Social Assistance Amendment Bill: deliberations; DSD 2019/20 Quarter 3 performance

Social Development

11 March 2020
Chairperson: Mr M Gungubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development went through the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, clause by clause which they agreed to. The Committee had questions about:
- Clause 5 amending Section 13 Social relief of distress
- Clause 7 amending Section 18 Appeal against decision of Agency
- Clause 8 amending Section 24 Inspectorate for Social Assistance.

Clause 7 was flagged for further discussion as some Members believed the appointment of the Appeals Tribunal should be done by Parliament or in consultation with Parliament.

The Department of Social Development Quarter 3 Report noted an overall performance of 60%.

Members noted that Administration Programme briefing did not provide sufficiently detailed information. They asked if the savings of R70 million redirected to provinces was spent on employing social workers; if the money redirected to gender-based violence efforts would be spent on absorption of social workers; the Central Drug Authority voice on drug abuse treatment; why DSD piloted an Anti-Gangster Strategy in Limpopo instead of the Western Cape? Why DSD piloted the HIV risky behaviour workshop in the Western Cape instead of Kwazulu-Natal? The point was raised that although DSD is on target with spending, it is way off on its performance targets.

The Director General reported that it hopes the Children’s Amendment Bill will be certified by the state law advisors by April, so it can be tabled in Parliament so it can be processed between May and September. DSD is hoping to be done before October so that the Bill can be implemented in November. Some committee members were concerned about those tight deadlines.

Meeting report

Social Assistance Amendment Bill: Department response to public comments
The Chairperson said that the Committee did not have any concerns with the amendments in the Bill except for one. He asked the Department of Social Development (DSD) to outline the three substantive amendments.

Ms Brenda Sibeko, DSD Deputy Director-General, Comprehensive Social Security, explained:
1. The Minister of Social Development with the concurrence of the Minister of Finance to make ‘additional payments’ to social grants based on certain criteria.
2. Remove the reconsideration requirement from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) so grant applicants can go directly to the Appeals Tribunal as it shortens the process.
3. Change the Inspectorate organisational structure from being a government department to a component.

The Chairperson's concern was the Inspectorate in Clause 8 and he asked how independent it is.

Ms Sibeko replied that the Inspectorate is meant to be an independent institution which reports directly to the Minister. The Inspectorate is not a really a decision-making institution but rather deals with investigations. The Inspectorate will have independence in that it does not depend on the Department or SASSA.

The Chairperson asked if the Minister could stop the Inspectorate from accessing records. DSD should explain what the Inspectorate is independent of and what powers the Inspectorate can exercise.

Ms Sibeko replied by reading the current formulation in clause 8 amending section 24 of the Social Assistance Bill. It states that the Inspectorate for Social Assistance is established as an government component as set out in Section 3 of the Public Service Act and is headed by a person that is designated as an Executive Director. She read through section 24 of the current Act.

The Chairperson asked what the Executive Director must do to enable the Minister to exercise final responsibility as set out in section 24(4).

Ms Sibeko replied by referring to section 24(5)(b) that states the Executive Director must provide the Minister with reasons for any decisions that the Executive Director or any other Inspectorate employee makes in terms of their functions. She then referred to section 25(1)1 on the Independence of the Inspectorate.

In response, the Chairperson asked how section 25 Independence of the Inspectorate will be dealt with. He contrasted section 25(1) with section 24(4) and (5) in the Act and asked DSD to explain "the Minister exercises final responsibility over the Inspectorate".

DSD replied that the way it understands the role of the Minister in exercising responsibility over the Inspectorate, by referring to the responsibility that the Minister of Justice exercises over the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The Inspectorate needs to exercise its functions independently, but when it comes to political direction and policy, the Minister gives direction.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) understood this as political oversight similar to what the Minister of Justice has over the NPA in which the Minister cannot overturn the decisions of the NPA. Some of the challenges that arose in SASSA were directly due to the over-influence of the Minister. If the Inspectorate is independent, does this mean that the Minister will not be able to influence the Inspectorate's decisions about its investigations? She wanted clarity on the role and functions of the Minister.

The Chairperson repeated that section 24 states the Minister has final responsibility over the Inspectorate. However it should be clear exactly what this means to reassure the Committee of its independence as articulated in section 25.

The DSD official did not have an answer to hand but would respond later in the meeting.

The Chairperson stated that he would like to know that the Minister’s final responsibility over the Inspectorate has an acceptable relationship with its "independence" indicated in section 25.

Another item that needed to be addressed was a proposal that the Inspectorate head be a retired judge.

Ms B Masango (DA) noted that there would be some legal implications to having a retired judge as the Inspectorate head. In the previous meeting she agreed to having a retired judge. However after some research, she realised that this could implicate the Inspectorate in a negative way in terms of the judiciary.

Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked for clarity on what the criteria and qualifications of a retired judge would be.

The Chairperson replied that one would not want politicians to get involved but rather the person should just be competent and have the necessary requirements needed for the position.

Ms van der Merwe believed the overriding factor should be a person that is fit and proper for the position. Even a human rights activist or a human rights lawyer could be fit for the position. DSD should leave out the reference to a retired judge.

DSD explained the procedure for processing the Bill. The Committee had received the departmental briefing, the public input and the DSD responses to the public input. The next step is for the Committee to look at the Bill, consider the public input and DSD responses, and suggest proposed amendments it wants to incorporate in the Bill. DSD will then draft these proposed amendments into an A-List, present it to the Committee. Thereafter, the Committee will review the B-version of the Bill, which has the Committee proposed amendments incorporated into it.

The Chairperson confirmed that the A-list would be discussed at the 17 March meeting.

Ms Masango noted that it was previously mentioned that once the Bill is formulated, there are certain aspects that may not work or might be sabotaged by another Bill that would need to be changed or amended for the Social Assistance Amendment Bill to work.

DSD suggested that this not be discussed at this point but rather the Committee discuss and take a position on each clause of the Bill.

The Chairperson responded that this was a technical concern that need not to be addressed just yet.

Social Assistance Amendment Bill: deliberations
DSD went through the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, clause by clause. It noted that the reference to 2018 in the last clause should be changed to 2020 as it is the year in which the Bill will be passed.

The Committee approved all the clauses but clauses 5 and 7 raised discussion:

Clause 5 amending Section 13 Social relief of distress
Ms Abrahams asked if there are timeframes by when the social relief of distress should be disbursed to people who are affected by disasters according to the Disaster Management Act.

The Chairperson replied that this would be done within a reasonable time, however it is difficult to assess an exact timeframe depending on the circumstances.

Ms Sibeko replied that the Disaster Management Act does not specify timeframes but instead specifies the systems that are put in place when there is a disaster, depending on national, local or provincial level.

A committee member suggested they look at the Act and come back with suggestions about timeframes for the social relief of distress for disasters to see if this is legally doable or not.

The Chairperson said the reason for going clause by clause through the Bill is to check if the Committee agrees. He therefore encouraged Members to express their views.

Ms Sibeko replied that disaster management in the country is governed by the Disaster Management Act, not this legislation. The social relief of distress is not only for disasters but for other forms of distress that households may experience. The primary aim of Clause 5 is harmonisation.

Clause 7 amending Section 18 Appeal against decision of Agency
Ms van der Merwe raised concern that the Committee is the oversight authority over SASSA and DSD. The clause should rather state that Parliament must appoint an Independent Tribunal, rather than the Minister. She argued that the appointing body should be Parliament to protect the independence of the Independent Tribunal. She also asked if DSD is going to elaborate on the roles and responsibilities of the Minister in the next draft. The Independent Tribunal would no longer be independent if the Minister has sole discretion to appoint the tribunal members. If the appointment process is brought to Parliament, the tribunal would then be considered independent.

Ms Abrahams suggested that the Minister appoint in consultation with the Portfolio Committee.

The Chairperson said if the law states ‘Independent Tribunal’, what does this mean? This issue is similar to the Inspectorate which was previously discussed.

Ms N Mvana (ANC) said she 'agreed to disagree' with her fellow committee members because the Minister has a responsibility if given a function to perform which should be trusted. The Minister always reports to the Committee and Parliament so there is no reason for this to be changed now.

Mr D Stock (ANC) disagreed with the proposal to change appointment by the Minister to Parliament. The Committee must be careful when referring functions to Parliament as this might delay service delivery. The Committee should not try to do things differently about appointing an Independent Tribunal. If there is a problem, the Minister would still report back to the Portfolio Committee.

Ms Masango agreed with Ms van der Merwe saying that the Committee should use their experience when looking at the Bill. She believed that with hindsight certain challenges can be corrected so that similar problems do not happen in the future. If the Committee agrees that Parliament would appoint the Independent Tribunal, this would freeing the Minister from being looked at as having had any influence on the Tribunal. The Committee should use their experience to do the right thing when given the opportunity.

Ms van der Merwe stated that she was not trying to agitate members but was merely giving her proposal with which the Committee can agree or disagree. She did not think it is fair to say that one has ulterior motives.

A committee member agreed that experience determines consciousness. The Committee is not saying that all Ministers would not be fit, but if it possible to change this then why not, if it might benefit the people?

DSD noted that legally there is nothing against a minister appointing an independent tribunal. There are checks and balances that will deal with problems if they arise.

A committee member stated that one must be mindful of the doctrine of separation of powers so that it does not use legislation to find itself in the terrain of the Executive. The Executive should be allowed to do the work that it is given in terms of legislation without limiting its powers.

DSD pointed out another mechanism, other than Parliament appointing the Tribunal, would be for the Minister to submit to Parliament the names of people that form the Tribunal for the Committee to satisfy itself on the Tribunal appointments. There is other legislation which provides for the appointment of a tribunal by the minister, so it is not legally offensive for an Act to give to the minister this power to exercises.

Ms van der Merwe suggested that the Minister appoint but in consultation with or after consulting the Portfolio Committee. This would satisfy her previous argument of ensuring that the people appointed are fit and proper. This will strengthen the Committee’s oversight role to ensure that fit and proper people are appointed.

The Chairperson stated that it is not about who appointed who, but rather how the Committee exercises accountability. He asked if there is a check and balance that can satisfy the Committee to ensure that there is independence. If the Minister appointed the Independent Tribunal, is there no mechanism of ensuring transparency and independence. These questions were not necessary for DSD to answer today.

Ms Sibeko explained how the Tribunal currently functions and how it is appointed. Currently, the Minister advertises for Tribunal members and two key qualifications are required. They must have medical expertise and legal expertise. The people appointed are not permanent but are there to address appeals as they occur. The Tribunal currently has 19 medical doctors and 19 lawyers. The panel is then allocated appeal cases to adjudicate. The panel is appointed for three years and it can get renewed.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) said that if it is only the Committee that can do oversight properly, then she does not think anything would happen. She trusted her fellow colleagues who were ministers.

The Chairperson agreed not to finalise this matter yet but discuss it further in the next meeting.

Clause 8 amending Section 24 Inspectorate for Social Assistance
DSD noted section 24 of the Act states that the Minister exercises final responsibility over the Inspectorate. The Committee’s concern as previously discussed was noted. The two areas that the Chairperson wanted clarity on is (1) the final exercise of responsibility or supervision by the Minister over the Inspectorate and (2) the independence of the Inspectorate. If the Inspectorate can be allowed to second guessed by the Minister, it means that DSD is second guessing the Inspectorate as well.

DSD stated that the Minister of Justice example best portrays this independence. The Minister exercises entire responsibility for the Justice Department but does not interfere in the daily functions of the NPA.

The Chairperson replied that he has clarification. This means that the Minister has responsibility for the Inspectorate's proper functioning but no one should interfere in its functioning.

Department of Social Development Quarter 3 Report 2019/20
DSD noted that the report has 48 targets. Quarter 1 and 2 had previously been discussed and the Department is systematically addressing the Committee concerns raised during those meetings. DSD reporting has been based on its achievements in communities. As a result of its new strategic plan, it aims to improve the quality of life for the poor and vulnerable. It hopes the Committee will approve the new strategic plan and annual performance plan before the plans are submitted. The new plans adopt a results-based management approach informed by the seven priorities. As mandated by the Committee and following the workshop held last year, DSD’s intervention is working together in a portfolio approach with its provincial counterparts and two entities – SASSA and National Development Agency. DSD will also be developing the District Development Model to improve its work in the communities. DSD was able to work closer with the Central Drug Authority and South African Council for Social Services Profession as important partners. It has been a difficult year navigating between the Fifth and Sixth Administration and many struggles have ensued along the way.

Key Achievements
Programme 1: Administration

This programme covers Information Management Systems Technology (IMST); Oversight of DSD entities;
Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) and Finance.

Programme 2: Social Assistance
- A total of R44.132 billion was transferred to SASSA for Quarter 3 of 2019/20
- More than 18 million individuals benefitted from different types of grants
- Social grants constitute the most pro-poor intervention in place that tackles extreme poverty.

Programme 3: Social Security Policy and Administration
- Updated policy on mandatory cover for retirement, disability and survivor benefits
- Updated policy paper on voluntary inclusion of informal sector workers
- Discussion paper on work of linking beneficiaries with other government services
- Consultations on the draft regulations to support the Social Assistance legislation.

Programme 4: Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation Support
- White Paper on Social Development was not be submitted to Cabinet as SEIAS report not finalized.
- The draft Framework on the Social Development Bill could not be consulted.
- There were delays in the parliamentary processes to submit the Children’s Amendment Bill to parliament for consideration. As a result, the Minister wrote to Parliament to request prioritization of the Amendment Bill, which will contribute to the comprehensive legal solution to address the foster care challenges.
- DSD conducted a desktop analysis on the best models of ECD service delivery models.
- Training done on the DSD Anti- Gangster’s Strategy in Limpopo
- Draft National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) 2019 - 2024 was approved by Cabinet.
- Officials in Gauteng public substance abuse treatment centres trained on Universal Treatment Curriculum
- Service provider for development of inter-sectoral policy on sheltering services appointed.
- Service provider for counselling/psychosocial service provision policy & White Paper on Families appointed.  
- Integrated Action Plan on HIV, TB and STIs was not submitted to the Social Cluster.
- National Frameworks on Disability Rights Awareness and Self-Representation were not approved.
- Guidelines for District and Local Disability Inclusion were not finalized.

Programme 5: Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery
Community Development
- Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) - no provincial plans were signed off yet
- Population and Development: the country report on the implementation of population policy
International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) – over 25 synthesis report stakeholder consultations done

Non-profit Organisations (NPO) Registration and Information Management
- Received applications were processed within two months
- The Know Your NPO Status campaign increased compliance
- DSD provides capacity building to NPOs

NPO Funding Coordination
- Implementation of the DSD Sector Funding Policy
- DSD Sector Funding Policy and the DSD-NPO Partnership Model was presented at MINMEC

Community Development
- Only 2329 of 2800 youth attended national youth camp; Free State will host another camp to reach target
- Community Mobilisation and Empowerment Framework workshopped
- Provincial technical working group on Food and Nutrition security is established
- 34 4340 vulnerable individuals accessed food through DSD feeding programmes
- Facilitated the implementation of the transition and handover the plan.

DSD Quarter 3 Financial Report
Overall, DSD spent 74% of its allocated budget by the end of Quarter 3. During the adjustments estimates process for the financial year, some adjustments that were done: Declared savings were R70 million. Reprioritized funding towards Gender Based Violence (GBV) was R93 million.

Spending per programme was Administration (66%); Social Assistance (74.2%); Social Security Policy and Administration (74%); Welfare Service Policy Development and Administration (56%); Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery (90%).

The Chairperson had to depart early to attend another meeting and requested Mr Stock to continue as chair. He complained that the presentation for Programme 1: Administration did not list indicators and targets. It is supposed to be clear what DSD intended to turnaround and Administration is supposed to be a step ahead. Instead, it is mere summaries of results. It does not tell the Committee anything about the work it is doing. In Programme 2, the most important aspect is the user-friendliness of the services. Another problem is all the different policies done in the different programmes. Overall, he does not understand the structure the DSD presentation and hopes that it can simplify this.

DSD replied that the White Paper on Social Development is the main policy driving its work. It had hoped to conclude this but it would have to go in to the Quarter 1 of 2020/21. Another point of concern was gangsterism. DSD’s focus is through the child and youth care centres which is why it can intervene in those spaces as its social workers reside there.

The Chairperson said that DSD could give a written response to the Members’ questions.

Ms van der Merwe asked about the declared savings of R70 million that was redirected to provinces. She asked if it was not possible when redirecting this money to request the provinces ring-fence the money for the absorption of social workers in the provinces. She is interested to know what the provinces are doing with the R70 million. Key departments, such as higher education and police, should get together with the Committee to discuss importance of having social workers at various institutions. On the R93 million reprioritized funding towards GBV, she asked if this money will be spent on the 250 social workers employed on 1 December or what?. She noted the youth camps and the DSD anti-gang strategy rolled out in Limpopo, and asked if one should assess if this programme has had any success.

Ms Masango asked about the absorption of social workers as it comes from a decision to stop the money going towards training social workers and used that same money instead to absorb them. She asked if this is still the case currently and how the Director General is asking for help to get the social workers employed. A concern is that the presentation mentioned clearly that there is a drug abuse problem in South Africa, but at the same time nothing is being said on this from the Central Drug Authority (CDA). She asked why the evaluation of the social sector infrastructure is to be implemented over two years.

A committee member requested details on what DSD is going to do about the GBV shelters and that it is not visible in six provinces. She did not see any improvements in performance as Quarter 3 had only 60% of targets achieved which means the Auditor General’s performance audit will show the same results. Why pilot an Anti-Gangster Strategy in a province like Limpopo instead of the Western Cape? Why pilot the HIV risky behaviour workshop in the Western Cape instead of Kwazulu-Natal? DSD should prioritise the critical areas to get the most accurate results. She requested the Committee meet with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities to understand and have clarity on what it does as a department.

Another committee member was concerned about the policies and targets on HIV, TB and STIs on slide 16. There is a lot of work in progress with no clear timelines or deadlines on what DSD is working towards. She asked by when the Integrated Action Plan on HIV, TB and STIs will be seen. She pointed out that even though DSD is on target with 74% of the money spent, its performance in meeting its targets is way off. She asked how DSD is planning on improving this in 2020/21.

Ms Manganye commented that most schools collapse because there are no social workers present. Social workers is an important issue for the Committee to revisit.

A committee member referred to slide 21 about Community Development. The programme on Community Development Practitioners (CDPs) has no developmental goals. She would like DSD to discuss other development programmes. She noted that food is stored in people's houses but there are no fridges for this. She would like DSD to investigate programmes to address this. She also if plans exist for the ECD Centres move from DSD to Department of Basic Education as it is more an educational service than a social one. She pointed to the capacity challenges for Entity Oversight and asked how this will be done.

The Director General replied that written responses from DSD should be expected on 18 March.

DSD report on finalised Children’s Amendment Bill
Mr Mzolisi Toni, DSD Acting Director-General, stated that the Children’s Amendment Bill will go back to the Cabinet. It is targeting the Cabinet Committee meeting of 31 March. After this, he hopes that the Bill can be presented to Cabinet on 8 April. There is now a clearer understanding between DSD and state law advisors, he hopes that by April, DSD can get the certification of the Children’s Amendment Bill. Following this, the Bill will be tabled in Parliament. If this happens in April, DSD will work with the Committee in ensuring that the Bill is processed in Parliament between May and September. DSD is hoping to be done before October so that the Bill can be implemented in November.

Ms van der Merwe said she is concerned that the timeframes are very tight. The problem is that in Parliament these processes often take longer expected, but she hopes that her concern will not materialise.

Ms Abrahams stated that previously DSD was criticised for not allowing enough time for public participation. She asked where in the plan public comment will occur and for how long.

Ms Sibeko replied that this process has been completed and all that is left is for DSD to table the Bill.   

The Director General replied that DSD is trying to ensure that this process is concluded by September and thinks that it is enough time. It is up to the Committee as it then is beyond the control of DSD.

After DSD left, the Committee stayed behind to discuss its programme. Once the Bill is introduced into Parliament, it becomes the Committee’s responsibility. The Committee will decide on the length of time to call for comments and about public hearings. The Committee will present a plan in the next meeting. The Committee will meet on 17 March for DSD to present its progress in meeting the court order and continue this meeting on the A and B lists. On 18 March the National Development Agency (NDA) would present its Quarters 1 to 3 performance.

The meeting was adjourned.

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