SASSA temporary disability grant backlog in Western Cape: interventions

Social Development (WCPP)

21 January 2021
Chairperson: Mr G Bosman (DA)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Standing Committee on Social Development, 21 January 2021

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) informed the Committee that from February 2020, Temporary Disability Grants (TDG) and Childcare Dependency Grants (CDG) had lapsed – and to date, 52 323 TDGs had lapsed in the Western Cape. As an interim measure during the pandemic, SASSA decided to extend the lapsed grants until 31 December 2020 and it incurred an additional expenditure of R1.8 billion for this financial year. An additional extension of the lapsed grants until the end of the financial year on 31 March 2021 would cost R1.2 billion but due to a lack of SASSA funds, not all recipients would be covered. Therefore SASSA decided to conduct new assessments to ensure that only qualifying beneficiaries are considered and paid. Whilst it continues its assessments of TDG applicants, SASSA has decided to temporarily shift recipients to the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant. Recipients would receive an amount of R500 until they were assessed and approved for a TDG.

Members were not pleased at the lack of advanced planning to circumvent this crisis; the poor communication and that the intervention was TDG recipients would have their grant money reduced from R1860 to R500. They had doubts that the plan to reassess 52 323 grantees before 31 March 2021 was doable given the number of doctors available to re-assess them.

Members voiced their concern about the 15 January incident where disabled SASSA clients were fired at with a water cannon whilst queuing at the SASSA Bellville office by the police due to lack of social distancing. Western Cape SASSA officials indicated they had not made that call and did not know who had made that decision – they were equally disturbed by the events.

SASSA Western Cape noted it has now contracted with 40 doctors and hoped to be able to contract with more doctors to ensure all applicants are assessed and applications approved before its 31 March 2021 deadline. It had also been working with the City of Cape Town to obtain additional facilities to be used as service points with a lease running from 19 January 2021 until 19 April 2021.

Meeting report

Chairperson opening remarks
The Chairperson thanked Members for agreeing to convene an urgent meeting during their constituency period following complaints and media reports of the backlog in processing temporary disability grants applications in the province. The intention was to engage SASSA Western Cape on plans to address the urgent challenge. Members had seen the distressing images of destitute TDG applicants standing – and in some cases, sleeping – in long queues at SASSA offices. Since SASSA had indicated that it had sometimes struggled to lease facilities from the City of Cape Town to use as service points, the Committee decided to invite a Council Member to gain clarity on this.

SASSA Western Cape briefing
SASSA Western Cape Executive Manager, Mr Bandile Maqetuka, briefed the Committee on the lapsing of TDGs, re-applications, overcrowding at SASSA offices and the interventions taken. Due to the lapse of many TDGs at the same time on 31 December 2020, beneficiaries came to the SASSA offices demanding immediate service. This caused overcrowding in many of the offices. If SASSA were to further extending these grants that had lapsed and been extended between February and December 2020, this is estimated to cost another R1.2 billion to the end of 31 March 2021. However, due to insufficient funds, not all grant recipients would be covered. As a result, SASSA is required under law to conduct new assessments to ensure that only qualifying beneficiaries are considered and paid.

SASSA has only R411 million available for the rest of this financial year. As a relief measure, whilst it continues its assessments of TDG applicants, SASSA has decided to temporarily shift recipients to SRD grants and some of the available budget would be redirected to ensure that they are paid. These funds will also be used to secure both doctors and facilities to conduct assessments. Staff are expected to work overtime during this period to ensure that all TDG re-applications are processed by SASSA.

Mr Maqetuka assured the Committee that SASSA is working to improve its communication strategy to ensure that its clients are informed about any developments within SASSA in the future.

City of Cape Town (CoCT) briefing
Dr Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, said that CoCT has at various intervals provided SASSA with facilities to use as service points. Both SASSA Western Cape (WC) and the CoCT agreed to the leasing of a certain number of facilities from 19 January 2021 until 19 April 2021. It was also agreed that if additional facilities are available, CoCT would offer SASSA these spaces.

Mr R Mackenzie (DA) asked SASSA WC officials how they distributed the 52 000 letters to grant beneficiaries; given that areas like Laingsburg do not have offices. Further, were recipients able to receive the letter? As there are three official languages in the province (IsiXhosa, English and Afrikaans), had SASSA ensured that beneficiaries were able to receive letters in their home language?

He asked when the call centre began operating. How many people were working in the centre. When had these individuals been appointed. Had they ensured that the telephone line was working properly, and that all residents of the province were aware that it is. Were call centre agents communicating with beneficiaries in their home language?

In their presentation, SASSA WC officials noted they had so far entered into contracts with 40 doctors. SASSA WC reported that it is currently in communication with 582 doctors and he asked when they expected to conclude contracts with them.

Given that only 905 of the 52 323 beneficiaries had been assessed at this point, he asked how certain they were that they would be able to assess 52 323 people by the end of March. How much would each doctor be paid for their services?

SASSA WC mentioned it is operating with only 50% staff capacity in the offices and he asked if the other staff members were working remotely. If they were, are they still able to process grants? He expressed concern that the workers in the office – who were expected to work overtime – would be under pressure due to their workload. 

He asked how SASSA would be able to fast-track the process of both approving 52 323 SRD grant applications. Since only 238 individuals had been approved so far, how would SASSA ensure that the other beneficiaries receive their money? With the reported budget shortfall, he asked if SASSA was certain that National Treasury would release additional funds for grants.

Ms A Bans (ANC) noted that SASSA and CoCT had engagements, there was no mention of their resolutions. She asked what resolutions they agreed to, and what efforts had they made to resolve the current challenges. She was not pleased that the Committee had to act as a referee between the two.

She asked what had caused the large number of TDGs to expire all at once. SASSA said that there were no funds for TDGs and that there was a difference in approach to the TDG and CDG. She asked what this differentiated approach was and if it could be applied to TDGs.

Since many recipients cannot afford phones that have access to the internet, she asked how they would be able to apply online. SASSA should strengthen its communication rollout to all communities.

Ms W Philander (DA) said that she had visited some of the SASSA WC offices and she had been disappointed by the state of affairs. What had been presented today did not represent the reality on the ground. She asked how SASSA had rolled out its communication on mask-wearing to rural areas. She asked why the Department of Social Development (DSD) had not developed contingency plans to prepare for the eventual lapse of these grants.

She asked if there was an agreement between SASSA and the Department of Health (DoH) in the Western Cape to provide an adequate number of doctors to assess beneficiaries. When did SASSA anticipate that approved applicants would receive their SRD grant payment?

The Chairperson agreed that the matter was deeply disturbing. He recalled that a beneficiary passed away last week whilst waiting in a line at a SASSA office.

Mr C Dugmore (ANC) thanked the officials for the presentations. The processing of the 52 323 applications is a massive operation that had to be implemented. The Committee should appeal that both SASSA and CoCT should come together with an exceptional plan to solve this. Venues should be chosen and doctors should be trained and stationed at each venue to screen beneficiaries. He asked if SASSA had an integrated plan to ensure that all the partners come together to implement a solution.

At the beginning of Lockdown, CoCT announced that all of its community halls were not available because they would be used for quarantine. He asked how many CoCT halls had been used as quarantine facilities since the pandemic began. The Committee had been informed that there were 41 venues available to SASSA before the Lockdown. He asked if SASSA could provide a list of the 41 venues and the 11 halls that had recently been made available to SASSA. Was there a plan on how SASSA would utilise the venues and, if so, could that be made available to the Committee.

As most of the 52 323 TDG recipients reside in CoCT, he asked if SASSA had been using municipal facilities outside CoCT.

Ms M Wenger (DA) thanked the Chairperson for calling the meeting as it is an urgent matter.

She was distressed that TDG applicants will not have their applications renewed because SASSA had run out of money. She asked why SASSA officials had not engaged with beneficiaries to inform them that the grant would be terminated and would be substituted with the SRD grant. What had been SASSA’s plan to communicate to grant beneficiaries. Had SASSA ensured that it had a plan to address the matter going forward? 

She referenced a message sent by SASSA officials from the local office in Atlantis, which indicated that workers would work overtime in the office to ensure that TDG recipients receive their SRD grants. The office is calling clients who were booked for 27 January to come to the office the following day to process their applications, and those booked for 2 March to come on 28 January. She asked if SASSA could verify the contents of the SMS. If the contents were correct, how much of SASSA’s budget would be allocated to pay for overtime. Half of the R411 million budget will be used for grants and she asked where the rest will to.

Now that recipients were able to download the referral form, they did not have to take the risk of travelling to their local office to obtain it. She asked for clarity on how the application process worked.

How many applications had been processed in Atlantis so far.

There are fears that there could be a reoccurrence of a previous instance where applicants had obtained their doctor’s assessment but at the SASSA office, they were told to get a second opinion from another doctor.

Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) asked CoCT officials to provide the Committee with the list of facilities they are able to provide to SASSA to utilise. What plan did SASSA have for recipients in the rural area? She congratulated SASSA officials for the good work they had done so far.

SASSA responses
Mr Maqetuka replied that communication is performed by SASSA head office and the correspondence is done in accordance with the recipient's stated language – who must indicate on their application the preferred language of correspondence.

SASSA has noted some discrepancies in their communication and as a result, SASSA has suggested that provincial officials establish links with the municipalities throughout the Western Cape to assist with the dissemination of communication to beneficiaries.

To appoint public sector doctors, SASSA WC had to conclude contracts with them through the WC DoH, as the doctors are employed by the department. Western Cape is the only province with automated medical profiles of citizens, which is different from other provinces. A fee of R187 is paid for each assessment per person; it is a standard rate and would be utilised when paying private doctors. SASSA is billed by the DoH and the fee is paid directly to them. Due to the current high demand for doctors, SASSA WC was able to contract only nine doctors at the onset of the lockdown. As a result, SASSA WC officials wrote to National Treasury and asked for a deviation, which would allow for them to speak directly to doctors in the Western Cape. The officials were informed that they had to utilise the database of 4000 doctors in the province. To date 582 have shown an interest to work with SASSA. Forty have come forward and they are concluding contracts with SASSA. Training would begin today.

SASSA had to comply with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) directive which stated that there should not be more than 50% of staff in the offices at a given time. However, additional staff members are deployed to manage queues outside of the office. There are also staff members who work at service points from Monday to Thursday. As service points in the Cape Metro were not available, staff members in that area are on standby, and are working from home. The workers are rotated week in, week out. They are being monitored by their supervisors, and there are performance targets they must meet. With the availability of the new facilities, the staff members will now work in those offices. SASSA’s hope is to have 100% of its staff working, 50% in the central office, and 50% working with mobile teams who will go to communities at scheduled times.

DSD has issued a directive to all offices that when a booking is made, SASSA officials must ensure that the individual is advised of the availability of the SRD grant. SASSA has determined that it would pay money, on a weekly basis, to approved applicants.

All individuals who are eligible for disability grants will be paid. There was no bulk lapsing of the TDG; the grants lapsed at different intervals. For instance, 3573 grants lapsed in February 2020, but they were paid up until December 2020. In March, 6476 grants lapsed. In April, 6847 grants lapsed and in May, 5791 grants lapsed. The cumulative figure of lapsed grants stands at 52323. As the grants were active, recipients could not make a new application. A directive had been issued by the Minister under the lockdown regulations to continue paying these grants. Due to the extension of the lapsed grants, SASSA WC incurred an additional R1.8 billion expenditure of its budget for this financial year. It would have made a saving if SASSA had allowed the grants to lapse but because there was money, they continued to pay.

He agreed that finger pointing between CoCT and SASSA would not assist. On 17 June 2020, SASSA WC officials had a meeting with the CoCT Mayor in which they provided a list of the facilities they required. What was key in the discussion were identifying facilities in Khayelitsha. During the meeting, they were able to identify two facilities: a library and an old traffic department centre. SASSA anticipated that all TDG recipients would be shifted to SRD grants before the end of March 2021.

On special arrangements for the Care Dependency Grant (CDG), the current legislation requires that a person must present themselves in person for the processing of the disability grant application. However as this would be an inconvenience to children, SASSA provided a special concession that children were not required to present themselves at the office. Further, if a child is classified as a care-dependency case, the chances of their personal situation improving is very slim; thus it is long-term grant. However, TDGs are for shorter periods, usually 6 to 12 months, so they could not make the same concession.

He requested that after the meeting, Members engage with SASSA officials so that they could hear their grievances. A meeting between the Regional Executive Manager (himself), five district managers and officials from 16 local offices was convened on 18 January. During the meeting, he requested that they provide information on challenges in their areas. It became clear that there were challenges in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Bellville, Athlone, Mitchells Plain and CoCT local office. These challenges increased particularly during the recent surge in Covid-19 cases, but the challenges have subsided with the peak passing.

SASSA introduced a manual booking system, to ensure that people do not queue for long hours at their offices. To further prevent overcrowding, officials take into consideration the capacity of each local office. All staff members should report early to work so as not to subject beneficiaries to long hours. With the opening of some of the CoCT facilities, officials will be closer to the people.

There were 180 service points available prior to the lockdown: Central Karoo district has 47 (all available), Overberg District has 57 (40 of which are available), Metro 1 has 22 (7 available), Metro 2 has 19 (4 available), and West Coast has 35 (31 available). Currently there are 134 available. Certain service points are unavailable because they are not compliant with health standards and others because they do not have running water or electricity. SASSA required electricity to connect laptops to process the grants. SASSA is looking to find ways to coordinate with public officials in the municipalities.

Panic was caused by the letters sent, as the letters were not specific as to when individuals should visit the SASSA offices. There were shortcomings, and in a planned meeting for 22 January, the officials would review the plans to ensure that they are achievable, measurable and are realistic for this financial year.

Not all doctors will have space to operate in their health facilities. SASSA had to continue respecting Covid-19 protocols. If the ceiling is 32 assessments a day, they cannot go beyond that if it compromises health protocols. Hence local service points and offices ensure that there is space for assessments to take place in these facilities.

SASSA does have solid agreements in place with Western Cape DoH.

Rent due on the buildings occupied by SASSA is paid by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure. He would follow up on the non-payment of rent at certain facilities. He added that he had not mislead the Members deliberately. He understood the implications of doing so.

Mr Maqetuka replied that the SASSA District Manager of the area where it was claimed that an individual passed away in a SASSA Western Cape office queue confirmed that the individual was not a SASSA client.

He appreciated the idea of an integrated plan that would fast-track the project. He committed to following this up in the future.

Of the 52353 grant recipients, approximately 35 000 are in the Metro areas. Thus, 64% of the targeted population for this project are concentrated in the Metro. In addition, of the 16 local offices, 50% are based in the Metro. Additional public and private facilities would be required in the Metro, particularly in the hotspots.

SASSA would be able to pay approved SRD grant beneficiaries. He explained that due to attrition and a change in circumstances, several beneficiaries are no longer eligible. SASSA would ensure that the bookings do not go beyond 31 March.

He could not comment on the message allegedly circulated by a SASSA Atlantis local office official. In fact, he was informed that a councillor circulated the message, and he would follow up on how the councillor received the information.

R7.5 million has been put aside to pay for overtime from now until the end of March in the Western Cape.

Officials should rely on the opinion given by an applicant’s doctor and should desist from referring them for a second opinion.

CoCT responses
Dr Badroodien replied that at the meeting between SASSA and the Mayor of Cape Town, it was agreed that the City would work with SASSA to assist the beneficiaries. Both parties agreed on a leasing model, where SASSA would lease allocated facilities long-term. Councillors requested that the necessary processes must be followed and be in line with the municipal asset transfer regulations – which guide how the City manages the leasing order disposal of facilities they own as assets. There have been several subsequent engagements between the Mayor and SASSA. Further engagements between the City centralised official and a SASSA representative would occur. 

The City had indicated that a number of their facilities would be used for quarantine and isolation. It also indicated that 80 community halls would be converted into overflow facilities and expansion clinic facilities, so that they could decant the health services into larger areas, to ensure that people were safe. The facilities have also been used for Covid-19 testing and screening and for medication dispensing – in partnership with the WC DoH. Other uses include the storage of dry ingredients and for the use of soup kitchens.

He would compile a list of the previous halls used by SASSA, those that are booked from 19 January to 29 April and those that cannot be booked. CoCT plans to meet with SASSA next week to provide additional facilities to the 11 facilities they currently have. A number of these facilities cannot be used due to the current health regulations. As a result, the City has used this time to repair some of the facilities in preparation for their opening.

Ms Philander asked SASSA to confirm if there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place that stipulates the number of doctors at their disposal and where they would be placed in the Western Cape.

The Chairperson clarified that Ms Philander had asked if was agreement in place between SASSA and DOH in the Western Cape to process the 52 323 TDGs.

Mr Maqetuka indicated that there is a signed agreement in place between the two to assist with assessment of disability grants.

The Chairperson asked for a copy of the agreement. The process of approving and payment of grants is the legislative mandate of both SASSA and DSD.

Further questions
Ms Bans said that both CoCT and SASSA did not indicate what the resolutions were from their meeting.

Mr D Mitchell (DA) asked if the Committee could have a document that showed the areas to which each doctor would be allocated. How many doctors will be allocated to the Central Karoo/Garden Route area?

He asked that SASSA commit to updating the Committee every two to three weeks on the progress of the assessments. He expressed hope that the shortfall would be made up before 31 March, but he was not convinced, given the current state of affairs in the province.

Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) wished SASSA all the best going forward. Several Western Cape SASSA clients have been booked for assessments in June and July, which is quite some time away. He asked if the uptake of doctors would allow for the bookings to move forward to March or April.

The Chairperson asked about the management structure of SASSA Western Cape. Is it responsible for the WC and Eastern Cape (EC) or just the WC?

If 24% of the total grant applications that have lapsed are from this province, why had the SASSA Chief Executive Officer not addressed the citizens of the province. The Committee had previously sent a letter to the CEO requesting that she appear before it, but this did not occur. He asked why she had ignored the request.

He noted the presentation stated that the project would be completed by 31 March 2021. Did that mean all 52323 TDGs would be processed by then? How would SASSA assist individuals who go to the Atlantis office.

He asked if SASSA still had money to continue paying grants or had it pushed beneficiary bookings until the end of the year due to a lack of space/capacity. How would the additional capacity assist with the processing of applications by 31 March?

A TDG pays the beneficiary an amount of R1860, so R1300 would be cut from the beneficiary’s budget once they move to the Distress grant, as it only pays out R500. He asked how recipients apply for the SRD grants – was it online or via SMS? Has SASSA assisted beneficiaries who contracted Covid-19 while standing in a SASSA queue?

He asked if a beneficiary is able to go to their private doctor to complete their medical form; and once the doctor has signed the form, does SASSA approve the application.

Mr Mackenzie asked for a template of the letter sent to TDG beneficiaries. Why had SASSA not communicated to the beneficiaries in November and December to inform them of the new developments. This would have prevented beneficiaries from risking their lives in the queues.

He asked how SASSA WC was able to source 128 doctors during the Lockdown Level 3 to conduct assessments. Were the doctors mainly from the private sector or the public sector? Had SASSA decided the areas where it would allocate each doctor to.

To date, only 11 744 appointments have been booked, which meant there were still 41 000 appointments yet to be booked. When did SASSA WC expect the remaining appointments to be booked? Further, had they communicated with beneficiaries who are yet to receive a booking? He suggested that SASSA WC utilise their volunteers to conduct door-to-door campaigns.

Ms Philander asked why there was no regional manager dedicated to assisting grant recipients.

She said Mr Maqetuka replied that the SASSA District Manager indicated that the death that occurred was not SASSA-related. She asked if this meant that the district manager implied that the media publication had misinformed the public.

Western Cape Social Development MEC response
Ms Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Social Development MEC, provided a timeline of the engagements the Provincial DSD had with National DSD and SASSA WC. During a visit to Masiphumelele on 4 March 2020, she met with Minister Zulu and they agreed to have a bilateral that would address the lapsed grants and the administering of the SRD grant which is usually granted in a disaster – but that follow up meeting did not occur. On 8 January 2021, Provincial DSD had received an interim three-page memo from SASSA WC, which mentioned that SASSA has developed a plan that would prepare it for the influx of clients who will return to SASSA WC offices to reapply for the grant.

 After seeing the chaos at the SASSA queues, she sent an urgent letter to Minister Zulu, requesting a special MINMEC meeting to advocate for urgent social relief of distress to be provided to TDG recipients who were left destitute (the meeting is yet to take place). Following that, she met on 13 January with the SASSA CEO and the Regional Director. Discussions centred on SASSA’s 10-point plan that was presented during the meeting. Provincial DSD requested that SASSA WC provide a realistic and measurable plan that will answer why certain measures needed to be taken, and how the measures would be implemented. They took the guidance. A follow-up meeting was scheduled for Friday 15 January but this was postponed to the 18th.

It was resolved at the 13 January meeting that SASSA WC at the next meeting must avail a comprehensive plan to deal with the TDGs suspended on 31 December 2020. A proper and intensive communication strategy must be developed, to guide clients and stakeholders in the process that will be followed. SASSA WC is to provide a list of service points in the metro at the end of the day. She contacted the Mayor of Cape Town to ensure that all facilities would be made available on time for SASSA WC. It was also agreed that the Provincial DSD and SASSA WC would meet fortnightly, to provide regular updates on the number of applications processed. The next meeting is scheduled for 1 February.

Provincial DSD was only informed that of the allocated budget, SASSA WC would use R51 million for TDGs.

On 19 January, she wrote another letter to the Minister because she felt that some of the information shared by DSD during its appearance before the Portfolio Committee in Parliament, was contrary to her knowledge. The Western Cape Premier has also written a letter to the President, requesting his assistance as we are facing a humanitarian crisis.

She voiced her disappointment that a disabled beneficiary had an epileptic fit after disability grant recipients were water-bombed by the police. She expressed hope that the Minister would engage all MEC in the nine provinces, as this was not a matter unique to the Western Cape.

The Chairperson asked if SASSA WC officials had given the instruction for disabled beneficiaries to be water-bombed at the Bellville office on the 15 January.

SASSA Western Cape Executive Manager response
Mr Maqetuka replied that crowd control is not a SASSA competence. SASSA WC was not involved and did not know who gave the instruction. SASSA officials were shocked to see their clients being water bombed. He would provide the Committee with a summary of the process for how one applies for a disability grant.

He explained that when an applicant is given the form, they can take it to their private doctor to fill out the medical information. Applicants should then return the filled-out form to SASSA. Thereafter they will be given a date for when they can see the SASSA doctor.

He confirmed that what the MEC had shared with the Committee was correct. SASSA WC is working closely with the WC DSD to gain guidance on how best to deliver their mandate in the Western Cape.

On 22 January, SASSA WC officials would be revising its plans, which would include where doctors would be stationed and when they would be available. The majority of doctors will be stationed in the Metro. Staff members in George and Knysna have complained that they do not have doctors – and SASSA WC leadership is trying to fast-track deploying doctors in those areas. A list of doctors will be provided on Monday 25 January to the Committee.

SASSA WC welcomed updating both the MEC and the Committee on a fortnightly basis on their progress.

SASSA WC met with the Mayor of Cape Town about access to facilities. Two issues were raised in that meeting. The first was SASSA’s need for additional service points to render mobile services and it provided the Mayor with a list of the areas where it would require facilities. The Mayor then informed them that the WC DoH was using some of the sites they inquired about. The second issue was the two sites required in Khayelitsha – that discussion mainly revolved around procedural matters.

Mr Maqetuka assured the Committee that SASSA would ensure that all bookings would be brought forward to sometime before the end of March. It was SASSA's intention to conclude the process during this financial year. At the planned 1 February meeting, SASSA WC will share all relevant information with the MEC.

On SASSA WC management structure, Mr Maqetuka replied that plans are underway to create a standardised structure across the country; therefore, the WC structure will be similar to structures in other regions. SASSA has adopted a clustered approach to its configuration. There are three clusters, the Cape Cluster which includes the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape, the Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga and Free State cluster; and Gauteng, North West and Limpopo cluster. All government departments and public entities are configured differently from provincial arrangements. There are general managers responsible for three areas in each province: GM for grant administration (SASSA core business); GM for finance and GM for corporate services. Day to day activities and decision making is delegated to the GM responsible for core business, who acts as the face of SASSA in the Western Cape. The other GMs provide support to the GM responsible for core business. The regional executive manager is responsible for strategic issues in the three provinces (NC, WC, EC) and provides leadership and role direction in the cluster. Previously there used to be nine regional heads of SASSA. There was no uniformity and decision making was centralised in the front office. He believed that decentralised powers and functions make SASSA more efficient.

Mr Maqetuka replied about the SASSA CEO not appearing before the Committee. The correct procedure was for the Committee to write to the political principal, the Minister of the department, first. She would then take a decision on whether the CEO should appear before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), National Parliament or a provincial legislature such as the Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCPP). In the letter to the SASSA CEO, the WCPP Committee requested that the CEO appear to account for SASSA irregular expenditure. However, the Portfolio Committee in National Parliament also made the same request, so both the Minister and the CEO decided to appear before the higher authority. 

All TDG applicants should ensure that they fill in their details for the SRD grant. SASSA hoped that this would assist applicants whilst they waited to be seen by a SASSA doctor. Based on their norms and standards, preference is given to people who are frail or in wheelchairs when standing in queues.

The assessments are performed by a SASSA appointed doctor. In addition to the doctors contracted through the WC DoH, SASSA WC has doctors it has contracted directly with.

Mr Maqetuka committed to obtaining both the name of the councillor who circulated the message and also a sample of the letter issued to beneficiaries from SASSA head office, to share with the Committee. If there are gaps, he asked that the Members point them out so they can make improvements.

SASSA is also looking at improving communication with its beneficiaries and it is currently working on capturing their phone numbers to reach them through SMS.

Of the 582 doctors, 40 are concluding contracts with SASSA WC. Prior to this, they had only nine appointed doctors. With the addition of the 40 doctors, SASSA WC would have 49 appointed doctors.

Previously, SASSA used to have teams who specialised in conducting home visits for beneficiaries that are bed-ridden, but due to the lockdown, the leadership took a decision to suspend these activities.

He would obtain in writing the District Manager’s communication that the individual who passed away was not a SASSA client.

In Atlantis, 2204 TDGs have lapsed and 269 bookings for assessments have been made so far. Only 31 assessments have been completed to date. This low number is due to only seven staff members being in the office. SASSA leadership is looking to increase capacity and to deploy volunteers provided by the National Development Agency.

He thanked the Committee for the invitation to appear before them. The SASSA leadership would continue to communicate with them in the future.

The Chairperson thanked both CoCT and SASSA for their responses. He expressed hope that both parties would be able to work together to ensure the grants are processed before 31 March 2021. He clarified that the Committee had forwarded the letter requesting a meeting with the SASSA CEO to the Minister, and it does so each time. The Committee would engage with the WCCP Speaker to ensure the Minister responds.

All follow-up questions would be sent through the Committee Secretary to SASSA. The Committee will also share its resolutions with SASSA. He would provide SASSA with the document that contained the complaints of 13 beneficiaries who were booked later in the year by the Atlantis office. One of the children of the deceased recipient did confirm that her mother passed whilst waiting in the SASSA line.

He was concerned that the delegated authority and decision maker in the province is currently on leave and that he is retiring at end of February. He expressed hope there was already a replacement for the position.

He appreciated the work done by Western Cape DSD so far and, whilst it was not their mandate, it was pleasing to see them assisting SASSA.

The Committee agreed to email their resolutions and follow up questions to the procedural officers by 1pm the following day. In the following meeting, the Committee would receive an update from SASSA on the processing of applications. The Chairperson said the Committee would engage the Chief Whip and the programming authority to get another date to continue this conversation.

The meeting was adjourned.


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