There were no representatives of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) or the national Department of Social Development present to brief the Committee on what percentage of the alleged R1 billion in irregular expenditure by SASSA had been incurred in the Western Cape. Correspondence had been received from SASSA stating that it would not attend as it was a national body and reported directly to the national Minister, who was accountable to national Parliament. It had suggested that the Committee should write a letter to the national Minister.
Members felt SASSA’s response was appalling, and that there was a need to find a way to deal appropriately with it. The Minister had also been invited to the meeting, but had not responded to any correspondence written to her. The Members argued that as SASSA was working for all the provinces, the Committee did have a right to question it, and that the Chairperson should write to the Minister and clarify the matter.
The Social Assistance Amendment Bill, a section 76 Bill currently in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), which had been referred to the Committee on 27 June, had been tabled and the Committee would get a briefing on it from the national Department of Social Development on 28 July.
The Chairperson said the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) had been invited to give a briefing on what percentage of the alleged R1 billion in irregular expenditure by SASSA had occurred in the Western Cape, because 1.3 million people in the province were reliant on it for support.
There were no representatives of SASSA or the national Department of Social Development present at the meeting, although an email had been received from SASSA saying they would not be able to attend.
Ms W Philander (DA) asked if SASSA had provided any reason why they could not attend.
The Chairperson referred to the letter he had received from the regional executive manager of SASSA in the Western Cape. It had restructured its organisation, and the Western Cape now fell in a region that included the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. The regional manager had consulted with the chief executive officer (CEO) on the invitation, and SASSA had said it was a national body and reported directly to the national Minister who was accountable to national Parliament. He suggested a letter be written to the national Minister. An invitation to attend the meeting had been sent to the Minister, as well as a request that SASSA be allowed to present to the Committee.
Mr R Mackenzie (DA) said SASSA’s response was appalling, and there was a need to find a way to deal appropriately with it.
The Chairperson said the Minister had not responded to any correspondence written to her.
Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) said that as SASSA was working for all the provinces, the Committee did have a right to question SASSA, so the Chairperson should write to the Minister and clarify the matter.
The Chairperson said he would be writing to Minister Zulu on the matter, and ask her to make herself available.
The Committee moved on to adopt its meeting minutes, its 2019/20 annual report, its quarterly reports for January-March 2020 and April-June 2020, as well as the tracking document which listed its visits, activities, recommendations and resolutions. The oversight visits were to the Department of Social Development offices in Vredendal on 12 February, and a visit to the Clanwilliam Child and Youth Care Centre.
The Chairperson then tabled the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, a section 76 Bill currently in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), which had been referred to the Committee on 27 June. The Committee would get a briefing on the Bill by the national Department of Social Development on 28 July. At that meeting, the Committee could decide on the public hearings and public participation processes for the Bill. He added that the next meeting would have the public hearings on the Western Cape Appeals Bills.
Mr Mackenzie asked the Chairperson to provide guidelines for the way forward for the Committee regarding SASSA.
The Chairperson proposed that he should write to Minister Zulu and the CEO of SASSA to clarify their positions, and confirm that the new regional manager’s position was the official position of SASSA and the national Department, and ask them why they had not responded to the Committee’s invitation. He would also make it clear that the Committee took irregular expenditure very seriously, and he would issue a press statement on the matter. As the Committee was meeting on Tuesday of the coming week, he would give the Minister until Monday to respond so that the Committee could decide on Tuesday what its next steps would be.
Mr Mackenzie asked that the Deputy President receive a copy of the correspondence, as he was the leader of government business responsible for ensuring that Ministers attended to requests from Parliaments.
Ms A Bans (ANC) said that given that the Minister knew about today’s meeting, the Committee should also find out what the communications protocols were, as there might be new ways of communicating with the Minister and with SASSA.
The meeting was adjourned.
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