The Committee was addressed by the Department of Social Development (DSD) on its fourth quarter performance, and by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) on the progress that had been made in responding to the impact of COVID19.
Despite the DSD not reaching two out of four targets, there had been significant progress, with about 80 to 85% of the targets being achieved overall. There had been challenges with the monitoring and evaluation framework, but the Department now had 10 out of 12 systems that had been integrated. An example of this was an integrated case system that allowed information to be exchanged between the DSD and the South African Police Service (SAPS) on child suspect arrests.
The ECD programme was implemented through the national integrated ECD policy, which had a forum where the DSD communicated with all the other departments on the matter. The service delivery model for ECD was a target that was initially within the DSD, but it was now managed by the DBE in this financial year. ECD centres would open once assessments have been complete, then a date would be given for them. The Gazette that referred to ECDs opening with Grade-R would be amended.
A total of 610 177 food parcels had been distributed by the DSD, reaching about 2 440 708 people. SASSA had distributed a total of 73 493 food parcels, reaching 293 972 people. The number of calls to the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) had increased during the lockdown period for various reasons, including the fact that GBV and COVID-19 had related issues. A safety plan and referral pathways had been developed.
There was an urgent demand for shelter to protect homeless persons from contracting and spreading COVID-19. 193 shelters had opened for the homeless, reaching 14 000 people, but due to self-discharge and some shelters closing down, current numbers stood at 11 851. The R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant had been paid to 191 000 people through EFT, and to 453 000 people via the Post Office. The hope was that one million people would be paid by 16 June.
The challenge SASSA was facing was that demand was exceeding the supply. The number of valid applications was still growing quickly by the day, and the actual funds available amounted to R3.5 billion. This could serve only 1.6 million to 2 million people, assuming they all applied in the first month, so the demand would certainly outweigh the available resources. Current estimates were that 50% would be eligible.
SASSA was also anticipating possible legal challenges arising from the exclusion of asylum seekers, as well as other administrative challenges, such as the validation required to ensure that money was paid into the right account or to the correct cell-phone numbers.
Members’ questions were focused mainly on the Department’s ability to fund the increased demands placed on its budget by COVID19. They also raised issues such as the employment of additional social workers; how financial help could be provided to the “missing middle,” whose businesses were being badly affected; what could be done for those who discharged themselves from the homeless shelters; how to reach peripheral rural areas with food relief; and what was being done to keep people informed of the availability of services at SASSA offices.
DSD Quarter Four Performance Report
Mr Linton Mchunu, Acting Director-General (ADG), Department of Social Development (DSD), said that the fourth quarter had coincided with the COVID19 pandemic, so the Department had lost about a month and a half of time that would have been used for implementation.
The Department went through the Quarter Four Report page by page, highlighting the impact of Covid19 on its operations.
(see attached presentation)
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) asked what the Department was doing to improve the services for young people and children living with HIV/AIDS. She had recently learnt that these young people were required to fetch their medication in an open clinic setting with other people who collect their chronic medication. The lack of privacy resulted in a great deal of shame, and this led to them defaulting on their medication. Was there any programme or service that the Department was looking into to prevent this? There was a huge expenditure on information technology (IT), so what were the reasons for the IT failure that was plaguing the Department, and especially SASSA? If it was not systemic, was it human error?
Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) asked how the results-based approach had affected the outcomes of COVID19 interventions. There was a challenge with the demand for food provision and the available resources. How was Treasury assisting in this regard? What other alternatives were being considered? How had the Department confronted the issue of the missing middle that benefited from UIF, but were unemployed? What was the impact of the targets that could not be finalised in the 2019/2020 financial year on the current annual performance plan (APP)? How would the passing of the Special Appropriations Bill affect the current financial year? Had the guidelines for the District and Local Disability Inclusion Institutional Arrangements been finalised? If not, what had been the cause of delay? In the third quarter, there had been a high volume of non-profit organization (NPO) applications which the Department had to process, but in the fourth quarter there had been far fewer applications -- what was the reason for this? What had been the impact of COVID19 on poverty alleviation, sustainable livelihoods and food security sub-programmes? How many refugees were getting the SRD grant? Private schools were going to reopen from Grade R to Grade 11 next week -- was there a way of monitoring them?
Mr D Stock (ANC) asked the Department to clarify why administration programmes such as the Information Management Systems Technology (IMST) and the entity oversight had been noted as areas of achievement in quarter three, but in this report they were noted as areas that needed improvement? had there been an impact assessment on the Social Assistance programme in uplifting beneficiaries? How had the social assistance programme assisted beneficiaries in transitioning out of the grant system and into the economy? Had there been consultation with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on the best methods of ECD delivery models? How far were Limpopo, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga with their Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) targets?
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) sent her condolences to the family of Ms Tshegofatso Pule, who had been murdered, as well as the other women who had recently lost their lives due to Gender-Based Violence (GBV). She thanked the Acting Director-General (ADG) for taking responsibility for the targets not met, and asked him to see to the questions that had been brought to the Department at a meeting in March regarding consequence management. How many refugees and asylum seekers were receiving SASSA grants? The 200 social workers were funded by the compensation of employees (CoE) budget, but the Department also reported that it was R1.7 million over budget as a result of hiring these social workers, and this needed to be clarified. What had happened to the R93 million budget that had been approved by National Treasury? Why could the Department not complete the consolidated report on the training of the anti-gangsterism strategy? It was important to have impact assessments on programmes and workshops to see if they were indeed making an impact. The rights of people with disabilities had been transferred to another Department, but there had been a reference to some departments not reporting on their obligations to people with disabilities -- which departments were these? She asked for an update on the number of people with disabilities who were employed within the DSD. She asked what had warranted the excessive spending pf R4.8 million on cabling R3.6 million on anti-virus programmes, and who the service provider was. Non-payment to the Albinism Society and ABBA Adoption Services was concerning, as these organisations were most likely banking on the funding from the DSD, and non-payment must be affecting their operation. What interventions were taking place between the DSD and these organisations?
Ms A Motaung (ANC) asked how the results-based approach had tangibly improved the quality of lives of South Africans? What lessons could be drawn from the fourth quarter, and how could this inform the APP? How had the report shown that a balance had been linked between the inputs, outputs and outcomes?
Ms L Arries (EFF) asked why only two out of four targets had been met. What were the cost implications of the ECD and substance abuse programmes being carried over into the 2021 budget? The goods and services costs had increased in the fourth quarter, so she asked for a breakdown. There was a dramatic increase, for example in the payment to international organisations -- was this because the DSD wanted to spend the budget in the fourth quarter?
Ms N Mvana (ANC) commended the Department for being visible during this youth month. Working jointly with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), how long did the DSD think it could sustain the homeless shelters? Now that it had been reported that there was no budget for some of the social workers, what would happen to them in the provinces? People with disabilities had become a talk show, and it was concerning -- interventions for people with disabilities needed to be strengthened. There were once very practical interventions being pioneered, such as transportation for people with disabilities, but these interventions had been abandoned.
Ms J Manganye (ANC) asked what tangible projects would be implemented to reduce poverty and unemployment among women.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) said the summary slides which the Department had presented had not been given to the Committee, which made it difficult for the Members to engage. She asked the Department to forward the concept documents when linking the child support grant to the beneficiaries with the government services. Was the youth strategy presented different to the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the other portfolio in the Presidency? She had found a 2017 version of the National Plan of Action for children on the Department’s website, yet so much money had been spent on IT. What was the length of time between the processing of NPOs, and when they actually got registered? It was reported that a lack of laptops and printing cards had created a difficulty in registering NPOs, so she suggested that the Department move away from desktops and procure laptops going forward. If the existing staff had difficulty with their tools of trade, what challenges were the new social workers going to experience? Why had there been a massive jump in expenditure for programme one from quarter three to quarter four, if targets had not been met? What impact would the targets not being met have on service delivery? What money would not be coming back to the Department due to targets not being met?
The Chairperson said that if the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework, the integrated management framework and entity oversight were unstable, it was a skewed way of running an institution. The key instruments that ensured the Department was on course in a reliable way were not in place. It was like saying the tail was functioning while there was no head. If one said that the Social Development White Paper was the blueprint for the Department, the challenge was then, what was the Department doing if the blueprint was not in place?
Mr Mchunu said that despite not reaching targets, significant progress had still been made, with an achievement rate of about 80-85%. There were indeed challenges with the M&E framework, but the Department now had 10 out of 12 systems that had been integrated. It now had a social development integrated case system that allowed information to be exchanged between the DSD and the South African Police Services (SAPS) on child suspect arrests.
All programmes of the Department had a focus on gender-empowerment or on GBV prevention and awareness. It had now designed programmes that took into consideration the felt needs of the recipients of the programmes, and this was reflected in the APP and strategic plan.
He would look into the questions that were raised in the meeting in March regarding consequence management that had not been answered.
The disability rating of the Department’s staff complement was at 1.4%, and part of the reason was because the branch had moved from the DSD to the Presidency. All current recruitment advertisements encouraged people with disabilities to apply.
The Department had launched three impact evaluation studies which would focus on food and poverty, services rendered to children and on the impact of the special R350 COVID19 grant.
The majority of targets that dealt with legislation had been dealt with. About three or four pieces of legislation would be processed in the next two to three months. The COVID19 crisis was new for everyone, so the Department was learning as it went along, especially in respect of the needs of the people compared to the available resources. It had begun digitising many of its processes, and this had been also done in SASSA. An example of this was that one no longer needed to go into a DSD office to register an NPO, but instead it could be done online. Due to budget constraints, the Department was strengthening partnerships with organisations such as the Solidarity Fund. These organisations were not only pouring in finances, but were also assisting the Department to reach its targets.
Ms Connie Nxumalo, Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, DSD, said there was not necessarily a policy gap, despite the White Paper on Social Development being in review. Once Cabinet had approved the White Paper, current methods would no longer be used, and it would inform the Social Development legislation mentioned by Mr Mchunu. She agreed that passing the White Paper needed to be fast-tracked.
There were programmes being run on reducing the stigma around HIV/AIDS, such as the one the DSD had partnered with the South African National Aids Council (SANAC). This programme had recently partnered with people in the religious sector, who had been trained to assist in this regard, and would be rolled-out this year. Young people and children were supposed to get HIV/AIDS services at home through community-based care programmes. If there was specific case, the Department would like to follow up on this, as this group should not be exposed to such a situation. and needed the services and protection which was being offered.
The ECD programme was implemented through the national integrated ECD policy, which had a forum where the DSD communicated with all the other departments on the matter. The service delivery model for ECD was a target that was initially within the DSD, but it was now managed by the DBE in this financial year.
The anti-gangsterism target had been achieved, and there was a report on it. The training had been done in December. This would be corrected in the report.
Mr Peter Netshipale, Deputy Director-General: Integrated Development, DSD, said NPO registrations needed to be processed within two months, according to the NPO Act. It usually took the Department two weeks to register NPOs, unless there were situations that arose that were beyond its control. In 2019, the Department had road shows where it went to communities to register NPOs outside of the office. This had required it to invest in laptops. With the “Know Your Status” campaign, many NPOs had come forth to register, so in the third quarter there had been more applications compared to the fourth quarter.
The non-payment to the Albinism Society and ABBA Adoption Services had been due to the requirements between the Department and NPOs specified in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). If the NPO had not used the funds for the purposes agreed upon, subsequent funds could not be allocated, and that was why money had not been transferred.
Ms Brenda Sibeko, Deputy Director-General: Social Security, DSD said that a comprehensive study on the Child Support Grant (CSG) had been done in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). There had been many interesting findings with regard to the impact of CSG, one being that children who received the grant had better cognitive development compared to children that did not. These children stayed at school longer and had better height in relation to age compared to children that did not receive the CSG. The impact assessment also found that these children were less likely to partake in transactional sex. The cost of running the study had been high, and it had not been updated yet.
There had also been a less comprehensive study done on the impact of the old age grant. People who lived in households with a person receiving an old age grant were more likely to have the capacity to seek work, using funds given to them by the older person. Another study would be performed that would assess the new COVID19 R350 grant.
Mr Fanie Esterhuizen, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): DSD, said that when the R93 million had been allocated to DSD, there had not been sufficient time for Treasury to allocate R33 million to CoE and R60 million to goods and services. Thus, the full R33 million had been given to goods and services. The Department would add this to the current baseline for CoE and would correct any overspending that might occur. There had ended up being an overspending of R1.7 million on CoE, and the DSD had asked Treasury to shift some of the funding back to CoE to correct this.
The DSD was working with the Albinism Society and ABBA Adoption Services to ensure that they were compliant. It was doing everything possible to ensure that they got their funding, but in some cases the organisations were not assisting the Department. It would continue working hard to correct this.
The over expenditure related to goods and services was mostly attributable to IT. The expenditure was indeed high. The systems were for the national Department, while SASSA and the National Development Agency (NDA) were responsible for their own systems. The DSD had tried its best to get the Department to the right level in terms of IT infrastructure.
With regard to foreign payments, there had been donor funding the prior financial year from the German Development Bank. The DSD had had to refund some of the money to the bank due to tax, which had accumulated to about R3 million. The NPOs, NGOs and national councils were funded by DSD, and some funds had been transferred only in the last quarter of the year. They had not been funded at the beginning of the year because they still had funding from the prior financial year, and still needed to submit progress reports and the compliance documents.
DSD Update on COVID19 Response
Ms Nxumalo provided the Committee with a comprehensive update on the Department’s response to COVID19:
Early Childhood Development (ECD)
All 28 000 ECD facilities, accommodating 2.1 million children had been closed, and nutrition for these children had been suspended. Parents had stopped paying fees, resulting in 83% of ECD staff not receiving full salaries. However, the DSD had continued paying ECD subsidies, children had benefited from the “knock and drop” food parcels, and registered ECD staff had received support from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
South Africa had about 14 million people -- 24% of the population -- who were food insecure and experienced hunger prior to COVID-19 pandemic. With the lock-down, food security had become a national crisis and about 50% of the population was at risk of food insecurity. The DSD had received a donation of R23.5 million from the Solidarity Fund, and an additional R20 million had been allocated from the Disaster Fund to augment the Solidarity Fund shortfall in the food parcel price of R400.
Gender-based violence (GBV)
The incidence of GBV had undoubtedly increased during the lockdown period. The GBV Command Centre had received 4 983 calls for the period from 1 March to 26 March 2020, but for the period from 27 March to 30 May, which was during the lockdown, the total calls received were 40 774. The general increase in calls was due to advertisement of the GBVCC services to the public; the provision of trauma counselling and psychosocial support in relation to COVID-19; and seeking information and advice on the Department’s Social Relief of Distress Fund.
There had been a demand for sheltering to protect homeless persons from contracting and spreading COVID-19. 193 had been opened for the homeless, reaching 14 000, but due to self discharge and some shelters closing down, the current numbers stood at 11 851. This process revealed policy gaps, as the roles and responsibilities across different departments around the management of homelessness were not clear. Guidelines for shelters for homeless persons had been developed, and services provided included psychosocial support, food, accommodation, personal protective equipment (PPEs), dignity packs, and screening and assessment. However, the resources were inadequate, as R50 million had been exhausted from the Social Relief of Disaster Fund.
Community-based activities and active ageing programmes had been suspended, resulting in a lack of contact with families, leading to loneliness, while vulnerability and weak immune systems made them susceptible to infections. 199 health workers in the old age homes were trained on COVID-19, and PPEs had been procured for all old age homes. There had been a staggering of payment dates to deal with long queues that compromised social distancing, to the detriment of the elderly.
DSD institutions and facilities
There had been closure of partial care facilities and drop-in centres, limiting the provision of broader child protection services such as meals, school work and play. Community nutrition development centres that provide cooked meals had also had to be closed. However, training had been provided to medical staff in DSD facilities to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, and food had been provided through “knock and drop.”
Disability rights mainstreaming
There had been limited mainstreaming of disability rights. Sign language interpreters had been included in all COVID-19 media briefings, and this was ongoing. Disability rights mainstreaming had been included in the amended regulations published on 2 April to provide for the safety and protection of persons with disabilities, and disability rights directions had been completed.
There had been abuse and neglect of children during the lockdown. The limited movement of children had limited the exercise of parental responsibilities and right by co-holders, resulting in infringement on the rights of the child. There had been litigations and complaints by the parents and children. An amendment had been made to the directions and regulations.
Because of the increased need for psychosocial support, 1 809 social workers had been recruited for three months from June. However, other provinces such as the Free State would be appointing social workers for a year. The expanded recruitment of social workers had including unemployed social workers. A total of R33million had been allocated.
South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)
Ms Totsie Memela-Khambula, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): SASSA, said that since the start of the lockdown, approximately 13 million applications and/or enquiries had been received, including messages inquiring about the Covid19 grant. As at Monday 7 June, 6 596 216 were valid and complete applications. The rest were either duplicate applications or incomplete, or had inconsistent data, or were just pure enquiries. Most of the enquiries had come from the 18 to 30 age group – only 4 222 applicants had been older than 59.
SASSA planned to complete payments to the million South African Post Office (SAPO) accounts in the current week if all were received from the Post Bank by midday on Thursday. Collection would have to be staggered, however, to restrict numbers and allow social distancing. The transfer through mobile money facilities at banks would commence on 15 June, provided that all matters, such as memorandums of understanding and cellphone validations, were in place. The R350 SRD grant had been paid through EFT to 191 000 people, and 453 000 people had been paid via the Post Office. The hope was that one million people would be paid by 16 June. To date, 600 000 people had been paid
The challenge SASSA was facing was that demand was exceeding the supply. The number of valid applications was still growing quickly by the day, and the actual funds available amount to R3.5 billion. This could serve only 1.6 million to 2 million people, assuming they all applied in the first month, so the demand would certainly outweigh the available resources. Current estimates were that 50% would be eligible.
SASSA was anticipating possible legal challenges arising from the exclusion of asylum seekers, as well as other administrative challenges, such as the validation required to ensure that money was paid into the right account or to the correct cell-phone numbers. The challenge lay primarily with accessing Regulation of Interception of Communication Act (RICA) information for cellphone number verification.
Mr Stock asked what lessons had been learnt from COVID19, including responses and interventions from Government? Following the pandemic, did the Department anticipate that there would be an improvement in the lives of the people? Would it implement some sort of post-COVID19 intervention? Had it addressed the issue of lack of uniformity in the provision of food parcels? Had it put in mechanisms to address the issues of food distribution in regard to the regulations? How had the Department addressed the circumstances faced in rural areas, with Community Nutrition and Development Centres (CNDCs) being closed? Had there been progress in addressing accountability and non-compliance?
Ms Van der Merwe asked if the Department was still on track with the timeframe to pay all the recipients of the R350 grant by the end of June. There were complaints from people that they had received notification that they had been provisionally approved and had given their bank account details, but had received no further communication -- was there a way for people to follow up with their applications? There was a shortfall, as there were 3.1 million people who had been determined as being eligible, but the Department could pay only 1.6 million recipients -- what was it going to do about the shortfall? Did this mean that the Department was not taking further applications because there was no money, or would it go back to Treasury to try and find money? The RICA specification was problematic as a verifying mechanism, as people have used other people's cellphones, and when matching the information, this may cause an issue. How many foreign nationals were receiving a SASSA grant? There were reports that some SASSA offices did not have PPE -- had the Department been able to address that? ECD centres may possibly open when they were ready -- were there timeframes for this? Were there further interventions being made for GBV?
Ms Abrahams asked when the Department would provide the Committee with an updated presentation on the ECD work streams that were under way. Was the SASSA Bellville office open, as she had been getting queries and received no response to her inquiries to the local and regional managers. In cases where staff had tested positive for COVID19, and SASSA offices had had to close, what communication channels were SASSA using to inform the public that an office was closed, especially for people with appointments at SASSA? How was it determined how many people SASSA offices could see in a day? Would overtime be considered due to the high volumes of people as a result of some offices closing? At the end of March, it had been determined that 18.1 million people would be on the grant system – had there been a prediction for how many people would be on the system by the end of the current quarter? An article in the George Herald in the Western Cape had indicated that the SASSA national directive on disability grant applications stated that people would no longer have new medical appointments until November 2020, and requested that clients apply for the COVID19 R350 grant instead -- was this correct information?
Ms Mvana asked the Department what current issues it was grappling with in terms of its COVID19 response, and what was being done to rectify the issues. How did it anticipate sustaining the programmes implemented under COVID19, after the pandemic had receded? Had the people whose applications had been rejected, been informed?
Ms Manganye asked what mechanisms had been used to reach out to people who lived on the peripheries of rural areas. What measures were in place to minimise interference in compiling the lists for food parcels?
Ms Arries said that according to the presentation, when one added up the payment method figures there were about 400 000 beneficiaries paid, yet the SASSA CEO was reporting that there were about 600 000 beneficiaries who had been paid, and she asked for clarification. The ECD facilities were a place of safety for six million children, so what guidance had been given to them, other than to remain closed? What was the Department’s plan to ensure the safety of the people who had left the homeless shelters? What had SASSA offices put in place to improve services for elderly people?
Ms Suckers asked what service provider was used for IT, as this question had not be answered in the previous discussion. She referred to the ongoing assassinations on the Cape flats, saying people had been assassinated in the daytime, women included. On Wednesday 10 June, a man had been assassinated with his two-year-old child. What was the Department doing during COVID19 to work with communities on anti-gangsterism? It was important for the Committee to be informed if communities felt they were under siege by gangs. She asked the DSD to provide a list to the Committee of the NPOs being used to distribute food, and the amounts given to them to distribute food. She appealed to the Department to use churches, synagogues and the religious establishments to distribute food, to bring down the cost of food distribution. What was the reason for the slow process of the SRD grants? Was the DSD reaching out to financial institutions to help the “missing middle” so that they did not suffer any additional losses through their businesses being closed because of COVID19?
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) asked which provinces intended appointing the social workers for a year. Were there statistics of elderly people in old age homes who had been infected by COVID19? How many homeless people had self-discharged from homeless shelters, and did the Department know the reasons for this? How many of those that had self-discharged were known to be involved in substance abuse? What safety plans and referral pathways had been established for GBV? How many people had participated in online counselling for GBV? Of the 1.2 million children that benefit from the ECD programmes when they were operational, how many had been provided for with the “knock and drop” food parcels? Did the Department oversee the process of UIF claims for ECD workers, or did they see to it individually? Was it possible to hear from the Members of the Executive Councils (MECs) of each province on their response to COVID19?
Ms T Breedt (FF+) asked how far the ECD work streams were in their processes. Was there a timeframe for ECDs reopening, considering the staggered approach for the reopening of schools? As people went back to work, there had been queries about when ECDs would reopen, as parents had nowhere to take their children. There had been a lot of reports, and some governing bodies had interpreted the regulations given by the Minister of Basic Education to mean that Grade-R ECD programmes may reopen on 6 July. However, the DBE media release on 4 June stated that they would not open, and directives would be given. She asked the ADG to give an indication of which statement should be followed. Was SASSA verifying grant applications from May, as people had been complaining to her that they had not been verified? For people who have been rejected for the SRD grant, would the status check reflect that they had been declined?
Ms Nxumalo said that the ECD work streams had almost been concluded. Assessments would begin being conducted on 15 June. Once they were complete, a date would be given for the ECDs to be reopened. The Gazette that referred to ECDs opening with Grade-R would be amended.
The Free State was the only province that would employ social workers for a total of 12 months, while the other provinces would employ them for only three months. The Department would negotiate with Treasury to extend the contracts of the three-month social worker contracts.
The Department would provide in writing the statistics of older persons who had contracted COVID19, with an outline of which old age homes had been affected. It would provide the GBV safety plans and referral paths to the Committee in writing as well.
There were 193 homeless shelters, and 14 000 people being sheltered. The numbers of people in shelters had dropped to 11 000. The statistical numbers needed to be compiled to indicate the numbers according to each shelter and, where possible, provide an indication of how many that had self-discharged were substances abusers.
Mr Netshipale said the Department suspected that COVID19 would affect the NPO compliance, and had therefore extended the de-registration period to the end of October. It was coordinating food distribution to ensure that there was uniformity, but each province may add items. However, the basic items were always there in terms of nutritional value and quantity.
The DSD profiled all households to identify their needs, even in remote areas. These profiles had been used in the COVID19 response. People in remote areas had been reached during COVID19, and some had been receiving assistance from the Department before COVID19. For example, in Gauteng an open line had been created where people could call and request a food parcel. They were assessed and then received their food parcel.
Food distribution for school children and the ECD facilities was a challenge. Food was just provided to households in need, but the households where children were at ECDs needed to be identified.
Ms Memela-Khambula said that 944 000 refugees received SASSA grants of all types.
She clarified that the reason she had said that there were over 600 000 beneficiaries who received the R350 SRD grant, which differed from the presentation, was because she had added the payment that had been rolled-out on the day of the meeting. SASSA would reach the one million mark by 16 June. In cases where beneficiaries had provided their bank details but were yet to receive payment was because the bank verification had been done. RICA verification was proving to be a challenge, as they did not always use their own sim cards, and SASSA could not pay into an account without knowing whose account it was. This was also to minimise fraud and ensure that people received their grants.
There was PPE in all branches, and there were no areas that did not have PPE to her knowledge. She constantly engaged with the regions to establish what had been bought and for how much, to monitor the procurement and status of PPE in the branches. The Bellville office would be opened on Monday 15 June.
The disability grant would be discussed on Friday 12 June. In order for one to be approved for a disability grant, one must go to a health facility. However, these facilities were focusing on COVID19 at this time, so support for these people would be discussed at the workshop.
Mr Mchunu said the Department was in an advanced stage of discussions with Treasury regarding the shortfall in budget for the SRD grant.
The IT anti-virus programmes had been procured as an enterprise anti-virus solution because of the cyber risks, and covered both software and infrastructure. It had come with a set of boxes that had to be installed in the offices. The programme that the Department previously had was not as advanced as the current one. It had been procured from a traversal contract through the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).
The Department was ensuring that programmes that were not COVID19 related were still continuing. It had also amended the targets in the APP which had been affected by COVID19, and introduced new targets.
All departments and provinces had been on board regarding the directions on food distribution, and the Department would gazette this soon. This would increase the uniformity of food parcels. COVID19 had pushed the Department to leverage technology, so it was building IT infrastructure to assist in its functions, such as the automation of some of the services.
Minister’s concluding comments
Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, said that where possible, the Department would send answers to questions in writing, as the speed in which things were done may not adequately portray the work of the Department.
She thanked the Members for their continuous oversight. The Department was trying to improve its systems in response to the insights raised by the Committee. COVID19 had imposed challenges on the Department, but it continued to strive to work quickly and efficiently.
The opening of SASSA offices, and the impact COVID19 had on the people working in the offices, had posed challenges. Members needed to be considerate of the regulations to which the offices were bound when they opened. It was difficult for the staff at these offices, but they were trying their best.
The number of GBV incidents was continuously increasing, and the services the Department provided under normal circumstances were being strained. It was not only a DSD responsibility, but also departments such as the Department of Justice and the SA Police Service (SAPS).
Her heart went out to the families of the victims of the recent GBV cases -- Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo, and the women in the Eastern Cape. With COVID19, it could be seen that people had changed their behaviour, adhered to regulations and taken the matter very seriously. GBV needed to be met with the same seriousness.
The Department was doing well in reporting to national structures that were dealing with COVID19. The Department of Health received first priority, with the Department of Social Development following. Behavioral change was necessary, and the DSD needed to be at the forefront of this. A redirection of programmes had been needed to meet the challenges of COVID19. However, the DSD was beyond the R350 grant, and must not lose sight of its overall functions.
The Committee had requested a meeting with the MECs of the provinces, which had been done in the past. If the Department met with the MECs to have a constant update from them on the situation in the provinces, it could not stop the Members from participating, and would assist with the co-ordination.
SASSA had done its best in dealing with the SRD grant. The Department wanted to look beyond the six months to ensure that people did not go hungry, and that the available resources would be utilised to the benefit of the people.
There were legal challenges over the validity of the lockdown regulations, the criteria for the SRD grants, and the reopening of the ECDCs. The DSD would continue to work closely with the national structures to ensure that coordination between local, provincial and national government was taken seriously. If there was no coordination, they would never be able to defeat COVID19. There was a collective responsibility as government to empower the citizens with the right information. The virus was still rife, and this information needed to be disseminated so that the people could take individual responsibility as members of society.
The meeting was adjourned.
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