The Committee convened in a virtual meeting to be briefed by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) on the special reports on COVID-19, to consider the third term quarterly performance report of the Department of Social Development for the 2020/21 financial year, and to briefed by the Department on contested chapters/clauses in the Children’s Amendment Bill that dealt with Early Childhood Development, which were to be rejected by the Committee.
AGSA took the Committee through the presentation on the special reports on COVID-19. The focus areas of these reports were the payment of the R350 social relief grants and the payment of an additional R500 child grant and other top-up grants. It highlighted the possible fraud risks of double dipping and unauthorised changes to beneficiaries’ bank account details. The AGSA reported on the incidence of double-dipping involving the social relief of distress (SRD) grant. The DSD had identified payments of the R350 grant to over 67 000 beneficiaries which required further investigation, as these beneficiaries could not be entitled to the grant. This number included 32 642 individuals who had been previously identified in the first report. The investigation had been crucial, as this double dipping could have resulted in a payment of R23.72 million to individuals who did not qualify for the grant.
During discussion, a Member expressed concern at the efficacy of the Information Technology (IT) system used by the DSD, considering the fact that a large investment had been made into this system. The Chairperson requested clarity on the number of people who were supposed to receive grants and top-up grants. Responding to a Member’s question regarding the cost of distributing food parcels, the Department cost of a food parcel was around R1 200, with R888 spent on the actual food items, and the remaining R311 spent on operational costs. This had been identified as an issue, because this cost was quite high.
The DSD took the Committee through the Department’s financial and non-financial performance for the third quarter. It was highlighted that only 76% of the R230.8 million adjusted budget had been spent, while there had also been a 14% performance drop during the period.
A number of DSD officials took the Committee through the presentation on the ECD clauses. The presentation laid out the salient questions asked by the Committee and the Department’s responses thereto.
During discussion, there was confusion surrounding the scope of the rejections which the Committee intended to make. The DSD said that the decision lay with this Committee to determine the process to follow regarding the ECD clauses, but advised it to allow the Department to finalise the matter with the legal task team consisting of individuals from the DSD, the Department of Basic Education, and Parliament.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to take Members through the agenda for the present meeting.
Mr Linton Mchunu, Acting Director-General, Department of Social Development (DSD), said that the Minister may join the meeting only when the DSD was scheduled to present, which was at 10am.
The Chairperson proposed that the briefings by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA) be postponed to a date during the upcoming recess.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) agreed, and a number of other Members seconded this proposal. The agenda was adopted with amendments.
There were apologies from the Deputy Minister, Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) and Ms D Ngwenya (EFF). The Chairperson wished Ms Ngwenya a speedy recovery. Ms Sukers said she would have to leave the meeting and return at a later stage because of commitments to two Committees that were sitting simultaneously.
Auditor-General on COVID-19 Special Audit Reports
Ms Mbali Tsotetsi, Deputy Business Executive, Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA), introduced the delegation and the presentation. She stated that the first special report (SR 1) was tabled in September 2020, with SR 2 tabled in December 2020. She then took the Committee through the presentation.
- Payment of social relief grant of R350 to distressed adults who were unemployed and not receiving any other form of income
- Payment of an additional R500 child grant and other top-up grants to the elderly, war veterans, foster care and people with disabilities
- Distribution of food parcels
The budget as at 30 September 2020 had been R41.068 billion. Actual expenditure had been R31.170 billion, leaving a remaining budget of R9.898 billion.
Possible fraud risks and associated control weaknesses
- Submission of fraudulent applications.
- Social grants being approved for beneficiaries who received other government grants and did not declare this – double dipping.
- Unauthorised changes to beneficiary bank account details resulting in legitimate beneficiary not receiving the grant payments.
- Food parcels being delivered to beneficiaries who did not qualify for them and possible favouritism in the distribution thereof.
- Overpricing in relation to the procurement of goods for the food parcels/excessive pricing for the delivery of food parcels.
- Payment for goods (food parcels) that were not received or that were of an inferior quality.
Ms Tsotetsi reported on the incidence of double-dipping involving the social relief of distress (SRD) grant.
The DSD had identified payments of the R350 grant to over 67 000 beneficiaries which required further investigation, as these beneficiaries could not be entitled to the grant. This number included 32 642 individuals who had been previously identified in the first report. The investigation had been crucial, as this double dipping could have resulted in a payment of R23.72 million to individuals who did not qualify for the grant.
Analysis indicated that an average of 13.81 million beneficiaries received the top-up grants for the period reviewed. For October 2020, approximately R4.953 billion was expected to be paid to about 12.6 million beneficiaries, which could have resulted in a shortfall of R946 million.
Distribution of food parcels
SASSA had distributed 146 936 food parcels. These had been distributed after manual application forms had been completed and approved, as per the ministerial directions signed on 30 March 2020. However, a number of challenges had been identified, such as:
- Inadequate planning and coordination
- Inadequate controls over distribution of food parcels
- Inadequate controls in the manual process followed
- Inadequate planning, guidance and record-keeping
- Inadequate monitoring and reporting on food parcel distribution
- Poor planning of the procurement process
- Procurement of food parcels: possible collusive bidding
- Procurement of food parcels: unfair evaluation during quotation process
(View the presentation for further detail.)
Ms B Masango (DA) accepted the advice given by the AG, which stated that the Committee should exercise oversight on the basis of this report. She requested clarity as to whether the role of the Committee was to confirm the number of people who may not have qualified for grants, and to understand the processes which ensued to ensure that the number was corrected or the money recovered, as the case may be.
She also asked for clarity regarding the timelines and status of the report – including whether it had been handed over to SASSA – and whether it would be fair for the Committee to assume that information regarding the issues contained in the report should be available.
Ms L Arries (EFF) asked whether the recommendations made by the AG had been implemented. She noted that there was nothing left of the R177 million food parcel budget, and given the number of fraudulent activities highlighted in the presentation, SASSA should implement plans to recover the money lost through these fraudulent activities, and ensure that these losses do not occur in the future.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) requested clarity regarding the system referred to by the AG in the presentation. Was the investment made into the information technology (IT) system of the DSD R9 million or R19 million? The efficacy of this system had to be questioned, given the large amount of money invested into it.
Ms G Opperman (DA) asked for confirmation regarding the number of beneficiaries that had been overpaid in May 2020, and the amount of money that was overpaid as a result. What was the consequence management in response to the food parcels disagreeing with the SRD content, and how was the distribution thereof monitored?
The Chairperson referred to the 5.26 million people who had received the SRD grant, and asked how many people were supposed to have received this grant in terms of the audit.
Regarding double dipping, what information could be gathered from the observation stating that 32 642 individuals had been previously identified in the first report? Regarding IT-related findings, what was a “failover”? Regarding the 13.81 million people who had received the top-ups, how many were actually supposed to have received a top-up?
Ms Arries asked how much of the R177 million allocated to food parcels had been used for the delivery and handling of the food parcels.
Ms Tsotetsi explained that the AG had not done a follow-up since the report was completed for the purpose of tracking SASSA’s progress in the investigation of the 67 000 people who had received a grant to which they were not entitled. It would be done as part of the normal audit currently being conducted, as the focus was currently not on COVID-19 initiatives.
The report had been communicated to SASSA. While the audit was progressing, there had been communication with management, and meetings were held on the issues identified. There had been a good working relationship between the AG and SASSA throughout the audit process, despite the difficult environment created by COVID-19. Management was in possession of the full report with the AG’s recommendations, and the Committee could engage with SASSA on the progress of the implementation of the recommendations.
Regarding SR 1, the AG did follow up with SASSA while SR 2 was being compiled to find out how far management was in the implementation of the recommendations. It was noted that progress had been made, in particular regarding top-up grants, where management had successfully closed the gaps highlighted in SR 1.
Regarding the 67 000 people identified to have double dipped, SASSA was still in the process of getting access to the other databases which the AG uses as part of the identification of people ineligible to receive the grant.
The AG did not have the details surrounding the investment made into the IT systems. It could be looked into and a written response could be provided to the Committee. The Committee could also ask SASSA or the DSD for further information.
On the number of over- and under-payments that had happened in May, the information should be contained in SR 1. The answer could be provided in writing if necessary, but the issues had already been addressed and the necessary recoveries had already been made.
The issue of consequence management should be posed to SASSA.
The question of how many people were supposed to have received the SRD grant was a difficult one. The AG was working with the information gathered by SASSA in terms of the number of approved and rejected applications. The AG had also looked into the processes which ensured that the rejections were valid, but because rejections were addressed individually, the validity of these rejections could not be confirmed, and thus the AG did not have the exact number of people that should have received the grant.
On the issue of the 32 642 people who were previously identified in SR 1, there was a process implemented by SASSA subsequent to SR 1 to try and access the other databases, but this remained a work in progress. SASSA indicated that they were working through the exceptions noted to determine whether the exceptions should be removed from the number of approved applicants.
Regarding the question on the correct number of top-up grants that should have been paid, the answer was unavailable for the same reason given in response to the question on the correct number of people that should have received the SRD grant.
The AG was unsure of how much of the R177 million spent on food parcels had gone into delivery and handling, but this question could be looked into and a written answer could be provided to the Committee.
Ms Babalwa Kulu, Assistant IT Audit Manager, AGSA, responded to the question on what a “failover” was. It was expected from the disaster recovery (DR) testing that the system should be tested in case the SRD system failed – the failover could be relied on. SASSA did not test the DR system last year, but had indicated that testing would have been performed in December.
Mr Faizel Jogee, Senior Manager, AGSA, provided clarity on some of the questions. On the issue of double dipping, SASSA conducted a monthly test where all beneficiaries were tested against different databases to see if they were receiving any other form of income – a beneficiary for the month of April would be tested again in June, because circumstances may have changed. The 67 000 mentioned in the presentation was a cumulative figure. When the AG reported to SASSA, SASSA had indicated that whoever was identified by the AG as ineligible would no longer receive payments in the coming months. SASSA would investigate these people, and if they could provide evidence that they were not receiving additional income, they would be reinstated as beneficiaries.
Regarding the distribution of food parcels, there was not a separate allocation for the food parcels – they fell under the standard SRD budget. The R177 million that was spent formed part of the normal budget, and there was still money left over for other SRD-related purposes to be paid during the financial year. The cost of a food parcel was around R1 200, with R888 spent on the actual food items, and the remaining R311 spent on operational costs. This had been identified as an issue, because this cost was quite high.
The issue of the IT systems would be investigated. If the R9 million or R19 million was spent by the DSD, then it did not concern the 350 systems – the 350 systems used a service provider in SASSA, which SASSA would have paid.
Regarding top-up grants, R1.2 billion had been overpaid, with R1.16 billion recovered through the system error correction (SEC) process, which fixes the error before the payment goes through. An amount of R45 million managed to go through, which amounted to around 22 000 beneficiaries. Most of that amount was recovered through a non-payment to those beneficiaries in June, and when beneficiaries withdrew, they went through a recovery process. The amount was recovered fully by the end of August.
The Chairperson commented that the reason for his questions on the number of people who were supposed to receive a top-up and SRD grant was because it was important to know the difference between how many received and how many were supposed to receive. For instance, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, about 14 million people did not have access to food, and the SRD grants had reached only about nine million of them. He asked the AG to comment on this.
Ms Tsotetsi said that an analysis in this regard had been done in the beginning. However, the focus of the analysis was more on whether people were entitled to the grant and were receiving the correct amount of R350.
Mr Jogee said that to initially determine the total amount of people eligible to receive the R350 grant, the AG had contacted Statistics South Africa to determine the number of unemployed people in the country, but this information had been very outdated. He confirmed that the focus of the analysis was on the eligibility of the beneficiaries and whether beneficiaries received the correct amount, given that the system was automated. Regarding the top-up grants, it was the existing beneficiaries who had received them. When an audit was conducted, the AG confirmed the number of beneficiaries paid each month in terms of the system.
The Chairperson commented that his expectation of an answer to his questions had not been totally unfair, and Ms Tsotetsi agreed. However, it was difficult to establish the figures, given the outdated and unreliable data.
Department of Social Development third quarter performance 2020/21
The Committee Secretary informed the Committee that she had received an apology from the Minister, who would no longer be attending the meeting. She also read to the Committee a letter by the Deputy Minister requesting a leave of absence from the current meeting.
Mr Fanie Esterhuizen, CFO, DSD, took the Committee through the DSD’s financial performance for the 2020/21 financial year.
He explained that the DSD had made a request to National Treasury for adjusted estimates regarding unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure of about R900 million, with National Treasury actually giving the DSD R1 billion. From that amount, R500 million had been allocated to SASSA for the social relief of distress, with the other R500 million had been allocated to the Provincial Equitable Share (PES).
Of the R230.8 million adjusted estimate of national expenditure, 76% had actually been spent.
In Programme 4 (Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation Support), the low 32% that was spent was due to the additional allocation received for the stimulus package.
The low 43% that was spent on goods and services was due to the DSD, from April to December, having to rethink and replan how its services would be delivered to the provinces and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This had required more desktop analyses instead of physical visits to provinces, saving a lot of money in terms of travel-related expenditure.
COVID-19 related expenditure
- Since April 2020, the Department had procured personal protective equipment (PPE) for both the national and provincial Departments of Social Development.
- To date, an amount of R22.8 million had already been paid. Additional to this amount, R15 million was advanced to the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) for all Social Development media campaigns related to COVID-19 DSD regulations.
He said the DSD and its entities had identified multiple methods to be used in accelerating preferential public procurement for women-owned enterprises for the 2020/21 financial year. The DSD was currently leading in this area – in the procurement of PPE since April 2020, more than 85% of all service providers appointed for the provision of goods and services were black women-owned.
(View the presentation for further detail.)
Mr Mchunu and another member of the DSD took the Committee through the DSD’s non-financial performance for the 2020/21 financial year.
(They faced multiple instances of connection problems.)
They gave a summary of the Department’s programme performance for the first three quarters of the 2020/21 financial year:
Quarter 1: Achieved – 50%; Partially achieved – 9%; Not achieved – 41%.
Quarter 2: Achieved – 81%; Partially achieved – 7%; Not achieved – 12%.
Quarter 3: Achieved – 67%; Partially achieved – 13%; Not achieved – 20%
There had been significant progress and commitments made in meeting some of the targets that could not be met at the end of the third quarter:
- Entity Oversight
The entity governance and oversight framework could not be presented to governance structures as anticipated because suitable service providers could not be appointed in time. The DSD management had decided that the framework should be finalised using internal expertise. As a result, the DSD was finalising the framework and it would be presented to governance structures before the end of March.
- Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E):
The third quarter target, “Analysis of existing M&E tools within social sector programmes,” was not achieved, but more substantial work had been concluded, including the draft “as-is report” and the draft M&E framework, with indicators for five priority programmes, which would be delivered on 31 March.
- Human capital management (HCM):
The Sector Human Resource Plan (SHRP) had been finalised and approved by the management committee (MANCO) and a forum of all Heads of Social Development on 9 March. The SHRP would be presented in the relevant Departmental management structures. The Plan did not serve on time as planned, because critical inputs were being incorporated and the targets were also to be presented in the fourth quarter. To date, the SHRP had been presented to the structures and approved.
- Social Assistance:
The target of “monthly transfers of funds to SASSA” was not achieved, since the DSD did not ‘transfer’ the funds, but the funds were provided in monthly allocations to SASSA to pay social grants. The Auditor-General had advised that the use of the word “transfer” was inaccurate, which meant the target would never be achieved. The DSD had revised the indicator in its 2021/22 annual performance plan (APP) to address the ambiguity.
- Social Security:
The Regulations to the Social Assistance Amendment Act were not approved for public comment until early January. They had since been published for public comments, with the closing date of 24 February. The Regulations would be revised and completed based on public comments.
Early childhood development (ECD):
The target to employ 36 111 compliance monitors to monitor the norms and standards and COVID-19 compliance would be supported through the allocated R496 million for the ECD Presidential Employment Stimulus Relief Fund, which seeks to provide employment protection for an additional 80 000 employees in the ECD sector.
The framework for the review of the White Paper on families was not completed due to misalignment between the third quarter APP target and the set process to achieve the annual target. To date, consultations had been completed and the White Paper was being reviewed. Currently, the framework had been developed and the draft revised White Paper had been developed.
- Professional social services:
The Draft Social Service Practitioners Bill could not be submitted to the Office of the Chief State Law Advisor (OCSLA) for pre-certification due to a lack of capacity to support the drafting process at the National office. Provincial departments had assisted with the redrafting of the Bill. Once the drafting had been finalised, the Bill would be submitted to the OCSLA for pre-certification.
- Population and development:
The annual target, “Research report on youth perception survey on socio-economic, health & gender on impact of COVID-19,” would not be achieved. The appointment of a research institution to conduct this study required approval from National Treasury, which was granted only in October 2020. Other procurement and contract management processes had to follow after receipt of National Treasury’s approval. The remaining time was not sufficient to complete the final study reports as planned.
(View the presentation for further detail.)
Before he gave Members an opportunity to ask their questions, the Chairperson requested clarity on the DSD’s strategy and change management. What was the relationship between the different targets/interventions mentioned in the slide?
The DSD responded that, in terms of the annual target, what it wanted to do in the current financial year was to implement the plan in terms of the DSD’s sector strategy for 2020-2025, and to ensure that the APP for this financial year was approved. This became an annual target, but for the third quarter specifically, what the DSD planned was the development of an implementation plan for the DSD’s strategy plan and APP. This had been achieved, but differed from the outcomes of the first and second quarters.
The DSD faced a challenge when developing its APPs. There was a misalignment between the DSD, the sector and provincial departments. In response, the DSD implemented something similar to a standard operating procedure (SOP). The overall impact, once the plans were implemented properly, was the certainty of clear roles and responsibilities. There would be a Director-General, a distinct mantra and a clear and common identity as the DSD.
The Chairperson then invited Members to raise their questions.
Mr D Stock (ANC) commented that he noticed a challenge with the implementation of the monitoring and evaluation tool. What was the major challenge preventing the implementation of this tool? How far was the bid evaluation committee in approving the digitisation of the monitoring and evaluation system?
Regarding accelerating preferential public procurement for women-owned enterprises, what was the expected timeframe for the rolling-out of the 50% allocation for goods and services received daily to black women-owned enterprises? What policies would be used to facilitate this programme? What measures would be in place to ensure that supply chain management (SCM) and procurement policies were strictly adhered to?
Ms Arries lamented the connection problems faced by the DSD, and requested that they fix these problems before the next meeting. Regarding the low percentage of money allocated to non-profit organisations, why was the amount so low, given the importance of the services which they rendered?
What were the budget implications of the SRD grant of R350 in the fourth quarter?
Regarding the use of consultants, why had the vacancies not been filled? What had caused the delay in the appointment of social workers, and when would the other social workers be appointed? Regarding vacancies in general, how many vacancies were there currently in the DSD, and why had the budget not been utilised to appoint the requisite people?
Ms A Abrahams (DA) noted that initially R1.3 billion had been made available for ECD centres, and asked what had happened to the remainder of those funds. Were they not set aside for ECDs? Regarding the 500 ECD registration officers still to be employed by the DSD, did this constitute part of the Vangasali campaign? Would this be a contract position, and would the Department consider employing current ECD workers who may have lost their jobs and were familiar with the sector, as opposed to individuals who would still require extensive training? On this topic, how were people employed retrospectively?
Would the funds roll over to the new financial year? When did the DSD intend employing these 500 officers, since contracts could not be backdated?
What disciplinary action was the DSD taking against government employees who had applied for the ECD relief fund?
She praised the maternal support policy, but requested clarity on whether this translated to the introduction of a new grant to pregnant women in need. Was this an introduction of a food voucher? How would the Department of Health be involved, given that the identification of these women would take place at various clinics?
Regarding the opening statements made by Mr Mchunu regarding investing in people and families, the National Development Agency (NDA), in its most recent research on ECDs, had recommended the tracking of children. In terms of investments and ensuring that programmes had a long-term impact, would the DSD consider monitoring only certain children over a period of time in a controlled study, to see the long-term impact of these policies?
Would the policy on sheltering services include services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, intersex, asexual and more (LGBTQI+) communities?
How did the DSD ensure that the service providers, who were predominantly black women, were in fact black women who ran and owned the businesses, and not simply fronts while men benefited behind the scenes?
Ms N Mvana (ANC) requested clarity on the number of social workers in terms of the adoption policy framework and strategy.
She asked about the draft monitoring tool on the implementation of the intersectoral protocol on the prevention and management of violence against children. Was it incorporated in the Children’s Act, the Victim Support Bill and pillar 4 of the gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) national strategic plan? What were the strategic issues of this policy, and did it address the challenges that had been raised regarding shelters, including the Commission for Gender Equality’s (CGE’s) report on the state of the shelters?
Ms Sukers asked what the status on the migration of the Office on the Rights of the Child was, noting the responsibility of submitting an annual report on the implementation of the national plan of action for children in the APP.
Regarding the issues around the IT system and incorrect payments that had been occurring, what was the figure spent on the IT system, and who was the supplier?
Was the procurement structure of the DSD siloed? Was it possible for the procurement to happen across the entities, in order for the Department to benefit from a scaled pricing strategy? When the DSD went out to tender, did it do so per entity, or was it possible – as within a business – to utilise the fact that it had three entities that were required to have an integrated system, where data and workflow was concerned? Why should the DSD not combine its procurement? She noted that Mr Mchunu was steadily implementing an organisational redesign, and the Committee was looking forward to seeing the results of this.
Regarding food distribution, why did the DSD not utilise community organisations and churches, given that the cost would be lowered? The DSD applauded the comments by the Committee, and yet it could be seen that the cost of distribution was so much higher, meaning that fewer people could actually benefit from the budgetary allocation. Did the DSD plan to implement a community model in the current pandemic, based on the recommendations made by this Committee?
Ms Opperman asked what corrective measures had been implemented in response to the 14% performance decline in the third quarter. With municipal spending being the lowest at 29%, how much was owed to the municipalities as a Department?
Regarding the draft policy on sheltering services, how many active shelters for women were there currently in the Northern Cape? Of the 70 social services practitioners capacitated on psychosocial support, how many were stationed in the Northern Cape?
Ms Masango referred to the regulations of the Social Assistance Act, and asked when the Department would be ready to start implementing the top-up. Why was there no budget in the 2020/21 financial year for the child support grant (CSG) top-up? The Committee had worked hard to prioritise this Bill, because it would assist the Committee as part of the comprehensive legal solution.
Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) asked, regarding social security, what the salient issues contained in the regulations of the Social Assistance Amendment Act were. What were the salient issues raised by the public on the regulations of the Social Assistance Amendment Act, and what contributions had they made to the revision of the regulations?
In terms of social services, taking into consideration the draft Social Development Bill – which was important in ensuring that the sector comprehensively responds to the needs of all South Africans – did this Bill provide pathways for the absorption of unemployed social workers, as they were central to ensuring that the purpose of this Bill was met?
Regarding the Universal Treatment Curriculum (UTC), to what extent did this programme contribute to the roll out of the new national drug master plan?
In terms of governance and administration, what had been the socio-economic impact on the improvement of livelihoods that had been created through various instances of funding? Were these work opportunities sustainable, and were they addressing problems?
Regarding the social relief of distress, had there been an impact study on how the empowerment of co-operation through allocated funds had strengthened the functionality of, and contributed to, society?
Ms J Manganye (ANC) wanted to ask questions, but had trouble with her connection.
The Committee Secretary read the questions asked by Ms A Motaung (ANC). What had led to the ambiguity on the monthly transfer of funds to SASSA? What was the implication of this ambiguity on the allocation of funds for the paying of social grants?
What did the entity governance and oversight seek to address? How could the Committee use the tool to ensure that effective and efficient oversight over the entity was strengthened?
The Committee Secretary received the questions from Ms Manganye, and read them to the DSD. What had assisted the Department in achieving its target of employing 36 111 compliance monitors? What was the implication of the implementation of norms and standards in terms of COVID-19 compliance in DSD-managed and supported facilities?
What was the progress of the ECD Presidential employment stimulus relief fund?
Regarding the policy linking children grant beneficiaries to governmental services at a high level, what were the salient issues in this policy? Besides basic and higher education, what other departments had been targeted in the linking of children grant beneficiaries to governmental policies?
Mr Peter Netshipale, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Community Development, DSD, referred to the low spending on the transfer to NPOs, and said the DSD had faced challenges this financial year with the transferring of the second portion to those that were funded at the national level, as it could not perform monitoring visits in time due to COVID-19. These visits had now been completed and all the money would be transferred if possible. The expenditure would be above 80%, and all NPOs would be paid before the end of the financial year.
Mr Brenton van Vrede, Chief Director: Social Assistance, DSD, said that the maternal support policy was still being designed with the Department of Health and a few other departments. The aim was to have a grant in the form of cash that would support women during their antenatal phase, conditional on regular antenatal attendance. This would require very close cooperation between the DSD, SASSA and the Department of Health.
Regarding the Social Assistance Amendment Act, the Bill had been tabled in Parliament last year. The salient issues were the introduction of a top-up, the amendments to the appeals, and the amendments to the facilitation of the implementation of inspection. This Bill had received overwhelming support in both the Portfolio Committee during public consultations and in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), with both Houses passing the Bill with only one amendment -- that when the Minister appoints the Appeals Tribunal, the DSD consults Parliament on the matter. This had been factored into the amendments.
Funding had been allocated for the top-ups, and the DSD appreciated the hard work put in by this Committee in getting the Bill put forward. However, in the current fiscal climate, the funding for the top-up had been removed. The DSD was in discussions to have the funding reinstated in the adjusted estimates for the new financial year, but this could not be implemented on 1 April due to a lack of funding at present.
Regarding the SRD provision from SASSA, it had shifted largely from the provision of food parcels to the provision of the R350. There had not been an evaluation study on the contribution of funding co-operatives, but a rapid assessment on the R350 grant was about to be finalised in the next week or two. The preliminary results of the assessment were quite interesting.
In terms of the linking project, the DSD was looking at a range of governmental institutions. The most accessible institutions were the ones with electronic databases which the DSD could easily exchange information with, such as Home Affairs and Education. Health was a bit challenging, but the DSD was investigating ways to implement a link.
Ms Isabella Sekawana, Chief Director: ECD & Partial Care (ECDPC), DSD, addressed the issue of the R1.3 billion raised by Ms Abrahams. Initially, the DSD had been engaged by the Presidency to inform them of the amount allocated to ECD sectors. At that time, the role of the DSD was not clear. The DSD thought that it would be able to employ the 36 111 officers, but then the allocation to the DSD was not made. National Treasury had informed the DSD that it would have to bid for the funding, which it subsequently did, only to discover that the allocation given to the DSD was R496 million for the purpose of the protection of employment within the ECD sector.
Regarding the progress of this ECD stimulus package, the ECD sector was a very difficult space to navigate. Applications for the stimulus package had closed on 26 February, with over 28 000 organisations applying, translating to a workforce of over 125 000 people. The DSD had conducted data cleaning which allowed it to remove duplicates, and currently, there were around 116 000 employees following the cleaning. This verification process was currently in progress.
The DSD was unsure of who the governmental workers who applied were, for the purpose of disciplining them. Once their identities were discovered, these people would be referred to the relevant department and due process with regard to disciplinary action would be taken.
Regarding the rolling over of funds, the DSD realised that it would indeed be able to pay some of the organisations which had applied. It had engaged in an intense process involving National Treasury, with National Treasury instructing the DSD to accurately provide the number of people that would be committed and paid, so that a rollover could be applied for.
In terms of the issue of the regional registration officers, the allocation had been given to the DSD towards the end of October 2020, when its processes were being finalised. Given the pressure which the DSD faced, it had engaged with National Treasury and applied for a deviation so that assistance by the NDA could be acquired for the purpose of appointing registration officers.
The registration officers had assisted during the second phase of Vangasali, which was the massification of registration. During the first phase, the Department had recorded the number of registered and unregistered ECDs, with many unregistered ECDs being discovered.
The policy on sheltering was very inclusive, and included the LGBTQI+ community. Regarding the Draft Sheltering Policy, it had been able to incorporate pillar 4 of the GBVF national strategic plan. Different stakeholders would still be consulted to ensure that the policies responded to the needs and issues of people on the ground.
The DSD had trained a cumulative total of 136 adoption social workers with the training it had starting last year.
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Chief Director, DSD, responded to the question on the monitoring tool raised by Mr Stock. Regarding the delays in the implementation of an M&E system, the DSD reported that when it was given an opportunity to revise its APP, one of the key targets was for the DSD as a sector to develop a digital and electronic M&E system, which was a three-year target given the magnitude of the sector and the vastness of the DSD’s programmes. There had been delays in the appointment of a service provider for this system, but substantial progress had been made.
The DSD had a report outlining the current status of the M&E system in terms of every province and individual entity. The development of this unique tool came from frameworks. Many frameworks had been developed, with the five programmes at the highest level being targeted, and a service provider would be engaged the following day (18 March) in this regard.
Regarding the investments made into people, children and families, ideally the DSD would have a panel survey which allowed it to track the investments and the impact of thereof over time. The challenge with this survey involved attrition, as people were lost over time.
The DSD was trying to develop a real-time monitoring and tracking tool, which tracked on a regular basis and in real time the lives of children and their families. Four outcome indicators had been prioritised – the issues of poverty in terms of food security and nutrition; the issues of adequate education; the issues of abuse; and the issues of access to social security.
Mr Mchunu said that a significant amount of work had been done to strengthen oversight. The DSD was now able to hold agencies accountable, and regular engagements were held. There was still room for improvement, however.
Regarding the ambiguity of transfers, he said that the ambiguity was caused by the use of language during Programme 2. There were no implications – the funds were being allocated and grant recipients were receiving their money.
In terms of the 40% enterprises and the supply chain processes, the DSD tried to adhere to the law as much as possible regarding their advertisements. In its open bids, it indicated in the pre-qualification criteria that only suppliers who sub-contracted at least 30% or more to black-owned women suppliers would be considered. Looking at PPE alone, the DSD had ensured that over 85% of the services which it was able to render from April 2020 had been rendered by women-led enterprises.
The DSD did not have the capacity to determine whether women were actually active members within the companies. It relied on the documents provided by the applicants in terms of compliance certificates.
A number of the 63 current vacancies within the Department were at various stages of the recruitment process.
Regarding the disciplinary action in terms of those identified to be in the ECD programme, this information was being reviewed only now, as the DSD had become aware of the information only a few days ago. The DSD would take the necessary steps in conjunction with the relevant authorities in response to this information.
Regarding the combining of procurement, the DSD had introduced the key element of shared services across the board, and had been engaging with SASSA to discuss how best to implement this. Work on this implementation had already begun, with the Department having looked at legal and supply chain processes.
Regarding the migration of the Office of the Rights of Child, a number of meetings had been held between the DSD, the Presidency and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). A joint submission was being developed in this regard, with the next process being the migration. This migration included other governmental departments, such as Basic Education and Health.
Churches and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were being utilised. In the recent Masiphumelele disaster, the DSD had worked in partnership with Gifts of the Givers, and in other areas, NGOs and occasionally churches were being used. However, most provinces had shifted mainly to providing vouchers.
The DSD did not owe any money to municipalities, unless there were specific provincial departments which did.
There were six shelters within the Northern Cape.
Children’s Amendment Bill: Contested clauses on ECD
A number of DSD officials took the Committee through the presentation on this matter.
- Committee question 1:
Specify the affected clauses of the Bill and the processes to be followed pending the migration of Early Childhood Development from the DSD to the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
DSD’s response: The ECD clauses to be rejected by the Portfolio Committee were the following: 103A to 103N.
- Committee question 2:
Indicate the timelines of this process.
DSD response: The date of the function shift implementation is 1 April 2022.
- Committee question 3:
How does the Social Assistance Amendment Act of 2020 provide a comprehensive legal solution as required by the North Gauteng High Court order?
DSD response: It provides for a top-up grant – this top-up grant reduces the need for a foster care grant as the amount would be more or less the same. Families are likely to take care of their own family members in the time of death, because the grant would be able to assuage poverty.
- Committee question 4:
What were the implications of rejecting the ECD clauses on the North Gauteng High Court Order?
DSD response: There was no relationship between the ECD clauses to be rejected by Parliament and the comprehensive legal solution required by the North Gauteng High Court order.
(View the presentation for further detail.)
Ms Brenda Sibeko, Deputy Director-General: Comprehensive Social Security, DSD, clarified an element around the foster care system. In terms of the foster child system, those children who go into the system were the ones who were deemed in terms of the legislation to be in need of care – children who were being neglected, abused or in danger.
The foster child system aimed to protect the child and ensure that they were properly cared for. The social worker would be able to identify the child and its needs, and then make an assessment on the potential foster parent to look after the child. Prior to this, a social worker had to take the case to court for a magistrate to approve it and appoint an issue of foster care to the potential parent. Once the parent had been issued with this order, they could apply for the foster child grant.
Every two years, an assessment was done to determine whether the foster parent was able to continue to care for the child. A similar court process to the initial one was conducted to determine whether the foster care grant could continue being issued to the parent.
The problem with this arrangement was that it was possible for both children who were in need of care in terms of the definition, and for children who were staying with extended family after having lost only their parents, to be included under the same category. A separation between the two must be made so that the system was not flooded with children who were not in need of care, which would also reduce the demand on the social workers.
Ms Abrahams asked whether, given that the ECD clauses had been removed, the stakeholders should be informed and attend the Committee’s oral submissions. Regarding the submissions which the Committee had received, must Members take it upon themselves to exclude the submissions and not look at them, or would somebody else remove them?
Now that discussions on ECDs had been opened with stakeholders, did the DSD have a timeframe in mind in terms of when it would take the ECD discussion and reforms further? Was the DSD waiting until after the migration had taken place?
Ms Masango clarified that she was asking for an explanation on the connection between the Children’s Amendment Bill to the comprehensive legal solution. Regarding the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, did the DSD foresee applicants being attracted to the child support top-up grant as opposed to the higher foster care grant, given the removal of some foster care grant beneficiaries in favour of the money going towards the payment of CSG grants?
What was to happen regarding the other clauses in the Bill relating to ECD? Would they continue to function? Should oral presentations be held?
Ms Sukers commented that the submissions which had been made provided a context in terms of the historical and regulatory challenges which the proposed technical amendments were faced with. Would these submissions be presented and considered?
She was concerned that more than a third of children were not in ECD centres, because it was preferred that mothers or grandmothers looked after them at home. Were provisions being made which allowed people to exercise their constitutional right to look after their own children and raise them during the foundational phase of their lives? Were provisions being made to reach out to people and enable them to exercise this right?
The Chairperson commented that the discussions on the comprehensive legal solution which the Committee was amending would be dealt with as the amendments progress.
The DSD said that if the Committee decided that it was going to reject the ECD provisions, it would still continue consulting with the relevant stakeholders regarding the ECD provisions and make a second Amendment Bill.
Until the migration had been finalised, the DSD remained responsible for anything concerning the Children’s Act. Once the proclamation was contained in the Gazette, the DBE would take over.
Regarding the other clauses which involved ECD, they talked to the programmes more than the registration process which had been contested in terms of this particular Bill. These provisions were not contested and remained within the purview of the DSD in terms of their handling. The DSD was not advising the Committee to remove these uncontested provisions.
On the issue of the relationship between the Children’s Amendment Bill and the comprehensive legal solution, it was clear that with regard to the Social Assistance Amendment Act, the issue of top-ups contributed to the legal solution. A number of provisions contained in the Children’s Act had an impact on the comprehensive legal solution – a magistrate was able to extend the foster care period for six months after the initial care period had expired. There would be a need for amendment as indicated in clause 94 of Section 186, which deems it necessary for the Children’s Court to order further supervision services, despite the provisions of section 159 of the Act, which provides for the two-year duration of a court order.
Regarding the R600 top-up, this top-up was in addition to the R450 that a child was already receiving, which totals to around R1 000, which was a similar amount to the foster care grant.
It was clarified that the Children’s Act specified the conditions under which a child may be placed in foster care, and how the child should be taken care of, while the Social Assistance Act determined the process of applying for the extended child support grant. Once the new legislation came into being, along with the accompanying funding, more extended family members who were taking care of children who were not their own would be able to apply for the extended child support grant.
Ms Lisa Naidoo, Senior State Law Adviser, highlighted a procedural matter. When the Committee made a decision on whether to reject the ECD clauses for recording purposes, the clauses should be numbered 103A to 103M.
Ms Abrahams requested clarity on whether the Committee was rejecting the entire ECD chapter.
The DSD clarified that the clauses which were contested by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) did not form part of the Bill, and were published for public comment as 103A to 103M. The other clauses were not contested. Regarding the uncontested clauses, the Committee could consider them without having to wait for the Departmental transfer to be finalised, as the relevant stakeholders had been consulted with.
The DSD was still the custodian of the Children’s Act, and it was not in a position to neglect its duty in terms of amending the Act.
The Chairperson commented on the logical, and not merely legal, nature of the responses by the DSD to the question by Ms Abrahams.
In response, the DSD said that the decision lay with this Committee to determine the process to follow regarding the ECD clauses, but advised it to allow the DSD to finalise the matter with the legal task team consisting of individuals from the DSD, the DBE and Parliament.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Media Statement Ensure SRD Grant Beneficiaries Meet Eligibility Means Test, Committee Chair
- AGSA: Presentation to Social Development portfolio committee on department’s covid-19 initiatives
- Clauses of Children’s Amendment Bill Relating to Early Childhood Develo0pment Services & other Related Matters
- DSD Quarter 3 Report 2020-21(1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020)
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