, as it related to the report by the DSD, was captured in the SMART principle.

The Chairperson clarified that this was captured in a sentence in the report that reads: “...programmes of the Department focus...not on the intended change in the lives of the people as far as addressing their vulnerabilities.” He said the Committee wanted results-based programmes from the DSD, and not policy adoption programmes.

AG’s Report on DSD Portfolio: Committee observations

The Committee observed that there were investigations on irregular expenditure that had been conducted by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), but not concluded. SASSA had accounted for the largest percentage of the irregular expenditure -- a sum of R1.7 billion out of R2 billion. In the Committee’s view, SASSA was not fit to conduct the investigations. This meant no investigations were conducted.

The Committee observed that the Social Development portfolio had regressed in improving key controls and addressing risk areas. This promoted non-compliance with applicable legislation, policies and directives within the entity. Consequently, there was irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The Committee observed that there was no consequence management taken on the senior officials concerned. This also applied to National Development Agency (NDA) officials that the AG had found to have deliberately or negligently ignored their duties, and hence contravened legislation.

Discussion

The Chairperson commented that the investigations conducted by SASSA were meant to side-track the public and interested stakeholders from the fact that SASSA accounted for the largest percentage of the irregular expenditure. This explained the lack of conclusions.

He also commented on the issue of the social development portfolio regressing in improving key controls and addressing risk areas. He referred to the AG’s findings on senior management ignoring advice by assurance providers.

Committee Recommendations for 2018/19 BRRR

The Content Advisor read out paragraph 14 of the Draft BRRR (See report).

The Chairperson commented on the Committee’s recommendations on monitoring and evaluation. He explained that monitoring answered the question as to whether there were activities that were being implemented in line with the institution’s goal of realising a pre-stated intention. He emphasised that the Committee was asking the DSD to attend to evaluation which translated to mean the value realised after implementation. This did not mean evaluation was not there, but that there was no approach to analyse evaluation.

Ms Masango recalled an incident where the DSD had informed the Committee that efforts on evaluation were being undermined by reporting on evaluation procedures set by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). She asked the Chairperson whether this would be addressed.

The Chairperson advised the Committee that it seemed prudent to approach the National Treasury and the DPME to gain clarity, and to discuss and resolve the issue.

Discussion on BRRR

Ms A Motaung (ANC) told the Committee that consequence management had to be exercised at all entities implicated in irregular expenditure, starting with SASSA.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) supported Ms Motaung on the issue of consequence management. She added that the remaining amount of the R2 billion that SASSA was implicated in for irregular expenditure must be dissected in order to establish how much the other implicated entities had spent. The issue of management in the Department should be resolved in order to ensure accountability and transparency within the organisation.

The Content Advisor advised that in the SASSA annual report, the R2 billion had been clearly dissected. She emphasised that the R2 billion in question was an accumulated expenditure over a number of years, and not an amount spent by SASSA during the reporting period.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) supported the two previous speakers’ views on the issue of consequence management, especially regarding senior officials who had repeatedly ignored the findings of the AG. Consequence management was necessary to avoid future similar behaviour. She recommended that the Committee ask the DSD to provide a written report on the disciplinary action instituted against all officials implicated in irregular and fruitless expenditure. The report should indicate the amount of money recovered, if any. She drew attention to the fact that the DSD was not meeting its targets in respect of employing people with disabilities. The DSD should provide timeframes on the filling of critical vacancies within the organisation. Fighting gender-based violence was the responsibility of the DSD, but the organisation was silent on this issue, secure in the knowledge that it was being tackled in the Presidential office. She recommended that the Committee ask the Minister to request a report on the state of service in Thuthuzela Care Centres.

Ms A Abrahams (DA) referred to a paragraph on page 45 of the draft BRRR which recommended that the Minister should ensure SASSA finalised the report on irregular expenditure and submitted it to the Committee. She recommended that the Committee first brief the DSD and the NDA on the same issue before the investigation report was handed in.

Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) commented on the broad scope of the report.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said that the Committee needed to engage with the Minister of Social Development on the matter of fighting GBV. The Ministry needed to capacitate its efforts in respect of that issue. She also commented on the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) that was focused on building schools across South Africa. In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Eastern Cape, the programme had come to a standstill because the vulnerable communities involved felt they did not own the project. She recommended that the Committee ask the NDA and the DSD to work together on the ASIDI to help the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to overcome blockages.

The Chairperson asked the Content Advisor to note the matter for future discussion.

Ms Ngwenya said that at a strategic workshop with the DSD, the Committee had requested the Department to do a case study to identify four or five vulnerable provinces and come back with results. The DSD had not done this. The Committee needed to follow up on this.

The Chairman made some comments on the Committee’s recommendations in the BRRR. He said the DSD should present to the Committee an action plan to deal with irregular expenditure within the organisation. The Department must also brief the Committee on their programmes in respect of GBV.

Regarding irregular expenditure, Ms Masango asked for clarity on the role of the Speaker in the Committee’s business with the DSD.

The Chairperson said the Speaker did not have a role in the Committee’s business.

The Content Advisor advised the Committee that the DSD was coming for a briefing on the issue of GBV in the following weeks.

The Chairperson moved to adopt the amended BRRR, and was seconded by Ms N Mvana (ANC) and Ms Ngwenya. There were no counter motions.

Foster Care Progress Report

The Chairperson invited comments on the foster care progress report.

Ms Manganye expressed concern that the DSD was going to miss the deadline regarding the implementation of the North Gauteng Court Order. She suggested that the Committee recommend the DSD to fast-track all processes related to the implementation of the court order, irrespective of the fact that the organisation would not meet the deadline.

Ms Van der Merwe agreed with Ms Manganye that the DSD was going to miss the deadline. She drew attention to the fact that the DSD had also not yet issued a progress report on its dealings with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in respect of unabridged birth certificates and fee waivers. Finally, she told the Committee that the shortage of social workers within the Department and the way that it was being handled -- taking social workers from other units to deal with the foster care issue -- was concerning. The Committee had to push the Department to improve its human resource capacity in respect of social workers.

Ms Masango expressed dissatisfaction at the fact that the presentation had been delivered in PowerPoint form. The report had lacked substance. The Committee required narrative reports to engage extensively. The progress report was uninspiring, and the progress made did not reflect a clear understanding of the situation on the ground.

Ms Abrahams said the DSD should inform the Committee of the legal consequences that would follow when it did not meet the deadline.

Mr D Stock (ANC) agreed with the Committee that the DSD was not going to meet the deadline, and expressed disappointment that it did not take heed of the Committee’s advice in that regard. He proposed that the Committee start preparing for the repercussions ahead. Such preparations should include ensuring that the Committee could work at its own pace in deliberating on the Bill.

Ms Ngwenya said the report did not reflect a sense of urgency. The DSD was taking a long time to complete simple tasks. She supported Ms Van der Merwe’s assertion that the DSD’s decision to outsource social workers from other units was bound to cause trouble in the units concerned. She recommended that the Committee exercise its authority, and take the DSD to task. She also commented on the issue of magistrates being on leave in the provinces, including Limpopo. She said this was unacceptable. She wanted to know what the Department was doing about this. The shortage of social workers within the Department was shocking, especially given the fact that the government had spent a lot of money educating social workers. The Committee should ensure that the DSD hire young social workers that were currently unemployed at home, instead of re-hiring “veterans.” 

Ms Sukers requested the Committee to enlighten her on the issue of costing within the DSD. She said the organisation was lacking in this aspect. The Department was not doing costing on all the resources it required to meet its objectives -- for example, costing the number of social workers required within the Department .

Ms Van der Merwe supported this comment. She said the National Treasury could not refuse to provide funds for the employment of social workers so long there was a clear costing structure.

Ms Masango also supported this. She said the Department was not developing a strategic plan to meet its objectives, but simply check listing the requests of the Committee.

The Chairperson remarked the Department should at least go to court while the Bill was in process.

The Committee agreed to try and fast track the process.

The Chairperson moved to the adoption of minutes.

The meeting was adjourned.

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