Foster Care court order progress; DSD Quarter 1 performance; with Deputy Minister

Social Development

26 August 2020
Chairperson: Mr M Gungubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Social Development (National Assembly) 26 Aug 2020

The Committee expressed its condolences on the passing of Ms Connie Nxumalo.

The Deputy Minister said Quarter 1 was not an easy quarter for the Department as the country went into Level 5 Lockdown, the demand for DSD services increased due to food insecurity, gender-based violence and closure of Early Childhood Development centres. Many Quarter 1 targets were not achieved with only 27 of 53 targets reached. The Quarter 1 financial report showed only 19% instead of 25% of the budget was spent.

Members wanted to know if the targets fall away or would be absorbed into the next quarter. They asked for an update about non-payment to shelters and NGOs in some provinces. They asked about the implications of the underspending. They asked for clarity on the number of NDA volunteers and NGOs assisting DSD as the numbers provided kept changing. Why had DSD not conducted virtual training and development meetings on digital platforms to replace face-to-face interaction?

The Department presented its foster care progress report on the implementation of the North Gauteng High Court Order.

Members again were concerned around the short time left to process the Children’s Amendment Bill to adhere to the High Court order to provide a legal solution for the failing foster care system. Members asked if the Chief State Law Advisor was close to certifying the Children’s Amendment Bill and when it would be tabled in Parliament. The Chairperson suggested the Committee get legal advice on the possibility of reviewing time frames.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister and noted an apology from the Minister as she was needed in another meeting.

Deputy Director General's passing
The Chairperson expressed his condolences on the passing of Ms Connie Nxumalo, Deputy Director General: Welfare Services for the Department of Social Development (DSD). Her passing has hit the Department, as well as the Committee, extremely hard.  She was a woman who had an immense impact on almost everyone she came across and her death is one of the most painful deaths experienced during this pandemic.

The Committee observed a moment of silence.

Ms B Masango (DA) said that it was a shock to hear of the passing of DDG Nxumalo and it has taken time for the news to sink in. As a Democratic Alliance member of the Fifth and Sixth Parliament, she conveyed her deepest condolences to Ms Nxumalo's family. Ms Nxumalo meant so much to the Department and played a huge role in the social development sector as a major player and impacted many lives. The Portfolio Committee is deeply saddened by her loss.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said Ms Nxumalo had a passion for her work and was very dedicated and that is why she is known as social development's chief social worker. She was a lovely person and had a great smile. It is difficult to come to terms that someone as young as her has passed due to Covid-19. On behalf of the IFP and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi she conveyed the party’s condolences to the family and friends of Ms Nxumalo. The Department and the Committee has lost a star, she will be dearly missed, and it will be difficult to replace her.  

Ms L Arries (EFF) conveyed the EFF's condolences to the family and friends of Ms Nxumalo on behalf of the EFF.

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) conveyed her condolences on behalf of the ACDP to Ms Nxumalo’s family and friends. It was a privilege to work with Ms Nxumalo and the most striking thing about her was her smile and the energy with which she approached her work.  She had a fiery passion and was not afraid to confront matters. May God bless her family and all her colleagues.

Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu said that it is an extremely hard period as she and Ms Nxumalo were close. Ms Nxumalo was there for her when she tested positive with Covid-19 and helped her family through that time.

The Chairperson said that the death of Ms Nxumalo is one of the most painful in the sector. Around the country many people are dying due to Covid-19 and it drives the point that this virus is serious Social distancing, wearing a mask and washing our hands seems to be working in preventing more deaths. May Ms Nxumalo’s soul rest in peace and may her family accept the Committee's condolences.

Deputy Minister opening remarks
Deputy Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, said Quarter 1 was not an easy quarter for the Department. As the country went into Level 5 Lockdown, the demand for DSD services increased. The first major challenge was food insecurity as many people went hungry during lockdown. The second challenge was the establishment of shelters for the homeless.  The cases of gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide increased, requiring a higher demand in services. The Department had to close Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) and stopped visits to care homes, shelters and orphanages.

She noted that DSD had to upgrade its ICT system, as it hosts the country’s adoptions and inter-country adoptions information. The system was previously manual, and the Department had to ensure that none of the children’s information would be lost. She referred to the legislation that needed to be presented to Parliament. She spoke of the coming in of the R350 social relief grant. The draft implementation plan of the White Paper on Social Development has gone through the internal processes and is now ready. This is something that the Committee has been waiting for and the Department is pushing to meet the deadlines.  The Draft Social Services Practitioners Bill that supports the White Paper has been publicised for public comment.

The Department honoured the Child Protection Week virtually and engaged with children to understand the realities they are facing, how they have been affected by the lockdown and the support they may need. All Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) have been drafted for the disability sector as all the facilities and centres looking after disabled children were closed. The Department also made sure that those who are facing addiction can receive help.

The Deputy Minister asked to be excused from the meeting as she had an urgent personal matter to attend to. The Chairperson excused her from the meeting and wished her luck.

The Deputy Minister handed over to the DSD Acting Director General (ADG).

Mr Linton Mchunu, DSD Acting Director General, appreciated the Committee's conveyance of condolences to the friends and family of Ms Nxumalo. it is an exceedingly difficult and challenging time for the Department.

Department of Social Development (DSD) Quarter 1 performance
Acting Director General, Mr Linton Mchunu, explained DSD's performance against its pre-determined objectives for Quarter 1 of the 2020/21 financial year. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus and the subsequent nationwide lockdown affected the implementation of the Quarter 1 commitments and disrupted the service delivery environment heavily. Several planned targets that involved consultations, workshops, training sessions as well as other capacity building initiatives, requiring travel to provinces or face to face engagements could not be implemented under Lockdown Levels 4 and 5. It is against this backdrop that DSD only achieved 50% of its planned Quarter 1 targets.

Guided by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), DSD had revised and re-tabled its APP that considers the realities brought by COVID-19 and subsequent interventions we continue to implement. A total of 10 targets were totally removed from the Annual Performance Plan (APP), seven new targets were added and 25 targets were revised. The revised APP was submitted and presented to the Portfolio Committee in July 2020.  

However, this Quarter 1 report is based on the initial APP and not on the revised APP. This was a requirement by the DPME but also because the revised APP was only approved in the second quarter (July 2020). A clear picture of the DSD performance in line with the revised APP will only be realised from Quarters 2 onwards.

Mr Thabani Buthelezi, DSD Chief Director: Strategy, took the Committee through the five programmes and noted the achieved targets and those that were not met.

Programme 1: Administration Performance
This programme had six targets; three of its planned targets were achieved, one partially achieved and two were not achieved.

Programme 2: Social Assistance Performance
DSD fully achieved its targets as it continued to oversee the management and administration of the payment of social grants by South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)

Programme 3: Social Security Policy Development Performance
This had eight targets; four of its planned targets were achieved, and four were not achieved.

Programme 4: Welfare Services Performance
This had 19 targets; 10 of its planned targets were achieved and 19 were not achieved.

Programme 5: Community Development Performance
This had 19 targets; nine were achieved, four partially achieved and six were not achieved.
[See document for full details]

Mr Fanie Esterhuizen, DSD Chief Financial Officer, presented the financial report. The Department received additional funding as tabled in June 2020:
• Social Assistance Grants – R40.947bn
R25.473bn was additionally allocated for the R350 grant and the top-up grant for a period of six months. R15.417bn allocated for April 2020 was reprioritised towards the R350 grant and top-up grant. This was because of social grants paid on 30 March 2020.
• ECD Conditional Grant – R64.5m
The ECD Infrastructure allocation was repurposed towards PPE procurement to ensure that ECDs prepare sites for reopening.
• Operational Baseline Reprioritization – R56m
R33m was reprioritized from Goods & Services in P4: Welfare Services for the appointment of 1809 social workers for a period of three months.
R23m was reprioritized from the five programmes to fund PPE procurement for DSD facilities.

Quarter 1 expenditure showed 19% instead of 25% of the budget was spent [see document].

Mr D Stock (ANC) appreciated the presentation. He asked what the implications of the unachieved targets will be and what happens to these unachieved targets. Are they scrapped or carried over to the next quarter?  Will finance be made available to implement these targets in the next quarter?

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said the Committee requests a catch-up plan for the unachieved targets. This will provide clarity on whether the targets will fall away or be absorbed into the next quarter.

She welcomed the oversight framework for DSD entities in the presentation. It is something that has been talked about for a long time for strengthening DSD's oversight over its entities. She hoped that once the service provider is on board, DSD will return and brief them on how the new oversight and monitoring mechanism will work.

She is pleased to hear the plans to forge ahead in employing the social workers who have been trained by the state. Over 5 000 social workers are sitting at home unemployed. She asked that the Acting DG keeps the Committee informed as the discussions unfold.

As DSD launched the National Drug Master Plan Drug master plan, the Committee needs to get proper information on the capacity of treatment centres. Are there enough treatment centres in all the provinces? How many beds are available? Are all those centres full? DSD should provide the Committee with all this information at a later stage. It should clarify what is being included in the plan to conduct education and awareness sessions on anti-gangsterism. The Committee has previously expressed that they are not sure that these programmes are having the desired effects in the communities.

Lastly, she asked for an update about the non-payments of shelters and NGOs in the Eastern Cape and other provinces.

Ms B Masango (DA) said it is understandable why some targets were not met as there had to be some capacity constraints. She asked now the country is in Lockdown Level 2, if this is having a positive effect on the capacity levels in DSD and its agencies. As SASSA was operating at one third of its capacity, has that changed as the lockdown levels changed? If it has, to what extent has it changed?

She asked when the suspension of services will be lifted.  Research has shown that the Covid-19 lockdown will have a huge aftermath in the social services sector. What plans have been put in place by DSD to deal with this aftermath?

Ms L Arries (EFF) said the DSD has played a key role during this pandemic and the underspending of some of the programmes is very worrisome, specifically those that could have been done on a virtual platform such as training workshops.

She noted that DSD sent two presentations. The first presentation listed 5000 National Development Agency (NDA) volunteers and the other listed 2000 volunteers. What is the actual number of volunteers? What will the role of these volunteers be? Since NPO registration was closed, how is it possible that NPOs were registered and received funding during this pandemic?

She did not see the food parcels knock and drop service happen in George. DSD indicated they have 1 089 social workers that will be appointed for three months. She asked how many social workers are needed in the country. She requested DSD provide a report on the unachieved targets. She asked why the anti-fraud training could not have taken place on a virtual platform. She asked for the amount spent on the PPE for Community Nutrition Development Centres (CNDCs), ECDs and Social Development offices.

Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked the NDA to provide clarity on the number of volunteers and NGOs involved, because previously she had also received a different answer. She asked for DSD's plan to catch up with the backlog of NPO registrations, as NPOs play a critical role in social welfare. Lastly, she asked DSD if it is possible for policy work, strategy discussions, framework development to take place on digital platforms like Zoom that can accommodate breakaway rooms. It will save DSD a lot of money. If it is not a possibility, will DSD then convene and have mass gatherings going forward?

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) asked how for the legal costs DSD had to spend on court cases. Sthe biggest problem is the lack of capacity on the ground. There are challenges with foster care applications and people are waiting almost two years for adoption applications to be processed. She asked DSD to give the Committee an idea of how they assist parents during the adoption process. There are parents with children in their care whose applications are not being processed because there are no social workers in the offices.

The concern is about DSD capacity to deliver on its core mandate, specifically, the safety of children. The Committee has requested DSD investigate using faith-based organisations with qualified spiritual leaders to increase the capacity of DSD to respond specifically to child safety. There is a big problem with children being abused and receiving grants but not being looked after.

The Chairperson read a question by committee member, Ms K Bilankilu (ANC), in her absence. She asked about engagement with courts on the lockdown implications for compliance with the court order. Has DSD engaged the children’s courts that did not extend the foster care order during lockdown? What were the outcome of these engagements? Could this have had a direct impact on the surge in outstanding cases? There is a surge in outstanding foster care orders in some provinces. What major challenges confronted these provinces from decreasing the backlog and processing the orders? In the Quarter 1 financial report, only 19% of the actual budget was spent. What are the implications of this on DSD spending in the upcoming months?

The Chairperson said that the new result-based management approach requires that each programme has to have a narrative. Each programme should state the produced results, the area it impacts, how far it has gone and then its targets. There is a miscommunication about this. Each programme needs to provide a narrative and this has been conveyed to DSD. the interventions in each programme should be about making a difference somewhere.

He accepts programme 1 is how DSD organises itself to make an impact. Programme 2 is impacting on people lives through the grant payment. Programme 3 deals with social security policy development and that is what the Committee is always going to be interested in. The why behind a programme is important, as well as the time spent to develop a policy.  

The absence of a clear narrative makes it difficult to evaluate the policy brought forward by DSD. The biggest question he has is how DSD is measuring its performance. He referred to the entity oversight and said he finds it interesting that the entities, SASSA and NDA, have been working since 2019 but are still talking about "frameworks" in the presentation. That is a big problem. It suggests that money is being spent in the dark.

There are several things DSD has not done due to Covid-19. Many of these such as consultations and workshops can be done on a virtual platform as Members have already stated. He asked DSD to come back to the Committee with specifics on why these could not take place. it is important to separate the grain from the chaff.

The Chairperson noted that he did not see the Quarter 1 report for the NDA.

Mr Mchunu replied that the invitation referred to the Quarter 1 report of DSD as opposed to that of the other agencies.  

The Chairperson said that when the Committee asks DSD for its quarterly reports, those entities report to DSD. When the Committee asks for the quarterly reports, the reports should include all entities that falls under the approved budget. DSD should present one report including all entities.

Mr Mchunu said that DSD is guided by the invitation letter it receives from the Committee. He asked the Chairperson to confirm that the report needs to include the agencies in the invitation.

The Chairperson said that he does not want to have a deep discussion on this matter, but DSD should keep in mind that when the Committee request a quarterly report, it should include all entities that are included in the department budget on which the state is spending money.

Mr Peter Netshipale, DSD Deputy Director General: Integrated Development, replied that DSD has experienced problems with the non profit organisation registrations. All NPOs in the country or any organisation that wants to be a legal entity must apply to DSD to be registered, no matter the type of NPO.  During the first 21 days of the lockdown, DSD sent out a notice saying all NGOs must apply using the online system. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic there were many disturbances. During lockdown, services were not rendered at the level at which they are supposed to be rendered. There have been complaints that the online service is not working. So, there are indeed many problems. The law requires DSD to register an NPO within two months of application. There are under 3000 NPOs waiting to be registered. Under normal circumstances an NPO can be registered within two weeks. Currently NPO registration and queries can take one to two months.

Under Lockdown Level 3 DSD offices were closed. Now it is Level 2, DSD can phase in its workers to comply with social distancing. The staff is also being rotated, moving from one area to another area. DSD will have to work over-time, Monday to Monday, to catch-up with the backlog.

The payment of NGOs for services is done at provincial level. The role of DSD is to monitor how they are being paid. In April, a directive was issued that the NGOs should be paid to ensure that they had essentials such as electricity during the lockdown period. A directive was also issued to ensure that they extend the service level agreements (SLAs) of the 2019/20 financial year, to cover the first two quarters of 2020/21 so they can pay the NGOs.

During Quarter 1 all provinces were paid except Eastern Cape and that is a problem. He presented the percentages of subsidies paid to NGOs rendering services: Kwazulu-Natal DSD 74.25%; Free State DSD 92%; Northern Cape DSD 100%; Western Cape DSD 98%; Limpopo DSD 88%; Eastern Cape DSD 30%; Mpumalanga DSD 20%. During lockdown staff could not go to work and that presented a challenge as staff process payments from the office. In January/ February the staff in the Eastern Cape were striking, a new labour-intensive system was implemented at that time and needed staff to deal with it. All this resulted in low capacity at a local level.

There have also been challenges with provinces not paying all the money. Yes, some monies were not paid in full during Quarter 1 because some NGOs were not rendering services. He assured the Committee that during the second quarter all monies will be paid. In the Eastern Cape, DSD is hoping their support will ensure that the outstanding monies get paid.

On the food parcel knock and drop not happening in George, Mr Netshipale said DSD will investigate the matter with the Western Cape. DSD requested all provinces to use their CNDC to deliver food to households. This matter will be investigated, and a report will be provided.

Mr Mchunu added there are some areas that required check up but DSD will follow up. There are areas where the deliveries are slow due to numerous complications. The CNDCs are not in every town but they are in most districts.

Ms Brenda Sibeko, DSD Deputy Director General, Social Security, replied that although the Committee Members and DSD may have the tools to participate in virtual meetings,  the stakeholders DSD has to engage with may not necessarily have these tools themselves. Some of the training had to be with SASSA officials and would have taken place in Levels 5 and 4. During this time, these officials did not have the tools or the data to participate in the training. This is the case for most of the consultations. DSD can do work on a virtual platform but it is the stakeholders that do not have data or the necessary tools to take part.

DSD is currently exploring alternative ways such as putting documents on the DSD website and allowing people to send in comments. This of course does not allow for the type of response DSD is looking for, but it will continue to explore its options.  

Ms Sibeko replied that DSD is making progress with many of the unachieved targets, particularly in programme 3 on the Fund Raising Amendment Bill. It has been approved by Cabinet and will be making its way to Parliament. Now that the lockdown levels have loosened, DSD can catch up.

Mr Esterhuizen, CFO, replied about PPE procurement saying that there are four different areas. R64 million was issued to the provinces as part of a conditional grant. Provincial DSDs will procure the PPE for ECDs to get them ready to open. That procurement has already been done and is delivered. Total PPE expenditure was R18.7 million for all the ECD facilities in the country. PPE orders for CNDCs have been placed and total expenditure that will be incurred is R3.6 million, paid by the National DSD. PPE for the national office for procurement of masks and sanitisers, and sanitising the building is R2.8 million. Total expenditure is R21.5 million, then the R3.6 million for CNDCs and the R64 million remains part of the conditional grant.

Mr Khumbula Ndaba, Deputy Director General, said that there are two targets. The first target is the service delivery model and the second is the Sector Human Resources Plan. DSD has a draft Sector HR Plan. This plan was developed and consulted with the provinces in February. The Sector HR Plan speaks to: (1) employees in the sector (2) skills and competencies in the sector. After the plan was drafted DSD had to go back to the provinces and look at the gaps in the plan. This did not happen due to the lockdown but DSD is looking at ways to resolve that problem. The service delivery model has been developed and has been consulted within DSD. All chief directorates were consulted except Programme 3 which process is ongoing, and DSD is working on finalising that process.

Mr Ndaba replied that as the Chairperson had said many of these things could be done on a virtual platform, although during hard lockdown this was not possible, but now DSD will investigate making it work. DSD moved the dates for the finalisation of its consultation process and is quite confident about these dates. The ICT elements are being dealt with. DSD has been frustrated by funding and the ICT availability of provinces. There have been challenges with the consolidation of ICT systems within DSD but that has work has been done. The systems have been integrated.

Ms Totsie Memela, SASSA CEO, replied that in this season DSD has experienced many deaths and 50% of those deaths have been in SASSA. Workers rotate weekly to ensure social distancing so there is no contamination. SASSA is currently operating at 50% operational level.

Ms Thamo Mzobe, NDA CEO, replied that the volunteer programme had two phases. In phase 1 in Level 5 NDA partnered with 52 civil society organisations who contracted 580 volunteers. This was done to secure job opportunities and to ensure people had food during level 5 lockdown. In phase 2 there are 200 civil society organisations who contracted 2000 volunteers.

The phase 1 budget was R1.8 million and the budget covered R5000 for the CSO do the admin work and the rest of the budget was for volunteer stipends and PPE procurement. The phase 2 budget was R32 million to take care of the contracted CSOs, volunteer stipends and PPE for six months. The volunteers will continue to assist with the knock and drop of food and help in SASSA lines. They were also doing Covid-19 advocacy. They continue to collect data to assist research at NDA to evaluate the effect of Covid-19.

Mr Thabani Buthelezi replied that the targets were set before the pandemic. Most of the targets that were not achieved are those that required physical interaction between DSD and stakeholders. Unfortunately, these stakeholders may not have adequate tools of trade and cannot participate on the virtual platform. The country was still under strict lockdown during the reporting period, and that restricted DSD in many ways. DSD had revised 25 targets of the initial 55 targets reported on.

Mr Buthelezi replied that the M&E framework is one of those targets which has since been deleted and it will be replaced based on the demand. To ensure DSD has real-time data in all areas on the effects of the pandemic, it is important to come up with a digitised M&E system that is electronic.  It will enable DSD to know what is happening at a district, provincial and national level.  The plan was formed since DSD revises the existing M&E policy every five years, and from that policy an M&E base is formulated. DSD is in the process of securing a service provider that will assist it in developing its digital M&E system.

DSD was successful in developing the strategic plan to include the implementation and impact of the M&E system.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the existence of the strategic plan and asked DSD to forward the existing M&E framework and the strategic plan.

Mr Buthelezi replied that there is an existing strategic plan and M&E framework and these will be forwarded to the Committee.

Mr Mchunu replied that there is an existing strategy and DSD wants to try and strengthen some of the areas of its work and oversight.  He noted the concern about not having a M&E framework, but the intention is to develop a new framework. DSD takes the point about reporting in a narrative format on how the programmes impact those individuals on the ground. Going forward DSD will put that into its reports.

DSD engaged Treasury for assistance on the shortage of social workers. Many other government entities are bidding for funding so DSD is on a list with many others. DSD will advise on the progress of items that have been paused due to Covid-19 like the anti-gangsterism programme.  

DSD is functioning at 100% capacity currently working on a hybrid model with many employees working from home including those with co-morbidities while some work in office on alternate days.

DSD is awaiting the invoice for the legal costs and as soon as they receive it, DSD will share it with the Committee. DSD is open to utilizing faith-based organizations and has provided permits to clergy members to aid in rendering support in the sector – some of the processes can be rather tedious but DSD is open to the idea.

Foster Care Progress Report on Implementation of North Gauteng High Court Order
Ms Civil Legodu, Chief Director: Professional Support and Older Persons, DSD, provided progress made on the legislative reform process and the progress made by provinces in the implementation of the North Gauteng High Court Order that is due to lapse on 26 November 2020. The provincial recovery plans included a status of provincial interventions on mechanisms, structures and resources. As requested the web based foster care monitoring tool was also presented.

The Social Assistance Bill was passed by National Assembly on 9 June 2020 and the Bill has been referred to the NCOP. The Minister briefed the Select Committee on Health and Social Services on 25 August 2020. On 10 June 2020, Cabinet granted approval for the Children’s Amendment Bill to be submitted to Parliament. DSD submitted the Children’s Amendment Bill to the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser (OCSLA) for certification on 19 June 2020. The OCSLA provided feedback and an opinion on 24 July 2020.

The Children’s Amendment Bill and its Memorandum of Objects were revised to incorporate sector concerns and State Law Advisor’s recommendations. DSD addressed all their comments, effected the proposed changes and submitted the revised Bill to OCSLA on 28 July 2020 for certification.

Ms Legodu highlighted interventions to address foster care, some common challenges in implementing the Court Order and proposals to address these challenges (see document).

Ms Legodu recommended that the Portfolio Committee support the parliamentary process to expedite the processing of the two Bills in compliance with the court order.

Mr Mchunu said DSD had briefed the NCOP Committee and took them through the Social Assistance Bill. The Bill has an important alignment in providing a comprehensive solution to the foster care system. DSD will be working with the NCOP and briefing the provincial legislatures, if requested, on the Social Assistance Bill.

The Chairperson said that he hopes the NCOP's attention has been drawn to the urgency of finalising that Bill.

Mr Mchunu replied that DSD had highlighted the importance. The hope is that by September, DSD would have concluded consultations with all provincial legislatures on the Social Assistance Bill.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the entities consulted.

Mr Mchunu replied that there has been a request from the provincial legislatures to DSD for the NCOP to brief each provincial legislature on the Social Assistance Bill. The NCOP will guide DSD as to where DSD needs to assist and support the various provincial legislatures.

The Chairperson said that his main concern is that he is not sure what is the legal stance. When Bills are adopted, they are preceded by consultations. The Committee needs some clarity on this.

Mr Mchunu replied that he had asked the same question in a previous NCOP meeting and will relay the response to the Committee.

The Chairperson that he is worried about this as it may delay the Bill considering its urgency. The Committee will consult its legal counsel.

Mr Stock (ANC) appreciated the presentation. The introduction of the presentation states: The provincial recovery plans including a status of provincial interventions on mechanisms, structures and resources are detailed in the narrative report.

He thought the narrative report would have been submitted to the Committee. How is the detailed narrative report presented in this progress report? When is DSD going to present this narrative report to the Committee? One of the most important instruments in addressing and solving the foster care grant is the development of a comprehensive legal solution. What is the progress in the legal solution? What is the way forward? How soon can DSD deliver on that legal solution? What updates have been received from the Chief State Law Advisor on the final certification of the Children’s Amendment Bill? When will it be tabled in Parliament?

The Chairperson said the Committee needs to discuss how it will play its part in processing the Bill with the limited amount of time available.

Ms Arries said she read an article stating 118 babies have been abandoned in Gauteng this year. It is worrisome. How many social workers are needed to successfully implement the foster care system. She is worried about the inconsistency in the information in the presentations. She asked DSD to stop presenting different information to what the Committee had received.

It is five months into the pandemic, and it is worrying how DSD can come and present that officials do not have PPE.  

Ms Masango asked for clarity where the essential social workers fall in the DSD organogram. National Treasury is being approached and she is not sure why. She asked why some provinces are moving slowly. If the court order deadline is not met, the reasons need to be valid. The Committee needs to expedite the process even though it might not meet the deadline for processing the legislation in Parliament. This process will have to be supported through the reports that come out of the provinces.

She asked about the provincial legislatures getting briefings on the Social Assistance Amendment Bill. Would that be covered in the six-week period when the Bill is being presented to the NCOP?

Ms Sukers asked DSD to explain the amendments that appear in the Children’s Amendment Bill. She asked if the legal implications of this Bill could be discussed with the Committee.

Ms Legodu replied that DSD will send the narrative report to the Committee immediately. The provinces are telling DSD what steps they taking to address foster care orders and meet the deadline. It is mainly about how they will provide tools of trade and there must be systems in place.

The comprehensive legal solution has been answered by the Chairperson. DSD has been engaging with hospitals and NGOs where these babies are being abandoned. There are processes to be followed for an abandoned baby. DSD is engaging with NGOs and hospitals to adopt those babies. According to the official report to DSD the number of babies were fewer than 188. Unfortunately not all abandoned babies are reported.

On the discrepancies in figures, DSD depends on the provinces to provide it with information and sometimes the information comes through at the last minute, so figures may change. DSD will try to correct this. Provinces are trying to work hard on the matter of PPE.

Ms Legodu noted that there were never additional funds from Treasury to implement the court order. So DSD has been using the same operations and it has been difficult, especially in some provinces. The process goes from provinces, to national, to the Committee, if there were a direct link it would make matters better.

On the amendments in the Children’s Amendment Bill, DSD gives information to legal experts who take that information and tailor make it into the law. Here and there would be amendments.

Mr Mchunu reported that everything has been processed through Parliament's Bills Office and DSD has received final certification  from the Chief State Law Advisor which has been submitted to Parliament. The process of proofreading the final version has concluded. The Committee will receive the latest information from the Bills Office.

The process of funding was reliant on Treasury.  DSD has not been given funding towards social workers. There is a process in Treasury called "unforeseen and unavoidable expenditure" and DSD has sent in a request through for the adjustments appropriation budget. The outcome of this process will be seen in September.

DSD will provide the Committee with progress as it comes on the comprehensive legal solutions.

The Chairperson said that the Committee is at a crossroad due to the time it took Cabinet to refer the Bill to the Committee. He doubted whether Covid-19 would have stopped the processing of this Bill if Cabinet had submitted it on time prior to the pandemic. There are so many clauses to be changed in the Bill. Members must look to what can be done. It is clear it will not be done in the given time frame. The Committee need to get legal advice on what can be done about this.

He asked DSD to consult with its legal team to see what can be done. The Committee may have to forfeit their time and holiday to work on this Bill.

Ms Sukers asked if the technicalities of the Bill could be given to the Committee at a later stage.

The Chairperson said the legal team needs to confirm the amendments.

Ms Sukers pointed to the fact that the Committee has not discussed the Children’s Amendment Bill. The Committee needs to understand what the Bill is about and they need to be on one page about the Bill.

Ms van der Merwe said that she is prepared to prioritise time during the September recess to deal with the Bill.

Ms Masango said the Social Assistance Amendment Bill should be presented to the High Court because it is closer to being finalised.  

Ms Arries said she will avail herself over the recess period to discuss the Bill.

The Chairperson said that the DSD legal team should table before the Committee the list of all Bills that need to be attended to. All these questions will be presented to the legal team as soon as possible.

The Committee adopted minutes of its meetings of 31 July, 18 and 19 August 2020.

The meeting was adjourned.

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