Committee members sent heartfelt messages to Chairperson Mondli Gungubele, wishing him a speedy recovery from COVID19.
The Department of Social Development (DSD) and its agencies reported on the reprioritisations made to their original budgets and revisions to their annual performance plans.
SASSA received notice in June 2020 that the additional funding requested was not approved and SASSA was advised to reprioritise its current allocation. The only budget item that received additional funding is social grant transfers. SASSA has made a special request to National Treasury to spend the uncommitted R530 million from the 2018/19 retained cash surplus approved in 2019/20. The response from Treasury is still pending
The National Development Agency (NDA) said Covid-19 has had major implications on its operations, particularly the service delivery programmes as they ordinarily require face to face interactions with CSOs. As a result, the NDA is developing an e-solution to digitise its range of service offerings to CSOs and improve its reach. The NDA has embarked on a Volunteer Support Programme, which is a hallmark of NDA’s Covid-19 response plan, to help combat the effects of COVID-19.
The MP questions and concerns will be replied to in writing. The Deputy Minister did note in her response that gender-based violence (GBV) was not mentioned in the revised annual performance plan or in the July COVID-19 special adjustments budget as these targets and budgets remain unchanged from the original documents tabled in Parliament in February. The GBV targets and interventions remain as approved by the Committee. Targets for homeless shelters have also not been changed.
The court order about early childhood development (ECD) centres dealt with the reopening of private ECD centres. The private ECD centres may reopen but must be compliant with COVID-19 protocols which they will be monitored on. Government ECD centres will reopen at the appropriate time and when all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) suitable for children are present in those centres.
Public officials that have applied for the R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRD) grant are being investigated. Some officials applied for the grant using their device on behalf of someone else and they need to be excluded from those who had intentions of committing fraud.
Concerns about the disability grant, the social relief of distress R350 grant and food distribution will be addressed in an information booklet.
Mr D Stock (ANC) was elected Acting Co-Chairperson as the Portfolio Committee Chairperson was ill with COVID19.
Deputy Minister opening remarks
Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister of Social Development, stated that the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres will open in an environment that is conducive to children. All children will receive Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks attached to hats and alcohol-free sanitizers that would be suitable for their skin. The delay in opening government ECD centres was due to the need for the adjustments budget to allow for the necessary measures to be put in place especially in rural areas.
The Department has launched the new blueprint for the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) and it commits to ensuring that the NDMP will be implemented fully. She appealed to the Committee to work alongside other Committees as a mini NDMP will be distributed and the assistance from the Committee will be appreciated.
The Department is on course for introducing revised strategies for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) interventions. The Department is beginning to make a dent in the state of GBV and is beginning to understand the underlying issues previously not achieved by government.
Department of Social Development (DSD) Special Adjustments Budget
Mr Linton Mchunu, DSD Acting Director-General, stated that no changes have been made to the Vision, Mission, Values, Impact Statement and Outcomes in the Strategic Plan. There are seven new targets related to COVID19.
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, DSD Chief Director: Community Development, went through each of the five programmes and identified what had changed in the revised Annual Performance Plan (APP) and what new items had been added (see document). For example, the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Framework implemented was deleted and replaced with an electronic M&E System for the Social Sector. The digital M&E system will collect real time data that feeds into a dashboard that tracks, monitors and reports on DSD services during COVID19 and beyond. DSD will design and implement an impact evaluation study of COVID19 especially on food distribution and the R350 Special Grant.
Transfer of R200.6 billion to SASSA and R40 Billion in additional allocations for the top-up grants and the R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant will be footnoted as they are temporary and cannot form part of the annual targets. A draft policy proposal on the feasibility of income support to 18 to 59 year olds has been completed.
The ECD Human Resource strategy developed for ages 0 - 4 years cohort has been deleted and the budget as well as human capacity has been redirected towards the COVID19 ECD programme. 100 master trainers trained on the Parenting Programme has been deleted and the reprioritisation of budget moved to COVID19 ECD programme. Master trainers are local social workers who currently do not have the tools of trade to consider training through virtual means.
Mr Fanie Esterhuizen, DSD CFO, showed what had been reprioritised from the original budget tabled in Parliament in February. R25.473 billion was additionally allocated for the R350 grant and the top-up grant for a period of six months. The budget allocation for ECD Infrastructure has been repurposed towards PPE procurement to ensure ECD centres prepare their sites for reopening by facilitating the supply of essential goods necessary to support basic health and hygiene practices at ECD sites. R23 million has been reprioritised from main programmes to fund the PPE procurement for DSD facilities and for the National DSD Office. R33 million has been reprioritised from Goods and Services in Programme 4: Welfare Services for the appointment of 1 809 social workers for a period of three months.
National Development Agency (NDA) Special Adjustments Budget
Ms Thamo Mzobe, NDA CEO, stated that in its response to COVID19 the NDA has created a volunteer support programme, digitisation of CSO development initiatives, grant funding programme, and developed COVID19 health and safety measures for staff for the duration of the pandemic.
NDA’s targets for 'work opportunities created' has been increased due to the implementation of the Volunteer Support Programme. The Capacity Building Programme along with other NDA programmes will be digitised and targets have been adjusted accordingly. These were the main areas of adjustment in the APP.
Ms Karen Muthen, NDA CFO, noted the amounts that had been reprioritised:
• Low priority vacant posts have been postponed to the next financial year and the reprioritised vacant posts staggered for appointment later in 2020/21: R9.6 million.
• Travel budget reduced due to lockdown restrictions: R3.8 million.
• Non-renewal of operating leases reaching contract termination date and provincial and district office closure: R1.7 million.
• District office set-up costs reprioritised due to freeze on contracting for office space: R 1.5 million.
• IT capex costs, implementation of disaster recovery site and grant funding module were delayed: R1.1m.
South Africa Social Service Agency (SASSA) Special Adjustments Budget
Ms Raphaahle Ramokgopa, SASSA Executive Manager: Strategy and Business Development, stated that its primary outcome is to reduce poverty levels. Targets such as the R250 top-up of social grants implemented from May 2020 to October 2020 and the R500 new special COVID19 caregiver grant implemented from June to October 2020, and the new COVID19 R350 SRD grant has been implemented. Temporary disability grants, care dependency and foster care grants which lapsed from February to June 2020 are reinstated or continue to be paid from the date they were suspended until end of October 2020.
The target of '15% of social grant reviews processed' in the review policy has been removed from the APP due to the targets being time bound and time lost in Quarter 1 will compromise these targets. Instead the remaining period will be utilised for this.
The target of 'new beneficiaries biometrics enrolled by SASSA' has been removed from the APP due to there being no guidelines in the COVID-19 Regulations on the usage of biometrics. However, sharing of devices during the process of systems access and enrolment becomes hazardous.
Mr Tsakeriwa Chauke, SASSA CFO, said that in June 2020 SASSA received a communique which indicated the R296.8m additional funding requested for implementation of the R350 SRD Grant was not approved and SASSA was advised to reprioritise its current budget allocation for the implementation of the special grant. The only budget item that received additional funding is social grant transfers. SASSA has made a special request to National Treasury to spend the uncommitted R530 million from the 2018/19 retained cash surplus approved in 2019/20. The response from Treasury is still pending.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) noted that DSD has been submitting its presentation documents to the Committee late and the rule is for presentations to be sent 48 hours before the meeting. She asked for the current backlog on the SRD grant? Is there a review process underway for the SRD grant? Is there a place people can contact SASSA for assistance about grants especially the SRD grant? How did negotiations go with Treasury for the SRD grant? What are the budget implications for including asylum seekers and people with special permits in the SRD grant? She commended SASSA for transitioning to online grant applications.
Ms van der Merwe asked where the additional school workers will be placed, and to which National Director they will be reporting. What services will the social workers mentioned provide?
Ms A Maleka (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked if rural youth will be included in the youth education and awareness programmes given that they do not have access to the internet.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) was concerned about the revised APP and budget. Treasury has not given DSD enough money. If government does not invest in the people, there is no use in investing in material possessions. Women, children and people with disabilities are invisible to Treasury when one considers Treasury’s lack of support. For instance, the budget cuts for training of social workers, parent programme interventions and for criminal intervention programmes. Are the Child Support Grant top-ups at least safe?
None of the targets presented speak to GBV. May this be clarified? ECD centres need to be portrayed as more than colouring-in and babysitting. The 60-page Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) is a guideline but not mandatory. There is no gazetted mandate for the reopening ECD centres yet ECD centres are reopening. Her concern is that Government lands up in court due to the 60-page hard-to-follow SOP document that is only available in English which will result in many children being left behind. She asked for a legal perspective on this matter.
Ms L Arries (EFF) asked if disability grant applicants will be entitled to a payout from the day the doctor approved them or only from the time the application is processed. How many public service officials applied for the SRD grant and what will the consequence for this action be? Applicants for the R350 SRD have reported previously receiving an SMS stating their applications were declined. Their applications have since been updated to pending. Please provide an indication when these will be fully processed. How will rural youth be included in the sexual health programme? What are the alternative measures for dealing with the remaining labour relations challenges?
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) was concerned about funds and targets for GBV, poverty alleviation, homelessness and drug abuse. The presentation speaks very little on GBV, the homeless and drug abuse shelters. What are the long-term plans for this? R50 billion was allocated from the R500 billion relief package to be spent on social grants from May-October 2020. What is happening with the food parcels? Communication on food parcels has gone silent and there is now no direction on this. Please provide feedback on the SRD grant; will people be assisted by October? Why has it taken DSD so long to reopen the ECD centres? It has caused massive job losses as well as economic losses in this sector.
Ms B Masango (DA) said that statements made by the Minister, Deputy Minister and Acting Director General expressed the need for more effort to be made to bring social services to the ground due to the social ills experienced right now. This means that social workers need to be deployed. However, it seems that this is not happening with some being brought on board for only three months.
A staggering of grant payments is occurring but there seems to be confusion on the part of SASSA. SASSA head office and the people on the ground are not coordinated as some people are told that if they receive the child support grants, they cannot apply for the R350 SRD grant. Please can this be clarified? What is the status of food parcels versus food vouchers? Hunger is increasing across the country.
Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) stated that there is an increase in GBV. The media reported that a two-year-old child was raped at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital while in the COVID19 isolation ward. This crime is unfathomable and the perpetrator deserves the death sentence. Where were the nurses and staff when this incident occurred? What is the Department of Justice doing about this tragic matter?
The parenting programme has been deleted as a result of the lack of training for social workers. Has an alternative been considered such as the virtual training of social workers? What is the implication of the reduction from 500 to only 180 social workers being capacitated? Have alternative methods been explored?
Ms N Ngondeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked for clarity as some applicants of the R350 SRD grant have received a message stating they have been approved for the grant but have received no further communication and it has been over two months. How many volunteer work opportunities have been made available by NDA? The NDA has received a large budget for this. She requested a breakdown per province.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) said that the country is in the situation it is in due to the procrastination of DSD. If the recommendations from the Taylor Committee in 2002 had been implemented, South Africa would not be in this position. DSD is in discussions on the feasibility of the Basic Income Grant (BIG). However, if DSD was interested in this, it would have stipulated this in the budget. It is not enough that the R350 grant will be available until October 2020.
GBV is a national crisis and this needs to be spoken to by the Department every time it addresses the Committee. Nothing in the budget speaks to women and children. This means women and children mean nothing in this country. People with a disability are told to apply for the R350 SRD grant instead of the R1860 disability grant they are entitled to. The reason for this was to protect district surgeons from coming face-to-face with these clients during this time of COVID19. However, the district surgeons have come forth and said they are willing to see clients. DSD must explain what the holdup is.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) are solely responsible for the NDA Volunteer Support Programme. This is concerning as CSOs associated with the NDA have been problematic in the past in their reporting and compliance. Ms Ngwenya was concerned that the R32 million allocated to these CSOs will not be used in a proper way. Out of the 500 social workers that were supposed to be capacitated, only 180 will now be trained. This is disheartening. Money was spent on sending these social workers to school and now they will not have the opportunity to serve the country.
The NDA stated that it plans to use community organisations in manufacturing PPE. It would be nice for the NDA to come to the Committee and advise which organisations it has identified for this. Ms Ngwenya pointed out that the previous written responses from DSD have been delayed and/or not sent at all.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) remarked that considering no maintenance was done on ECD centres during the first three months of lockdown, does DSD anticipate that maintenance will be necessary since there are no funds for this? Ms Breedt had received complaints stating that DSD officials have threatened private ECD centres that are reopened following the court judgment. Is DSD aware of this?
Social workers in the North West that work with veterans have been informed that there are no funds and that their stipend will be stopped. Is DSD aware of this and what is being done about this? What can people do if their disability grant has lapsed and are no longer receiving their grant despite all grants been extended? A young woman applied for an SRD grant but instead received a pension grant. She is concerned about this; where can she be directed to resolve this? Is SASSA aware of such glitches?
Ms J Manganye (ANC) stated that people in the North West Province are yet to receive the SRD grant as they are unable to apply as they do not have gadgets that can allow them to apply via the USSD line and offices are closed due to a shortage of staff. However, these people still flock to the offices. Why have the NDA volunteers not engaged with these people? DSD communications are not reaching the ground. She criticised DSD for not mentioning women and children in the budget. She wanted a provincial budget breakdown for women and children.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) said that within her constituency, two social workers have lost their lives to COVID19. She encouraged all the Members to remain safe at this time. GBV needs to be mentioned by departments as the media is reporting how it is becoming increasingly rife. She was concerned about vacant posts and asked what DSD's plan is to handle this. She stated that the real adjustments budget in October needs to be prepared for.
Ms A Motaung (ANC) asked what alternative methods DSD has explored to ensure that the reduced targets will not have great implications by involving other Government Departments. SASSA has changed existing targets within core business, what are the implications of targets such as payments of suppliers within 100 days and conclusion of financial misconduct cases? How much money has been moved from programme to programme? What process is the NDA using for the recruitment of volunteers?
Ms M Gillion (ANC) asked what measures are in place to curb overcrowding at SASSA offices. People on the ground are hungry and dying, all of whom look to DSD and its agencies.
Deputy Minister closing remarks
Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu stated that all questions will be responded to in writing. She pointed out that the Department briefed the Committees only on the targets that were changing. Targets on GBV have not changed and thus the Department did not present these. The targets and interventions on GBV remain as approved by the Committee. GBV is still important to the Department and thus no reductions or changes have been made to these targets and budget.
The court order about ECD centres was about the opening of private ECD centres. These centres operate on a Social Development licence. One of the critical areas the Judge spoke to was that as much as the right has been granted for private ECDs to open, they must be compliant. ECD centres that have opened need to be monitored for compliance in terms of COVID-19 protocols.
The Department repurposed the ECD infrastructure grant for new ECD centres. These capital projects have been delayed. Centres that have already been approved will continue being constructed this year. The Department supports NPOs that run ECD centres. Money for the construction of ECD centres will be allocated in 2021/22.
Targets for homeless shelters have not been changed so that is the reason DSD did not present on this. The Department notes the concerns about the disability grant, the SRD grant and food distribution concerns. This will be addressed in a booklet that will help Members to answer questions within their constituencies.
Public officials that applied for the SRD grant are being investigated. Some officials applied for the grant using their device for someone else and they need to be excluded from those who had intentions of committing fraud.
The training of social workers is in line with the original APP and budget. DSD is taking into consideration the scholarships given to social workers and continues to absorb new social workers. Not all the 1 809 social workers that have been employed have started, this will be detailed in the written response to the Committees.
The Social Assistance Act indicates that DSD is supposed to admit asylum seekers and refugees to social interventions once Home Affairs documentation has been obtained. The challenge initially faced was people waiting in the queue at Home Affairs which it did not note. SASSA will indicate the implications of this particular transition.
The NDA volunteers are assigned to nonprofit organisations (NPOs) whose services DSD utilises. This list of these NPOs are available and DSD will indicate more details about this in writing. Vacant posts are being filled; however, some posts will not be filled as per the advice given by the Department of Public Services and Administration (DPSA) and due to the restructuring of DSD.
The capacity of social workers seems as though it has been reduced; however, the 100 social workers referred to are national social workers and the remaining social workers have been moved to provincial level.
The Acting Director General, Mr Mchunu, replied that according to the Department’s records, it has responded to all questions raised in previous meetings in writing. It shall revert back to the Committee Secretary about this. DSD is committed to responding to Committee members.
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