The Portfolio Committee received briefings in a virtual meeting from the Department of Social Development and its entities.
The first presentation was an update on the implementation of the Covid-19 grant by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). Most of the questions raised by the Committee were related to the improvements in organisational efficiency, such as the resolution of long queues at the South African Post Office (SAPO), registration difficulties on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) servers, challenges with application processes, verifying eligibility and updates to the server systems. Members expressed dismay at the revelation that government employees were fraudulently abusing the system to claim benefits.
The second presentation was given by the Department of Social Development (DSD) on the fourth quarter report on its performance and expenditure. Members wanted to know why the Department had been unable to achieve 17 of its 59 targets for the year. They asked about the impact of Covid-19 on its programmes, and were particularly critical of its under-spending on the employment of social workers. They also requested updates on the status of the Victims Support Services Bill, the Children’s Amendment Bill, and the anti-gangsterism strategy.
SASSA returned to brief the Committee on its fourth quarter performance report, and was asked to respond to questions surrounding the improvement of SASSA’s systems in the second iteration of their grant scheme, their expenditure, and their call centre contracts.
The fourth presentation was given by the National Development Agency (NDA), whose fourth quarter performance report gave an overview of its targets, achievements, deviations and corrective measures in the implementation of governance and administration measures, the development of civil society organisations (CSOs), and the conduct of research studies. Members raised questions about the effectiveness of the research studies, the implementation of its plans for CSOs, the capacity building funds and the amendments to the NDA Act.
Mr Linton Mchunu, Directo- General (DG), Department of Social Development (DSD), advised the Committee that Minister Lindiwe Zulu was in a Cabinet meeting, and could not participate in the meeting.
The Chairperson welcomed everybody, and noted the importance of Heritage Month. She said that there was not much time, and that the Portfolio Committee should make sure that they left a good legacy behind them.
The Members needed to understand that COVID-19 had put them under stringent conditions. Mr Kebby Maphatsoe, the former president of the disbanded MK Military Veterans Association (MVA), and ANC MP, had died of COVID-19 recently. COVID-19 had come to destroy them, and they needed to be careful and work quickly.
There had been a memorial service for Nosicelo Mtebeni, the Fort Hare student who was killed by her boyfriend. On the morning news, there was also a 25-year old girl found dead in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). These were just some of the things which the DSD was facing. As soon as the DSD had managed to finish one case, there would be another case. The DSD had to be fast in assisting the vulnerable.
The meeting would follow the agreed-upon programme. Members needed to fasten their seatbelts and make sure they were prepared.
The Chairperson thanked her predecessor, Mr Mondli Gungubele, for his leadership and the unity that he had created among the Members of the Portfolio Committee (PC). The PC should continue this unity, but the Chairperson’s door was open if ever someone wanted to offer criticism or advice. She wished the PC the best of luck in serving their community. She was looking forward to their work together, including the upcoming public hearings, and thanked everyone for their attendance.
Ms Lindiwe Ntsabo, Committee Secretary, confirmed the attendance list. Apologies had been received from Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Ms M Sukers (ACDP) and Ms A Hlongo (ANC).
The agenda was presented and adopted by Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) and Ms J Manganye (ANC).
SASSA: Update on implementation of Covid-19 grant.
Mr Mchunu said one of the biggest challenges with the Covid-19 grant was the lack of interface and alignment of government and agency databases. In the second iteration of the process for the R350 grant, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) had not reached a point where they could clean up those areas. The Auditor-General (AG) would agree that there was now a better sense of where to retrieve data from. Significant process had been made, and it would help the team to deal with corruption and fraudulent applications.
On behalf of the Minister and the Deputy Minister, he welcomed the new Chairperson and congratulated her on her new role. The DSD was looking forward to working with her, going forward.
Ms Busisiwe Memela-Khambula, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), SASSA, said the organisation had started on the new reiteration of the grants, having concluded with the previous grant process on 31 August. Some people still needed to get their funds at the post office. There had been a number of challenges on 31 August, because most people wait for the last day of the month to get their funds, so the systems at the South African Post Office (SAPO) had been challenged and congested.
SASSA wanted to engage with the DSD to determine how to handle the people who had not received their grants because of the challenges they had experienced over the last few days of August. This was one of the issues which they needed to resolve and finalise . Other than that, the new grant process had started well, and would explain this. The presentation would elaborate on how many people had been paid, and the structures put in place to address past challenges.
Ms Dianne Dunkerley, SASSA's general manager, took Members through the presentation. Looking at the progress made on the first cycle of the Social Relief of Distress (SDR) grant (May 2020 – April 2021), approximately R24 billion was paid to qualifying citizens. The number of beneficiaries who benefitted was approximately 6 million per month and the number of payment transactions processed during the period is 68193 449 (99% of approved applications). Outstanding payment transactions for the period = 581 818 transactions from applicants whose applications were approved but not paid because they could not be traced or they did not contact SASSA to update their personal details. This includes a total of 571 724 grants which remain uncollected from the South African post office (as at 30 July 2021). In addition: Total number of voluntarily cancelled applications: 104 565 and total number of deceased clients: 101 989
Members were taken through the improvements introduced from lessons learned.
By 25 August, the following numbers of applications have been received:
- 11 237 724 complete applications received
- 4 793 270 (43%) from males and 6 444 454 (57%) from females
- 6 328 376 (56%) are from returning applicants while 4 909 348 (44%) are completely new applications
- 62% of all applications are from applicants aged between 18 and 35 years of age
- 8 481 281 (75%) have provided some bank details with the application. These bank details still need to be verified through National Treasury process
- As previously done, the applications shall be considered from the month of application and paid up to 31 March 2022 provided the qualifying criteria continue to be met. This requirement will be confirmed through the monthly validations of every application.
Payments for new grants commenced on 25 August with 5 949 grants paid (trial run). A further 276 649 were paid on 26 August. Payments will continue until 31 August, when there will be a break for a week, while the social grants are paid – target is 6 million
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) congratulated the Chairperson on her election into the role at the end of Women’s Month. SASSA was doing good work in their administration of the R350 grant. It was good that SASSA was asking for bank account details up front so that these details could be approved before the actual grant was approved. This was progressive. In the past, many complaints came when people were required to submit their bank account details after applications.
At the beginning of the presentation, Mr Mchunu had said that there was an improvement in the server systems. There were problems with the lack of alignment between SASSA and the Department of Labour, as well as other government departments. What exactly were the improvements or upgrades made to the SASSA systems, which were preventing the exclusion of certain people from receiving the grant? For example, in the past people would say that they were appearing on the system for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), but they had never collected UIF. Or they would be classified as employed, even though they were unemployed. What upgrades had been made to eliminate these problems?
On a similar note concerning the validity and accuracy of these systems, the Portfolio Committee should look to slide 15, which spoke about asylum seekers. An asylum seeker in South Africa was someone who had not been granted refugee status yet, so it could be assumed that this person would have a section 22 permit. Considering that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) did not keep track of asylum seekers because they used a manual system, how could the DSD be sure that asylum seekers had legitimate permits or claims to the grant? Often people issued with section 22 permits used these permits to run businesses. SASSA would not be able to track this. What documentation did SASSA request from asylum seekers?
What was the update on the payment of grants to government officials? This had been a huge issue in the past, and it was concerning that government officials could sneak through to claim these grants. What was being done to prevent and punish this? The DSD needed to know who had collected grants in the past, and what steps were being taken to enforce some consequences for these government officials.
Could Ms Dunkerley give a breakdown of how the grant administration of R500 million had been spent? R500 million was a lot of money.
Lastly, the call centre was costing the DSD R5 million a month. Would this cost be continual? Previously the call centre was receiving approximately 40 000 calls, but dealing with only 35% of them. Now that the call centre was on board, how many calls was SASSA receiving and dealing with successfully each day?
Ms L Arries (EFF) asked if grant applications would be considered after the deadline of 31 August. The Committee did not want to exclude people because of personal problems.
Had any of the applicants with unclaimed social relief of distress (SRD) grants reapplied? How was SASSA dealing with undocumented citizens?
It was recently seen that SASSA was having challenges with queue marshals. People were asking for money in exchange for their service in holding places in the SAPO queues. How was this being dealt with?
Mr D Stock (ANC) congratulated Chairperson Mvana on her new position. In social media, there was a lot of news about fraudulent activity around the payment of the R350 grant. Mr Paseka Letsatsi, the spokesperson of SASSA, was seen on some television channels clarifying these issues. The interview he had was regarding government officials who were claiming SRD grants. This was very worrying. The government was supposed to be intervening to help ordinary people affected by COVID-19. Government officials should not have access to this grant. What were the implications of this? How was this being dealt with? How were perpetrators being held accountable?
Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked if SASSA could indicate the cost which SAPO was charging the DSD in service fees. SASSA was known to be experiencing financial predicaments. What was SAPO trying to charge the DSD to help the 1.5 million people who claimed their grants at SAPO?
In previous presentations, SASSA had told the Portfolio Committee that they had appointed a communications contractor for six months at a cost of just under R20 million to assist them with communication. Was the call centre a completely different service to this contract? Would that contract now be included in the R500 million for administration, or was it excluded?
With the previous R350 grant, the DSD had seen more males applying for the grant. In the second iteration of the grant, the DSD was now seeing more females and female caregivers applying for the grant. However, she had thought that there would be more females applying for the grant because many were receiving the child support grant. It was known that one could not receive or apply for the R350 grant while receiving another grant. Looking at unemployment and need, there should be more females applying for this grant. How far was the DSD in finding payment and processes for the child support top-up grant that the Committee had approved in the Social Assistance Bill earlier in 2021?
Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) asked which innovations had been introduced, besides online applications, to assist beneficiaries to access social services, particularly in rural areas. When would the Portfolio Committee be updated on the finalised regulations of the Amendment to the Social Assistance Act?
Ms B Masango (DA) referred to the slide that mentioned that the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) was on tender at the time, and that it was expected to start working in the month of September. She asked if this platform was accessible to those without advanced technology or cellphones. If not, was this not exclusionary to the people who were most affected by COVID-19 and in most need of the grant?
The DSD had received daily queries from people who had tried all the provided platforms, and yet they still could not get through to the digital service provider, or they would get halfway through the process, and then get kicked off the platform. How big was the problem for SASSA?
The Portfolio Committee could accept that these systems might have improved, but they could not expect that all people were able to access the grant. The outstanding grants from the previous iteration were also concerning. What impact had the system improvements had on those who still needed the grant?
Many people were trying to get hold of SASSA in order to resolve certain problems they were having in obtaining the grant, but they could not get hold of SASSA and could not go into the offices because these issues were dealt with exclusively online. How was this being dealt with?
Ms J Manganye (ANC) noted that Mr Mchunu had promised system improvements. Was SASSA closer to the point where they could use the system to detect fraud and corruption? Some government staff took advantage of the system because they knew it did not work. The Committee complained about this system every meeting. Some government staff were claiming these grants, and the Committee needed to put structures into place so that they could follow up on these issues. If the Committee could do this, then perhaps some of the funds could be recouped
Ms Memela-Khambulada responded to Ms Arries’ questions, and said the bulk of the people who did not claim their grants were people who did not go to SAPO. SASSA had indicated in the directions for the new grant that people had to get their money from SAPO. Some people had challenges going to SAPO physically, and SASSA was in discussions with the DSD, which would try to supersede these directions. SASSA was engaging with the Minister to see if there were any allowances to be made for these people struggling to get to SAPO physically.
She responded to Ms Abrahams that it had been said that women who were not allowed to get the grant in the past, were offered top-up grants of R500 at the start of COVID-19. The focus was only on the child support grant, and so they did not receive R350. In the second iteration of the grant, these women could apply for the R350 grant over and above their child support grants, because the child support grant was for the child and not necessarily for the caregiver. Therefore, the women were included now.
The new system changes allowed people to upload their bank details upfront and submit more details in advance. This enabled SASSA to assist the government with general planning and the interpretation of data for anti-poverty measures, the analysis of the impact on unemployed youth, as well as the analysis of the levels of education of grant applicants. The AG had agreed that SASSA would continue to use the existing data which was used previously. In addition to this, SASSA would also sign service-level agreements (SLAs) with all of the departments providing data. Secondly, there would also be a cut-off time to receive this data. Because these departments had more access to the live data, they would also do an assessment on a monthly basis to determine what other data was needed.
Responding to Ms Masango, she said SASSA had 11.1 million clients who had applied for the grant through the USSD. The challenge was that the USSD was failing because of its system structure. This was why SASSA had had to go to the market again and update it, so that clients could upload all of their information, including their bank details, without any hassle. The figure of 11.1 million clients showed that not all people were provided for on the USSD platforms, but if one considered the additional clients gained over the past few days, they would see that they majority of people had access to the system.
The Chairperson asked whether the database which SASSA had was usable, or if it had to get another database from other institutions.
Ms Memela-Khambulada said that SASSA requested databases from these institutions on a monthly basis. It had to validate these data requests. It did not have legal access to databases such as the UIF. They needed to request access. This was why it had been indicating the need for the government to enable SASSA’s access into these institution’s databases.
Responding to Ms Van der Merwe’s question, Ms Dunkerley said that when any asylum seeker applied for the grant, SASSA would cross-check their details with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that they were registered with the DHA, otherwise, they would not allow applicants without DHA registration to obtain the grant. Everything SASSA did was electronic, so there were no documents which these applicants could submit. However, SASSA did check with Home Affairs, and also checked whether asylum seekers had valid section 22 permits as at 15 March 2020, the date until which the Minister of Home Affairs had extended permits.
The R500 million given for administrative costs covered all administration, such as bank fees, service fees to the post office, contracts for the USSD system, call centre contracts etc.
SASSA had asked for an extension of the call centre contracts, because their call centre agents were all trained and knew how to read the system and offer answers. They needed these agents to come on board and get to work quickly. However, SASSA was currently working with a call centre which had a significantly reduced number of call centre agents, because there was not yet an approval for the extension request.
Answering Ms Masango, Ms Dunkerley said that unfortunately this meant that SASSA was not yet able to answer all of the calls which they received. SASSA would try to provide a breakdown of the number of calls being answered and missed on a daily basis.
The Chairperson asked how long the extension process would take before it could be resolved.
Ms Dunkerley said that the extension request was following a procurement process which relied on external parties as well. SASSA had done everything from their side, but they were awaiting confirmation from the National Treasury.
Responding to Ms Arries’ question, she said anyone could apply for the R350 grant after 31 August -- any time between 1 September and the end of March. Applications did not close, and all applications were considered as they were received. The only restriction was the need to assess the applications during the month in which they applied. If someone applied in August, they would not be considered in September. However, applicants could continue reapplying throughout the lifetime of the grant.
On the issue of fraud, she said the R350 grant used a system where SASSA could profile the applications that seemed suspicious, depending on the information they had from other sources, as well as the bank details they had. There was not a confirmed number which identified the number of fraudulent payments made. Some payments to unqualified applicants had been identified by the AG, and SASSA was attending to those.
In the second iteration of the grant, SASSA had improved their systems by including monthly updates on the salary information for government employees, in addition to monthly updates on other departmental data. In the previous round of grants, there had been scenarios where SASSA had not received that information, and had allowed people to get the payments. SASSA was now being stricter in ensuring that they had this information in order to vet government officials trying to commit fraud.
Some of the significant improvements made to the SASSA systems included the monthly update of databases. Previously, these updates occurred every two or three months. SASSA had also strengthened the application process and the quality of the declaration which applicants had to sign. In cases where SASSA found unqualified applicants trying to obtain the grant, SASSA could then take action against them. SASSA had made it clear that if people applied knowing that they did not qualify, then they would be prosecuted.
Other system enhancements to the SASSA systems were technical. This included the acquisition of bank details upfront, which allowed SASSA to verify bank details even before validations happened. This allowed applications to be processed a lot faster in the second iteration. Hopefully these background enhancements would allow decisions and payments to be made at a faster pace.
DG Mchunu said that in the previous round of grants, the AG would test the different data sets, as SASSA did not have access to them. For example, they would test the data of people who had received support from the Spaza Shop Support scheme, which was run by the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD). They would also test the data sets of those who had received relief from the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC). SASSA could not test the data sets because they had difficulty accessing them.
However, the AG had recently indicated where and how they tested data sets. This would allow the DSD to go to these spaces and access the data. It would also assist the Department to prevent unqualified applicants from getting the grants.
This would also impact timing. SASSA could tell the AG on which date they accessed the data, and then the DSD could access the data on a similar date. In the past, the data the DSD accessed would generally be outdated by two or three months. For example, a person would leave their job, but they would still be on the South African Revenue Service (SARS) system. This was an important aspect which the DSD had been trying to clean up as they moved forward. There was significant support and help from the AG in this regard.
There was another significant aspect which needed more attention. The National Integrated Social Protection Information System (NISPIS) was critical, because it included the data relating to social protection measures from other departments and agencies. This data would assist the DSD during challenges like COVID-19, as it would help it to address social protection measures in a quicker and more integrated manner. The DSD had been paying more attention to the development of this system.
Considering the data shared in the presentation, the people who had at least a Grade 12 education made up about 42.4% of the entire spectrum of applicants. This indicated that the economy was not creating enough jobs. The youth unemployment rate was over 43% percent. As long as the economy was not creating jobs, there would inevitably be people relying on social grants. This problem needed to be addressed.
Responding to Ms Abrahams’ question, Mr Mchunu said that the DSD expected a larger number of females applying for the R350 grant specifically because the grant had been opened to caregivers. This was not about ‘double dipping’. The money was intended for the caregivers and not the children they supported, who were already protected by the Child Support grant. This was significant, because at least 90% of women who were previously not receiving support, were now being accommodated by new SASSA allocations.
There had been significant progress with the extended Child Support grant. The DSD was at the advanced stages of discussions with the Treasury, trying to finance this Child Support grant.
DSD's Quarter 4 report on performance and expenditure
Mr Mchunu said that this report provided details of progress with the implementation of set objectives and targets prescribed in the annual performance plans (APPs) for 2020/21. It identified targets which were not achieved, and the corrective actions put in place for the new financial year.
The expenditure report gave an account of how funds were utilised and allocated towards delivery, services and operations. The report also specified why the DSD could not spend money in other areas.
This last financial year was one of the most difficult as a result of the pandemic. The report included the timeframe for the implementation of plans for 2020/21. 42 of the Department's 59 targets were achieved, and 17 were not met. This translated to a target achievement rate of 71%, which was an improvement on the third quarter's 67% achievement rate.
A full picture of the overall performance from 2020 to 2021 would be clearer when the DSD returned to present the annual performance report in October. The quarter 4 report was different to the overall annual performance report.
In the annual report, the DSD was sitting at 81% of targets achieved. These improvements could be attributed to the guidance of the Portfolio Committee. This level of improvement had not been achieved since 2015/16.
Stringent emphasis had been placed on the planning and monitoring process, and the use of ‘SMART' principles, which dictated that the DSD create targets which were sustainable, measurable, attainable, realistic and timebound.
The DSD had also introduced the Support Services Audit Development Programme (ADP), which was intended to assist with their legal or financial dependencies. These were enablers to achieve targets, but they were still piloting this. Services were largely stretched, but the DSD had done significantly well when considering the increased demands caused by COVID-19.
Mr Masete Letsoalo, Mr Fanie Esterhuizen, CFO, Ms Brenda Sibeko, DDG, Ms Isabella Sekwana, DDG, and Mr Peter Netshipale, DDG, presented the following:
- Contextual Analysis
- Summary of Programme Performance in Quarters 1-4 2020/21
- Performance Overview 1,2 and 3
- Programme 1: Administration
- Programme 2: Social Assistance
- Programme 3: Social Security, Policy and Administration
- Programme 4: Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation Support
- Programme 4: Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery
- Summary of Expenditure
- Reasons for Underspending per Programme
- Quarter Spending Monthly
- Operational Budget versus Expenditure
(See attached document for details)
SASSA: Fourth quarter performance report
Ms Raphaahle Ramokgopa, Executive Manager: Strategy and Business Development, SASSA, took Members through the performance report. SASSA’s performance for the fourth quarter stood at 69%, however, preliminary data for the twelve months period depicts a 76% performance for the 2020/21 financial year. During the reporting period, SASSA continued to consistently pay social grants to over 18 million qualifying South Africans. In addition, over 510 000 new normal social grants applications and 9 million SRD Covid-19 grant applications were processed. The overall total number of beneficiaries supported through monthly cash transfers during this reporting period is approximately 24 million (41% of SA population). During this period, SASSA operations were impacted by a number of variables, largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic . The impact was threefold:
- Beneficiaries - unemployment rate in the country rose to 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020, thus increasing the demand for SASSA services particularly the special Covid-19 SRD grant.(R350)
- Business Processes: – SASSA’s operations are mainly manual and depends on face to face encounter with the clients/applicants, therefore, the number of clients/applicants seen on a daily basis has been affected as we adhere to the health protocols. Whilst there was an increase in the demand for services, the restricted numbers of people that could be in the buildings and the prohibition of large gatherings affected the manner in which beneficiaries were serviced. This resulted in the introduction of automated application processes
- Staff – There was a need to ensure balance between service delivery and ensuring that staff is protected given the number of staff who passed on during the period.
The presentation went on to address targets not achieved and detailed performance per programme. Also addressed was financial performance for the quarter.
(See attached document for details)
National Development Agency (NDA) Quarter 4 report
Ms Thamo Mzobe, CEO, Mr Ben Morule, office of the CEO, and Ms Karen Muthen, CFO, took Members through the performance report. For quarter four, the NDA achieved 63% of targets. Per programme, this translated to:
-programme one: 29% targets achieved in Q4
-programme two: 71% targets achieved in Q4
-programme three: 100% targets achieved in Q4
Members were taken through the detailed performance per programme along with the financial performance for the quarter.
(See attached document for details)
Questions, comments and observations
Ms G Opperman (DA) asked about the NDA presentation, and referred to the Ndzalama project, of which the NDA had paid 85% in the third quarter. Was it fully operational now? How much had been spent to date?
Ms Opperman asked SASSA about their nominal budget decline of R625.1 million. What had been the reasons for the budget cuts? How had they affected their service delivery, and their ability to meet the growing demand for social assistance?
She asked the DSD why they had incurred under-expenditure in all of their programmes in quarter 4. Regarding early childhood development (ECD) support, which was a part of programme 4, they had under-spent by R124.8 million. A lot of crèches in Ms Opperman’s area had not been paid for the last five months. When would these crèches receive their subsidies? The DSD had spent R16.5 million on 500 registration support officers. How effective had this cost been, since many crèches had not received their subsidies?
Ms van der Merwe said she was worried about the targets which the DSD had not achieved pertaining to gender-based violence (GBV) issues, and people struggling with substance abuse issues and disabilities. These were the very things which the Portfolio Committee had continuously raised with the DSD. The DG had mentioned that as a result of COVID-19, there had been a rise in GBV, substance abuse and some other social ills. There needed to be more focus on those areas, and targets needed to be met. Was there a catch-up plan for the 17 targets which had not been achieved? Would these targets be rolled over to the first term or the first quarter?
Slide 43 spoke about the compensation of employees. There had been under-spending of R77 million due to the adjusted budget for the extension of 1 809 social worker contracts, yet the DSD had been able to appoint only 1 021 social workers. This needed an explanation, especially because the Portfolio Committee had been pleading for more social workers. Social workers were desperately needed at a time when there was an increase in GBV, substance abuse and unemployment. Why did the DSD not spend their allocated budget on the employment of social workers? That was unacceptable.
Slide 27 and 28 spoke about the anti-gangsterism strategy, and there was mention of the monitoring of the implementation of this strategy in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. What was the actual outcome of this monitoring? Was it a success? Could the DSD confidently say that these strategies were yielding results with positive effects for those communities?
With regard to the DSD’s commitment to the pillars of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) to stop GBV and the sheltering services, the presentation said that the draft policy on sheltering services had been consulted and sent to KZN and the Western Cape. Was this policy on sheltering services different from the Victim Support Services Amendment Bill? If so, where was the DSD in the process of the Victim Support Amendment Bill? Would the policy on sheltering services actually address the inconsistencies in the funding of shelters?
When the Portfolio Committee went to the public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill in August, they had been confronted by people who were desperately seeking additional support from the DSD, as they had received as little as R5 per woman in the shelter.
With regard to the budget cuts to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), non-profit organisations (NPOs) and the child and youth care centres (CYCC), had all of these late payments been finalised and made in quarter 4?
Could some clarity be offered with regard to the Green Paper on comprehensive social security and retirement reform? There were some reports which stated that this had been withdrawn by the Minister of Social Development. This was not something which had been tabled to the Portfolio Committee before. They had learnt about this tabling and withdrawal only through the media. Was this policy withdrawn?
Going back to the issues of the SASSA call centres, it had been said that SASSA was struggling because their service provider’s six-month contract had come to an end. If it was going to be extended for another R30 million for another six months, then when would the DSD capacitate SASSA’s own call centre? Why not use that money to insource the requisite staff and train them? This would be a permanent solution, and would prevent SASSA from consistently seeking new tenders and spending money on external service providers.
Ms Abrahams asked whether the Department could clarify their actual budget figures against the projected amounts, because slides 40 and 41 had different figures. Which figures were correct?
When the Department first reported on the anti-gangsterism strategy, she had asked for a copy of the report. Her initial assumption had been that the strategy was intended for communities with hotspots for gangsterism. However, the document she received said that the strategy was for youth at risk in CYCCs. Was the anti-gangsterism strategy mentioned during the meeting for youth at risk in CYCCs only, or was there an additional strategy? To avoid confusion in reporting on this, the DSD should stipulate whether it was for the youth in CYCCs, and not communities at large, because the DSD could not tackle this on its own. It was a safety issue.
Mr Stock said he had noted the stated reasons why targets were not achieved for the Information Management Systems Technology (IMST), and the monetary and evaluation targets during the financial year from 2020 and 2021.These were longstanding targets which seemed to be unachievable each and every year. When would the DSD achieve these targets? Could the Portfolio Committee hear a realistic plan and some contingency plans which might enable these achievements during the current financial year?
What areas in SASSA's audit action plan had been impacted by COVID-19? What was the impact of this on the findings by the AG? There had been some irregular expenditure alongside some issues for condonation by National Treasury. How many cases had been brought forward for consequence management, and had these cases been reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS)? What had followed thereafter?
In Programme 4's welfare services process development, why had the DSD employed only 1 021 social workers and not 1 809 social workers, knowing that there was a huge challenge with unemployed social workers?
Ms Arries asked what plans and means the DSD had in place to trace SASSA applicants. SASSA also needed to report on how much of their debt had been collected. Out of the 1 228 people, had the 434 cases resulted in suspensions, or were those people still receiving a salary? What number of asylum seekers were in the country? Had the NPO policy framework been submitted for approval for the 2020 and 2021 annual performance plans (APPs)? How would SASSA reduce overcrowding at SASSA and SAPO payment points? How would it deal with non-payments and late payments going forward?
Ms A Motaung (ANC) asked about the NDA's quarter 4 presentation, and wanted to know how the five concluded research studies and the additional research work conducted would be used to shape and influence society. How had the NDA benefited from partnerships and networks whilst conducting this research?
Regarding the NDA’s financial performance report, what was the reason for the lack of expenditure on the earmarked capacity building funds by the DSD in Limpopo? This was recurring from quarter 3. What were the implications of not implementing these capacity building programmes? When would the programme be implemented?
The DSD's presentation indicated under-spending on programme 3 -- social security policy and administration. What was the progress with the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, which was still in the purview of the President? Had the engagements with other government departments and the private sector yielded any positive response in terms of employing unemployed social workers?
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) reiterated Ms van der Merwe’s question about strategies to achieve the DSD’s unaccomplished targets. She had seen the social work programme of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) personally. It was her understanding that the social workers who were currently supporting the schools were functioning under the DSD. There needed to be more clarity with regard to how performance was monitored for social workers employed by the DSD, specifically to understand the COVID-19 response and its impact, as well as the GBV impact. How was performance in these areas being evaluated and monitored?
It was deeply concerning that the Department had not utilized the full financial allocation for social workers and support officers employed. What would be done to rectify this?
What type of work opportunities were being referred to in the NDA presentation? Was it contract work, long-term, short-term, formal or casual? Could the DSD receive an indication of the research’s real-time value? Could it get reports on the research activities and the real-time impact of the research done?
Ms Bilankulu asked about programme 1 (governance and administration) and the amended NDA Act. In quarter 3, there had been a deviation that was caused by the board requesting that management carry out further consultation. This had led to a delay in the finalisation of the draft document for the NDA Act, thereby preventing it from being approved. What had the further consultations revealed?
What had led to the decision to synchronise the amendment of the NDA Act with the implementation of the NDA turnaround strategy? What would this mean for the function of the NDA?
Regarding SASSA’s quarter 4 presentation, did the Department receive any public responses on the national plan of action for children after it was advertised in February 2021? If so, could they be shared with the Portfolio Committee? If not, what were the reasons? Did the Department reach out to the stakeholders in the sector to inform them of the action plan for children?
The Chairperson said that she was interested to hear more about the news of the rejection of the Green Paper by the Minister.
Also, when the public hearings were carried out in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, there had been an outcry around registration difficulties. The Portfolio Committee had requested that the Department have provincial meetings to look into that. How far had this come, and were there any improvements on this registration issue?
Had the NPO framework been submitted for approval as planned? Did the DSD manage to evaluate the frameworks for the CYCCs as envisaged? The NDA programme 2 on expenditure also needed more information.
The Members said they would submit more questions in writing.
Mr Mchunu responded on the issue of the youth camps. He said that Members would recall that over the course of the financial year, due to COVID-19, the DSD had been given the opportunity to amend their APPs government-wide. The DSD had amended their APPs, and this issue was one of their new targets. This target could not be considered in the previous APP of 2020-21.
Mr Netshipale spoke about the NPO Policy Framework. It needed to be developed, and the policy had been developed. The policy framework related to a variety of things that needed to change within the NPO Act. One of these factors was the decentralisation of the registration for NPOs, not only nationally, but provincially. Another factor was the inclusion of an NPO as a regulator and the collaboration with other stakeholders like SARS, Home Affairs, and the need to link it to other institutions like the Financial Intelligence Centre. The policy framework had been developed and was being consulted in the financial year of 2020-21.
Ms Sekwana responded to questions about the difference between the shelter policy and the Victims Support Services Bill. The shelter policy focused more on shelters, while the Victims Support Services Bill focused more on victims’ protection, and highlighted the rights of victims. The Bill was currently sitting with the Chief State Law Advisor for certification.
Referring to anti-gangsterism, she said she agreed with Ms Abrahams' point. It was a multi-sectoral issue that needed support from all government departments, the private sector and NPOs. However, the strategy in place at the time was the same strategy as for the CYCCs, because once these children got out of the CYCCs, they went back to the community. Most elements of the CYCCs were very applicable to the anti-gangsterism strategy. However, the DSD agreed that there was a need to work collaboratively with other departments in order to create a comprehensive strategy that could address and respond to the needs of South African children.
The issue of subsidies for the ECD was a provincial competency issue. However, the DSD was developing policies and needed to ensure that their policies had grass roots impact. The issue of ECD subsidies was high on the DSD’s agenda in terms of monitoring whether implementation occurs. The under-spending by the Chief Financial Officer had nothing to do with the issue of ECD subsidies.
Mr Letsoalo responded to questions around the substance abuse system, the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) and GBV systems. These were targets which were carried over from the previous financial year’s APP to the new financial year’s APP. The integration of the GBV and the VEP systems were under way. The DSD would continue to report on this integration throughout future quarters. The analysis requirement for the integration of the substance abuse system into the social development integrated case management system had been completed. This target had also been carried over into the new APP.
Responding to Mr Stock’s questions about the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) rapid assessment studies, he said that the quarter 4 targets had not been achieved, but were not being carried over into the new APP. However, the DSD had been able to carry over the three studies in April, and they were now completed.
Mr Mchunu said that the bulk of the unachieved targets which were not reached in quarter 4 had been achieved in quarter 1 in the current financial year, including one of the two factors of the Information Management Systems Technology (IMST). All of this would be reported on as the DSD worked to conclude them. There were challenges around the disability policy and guidelines. The DSD was working on closing these issues as well, and the Portfolio Committee would see further progress updates in the next report for quarter 1.
Mr Esterhuizen responded to Ms Abrahams’ question about slides 40 and 41 of the DSD’s quarter 4 report. This report was concerned with preliminary expenditure. However, slide 41 had a typing error and that was why the numbers did not correspond. An updated presentation would be sent to the Portfolio Committee with the correct and finalised numbers, as per the DSD’s financial statements for the prior financial year.
The DSD was dependent on the provincial government to appoint social workers. This was also an interim measure during the COVID-19 period, when the DSD had to employ 1 809 social workers. Another dynamic which influenced the expenditure was that the Western Cape was not at all interested in the appointment of social workers. There were about 245 social workers which the Western Cape was not willing to appoint. The funding received from the National Treasury was also late, so there was a two-month delay in implementing the target. The R77 million under-spending was related to this.
Mr Mchunu said that an allocation was made to address the emergency challenges which the country was experiencing, which called for more social workers. The provinces were allocated specific amounts to employ the social workers. However, some provinces had said that they did not want any social workers. This was a matter which could be better addressed when the Portfolio Committee engages with the provincial governments. However, the DSD had reached out to the National Treasury for support on this issue so that all provinces could absorb more social workers, particularly the social workers who had graduated without employment prospects.
Mr Mchunu responding to Ms van der Merwe and the Chairperson's questions about the Green Paper, said that the matter was actually on the DSD’s radar for quite some time. The Portfolio Committee should have recalled that it was one of the targets in the previous year’s APP. The DSD had withdrawn the Green Paper because there were a number of areas which needed more clarity before approval, particularly around aspects relating to the National Security Fund. The DSD intended to resubmit the paper in a better form. The DSD was pleased with the discussion paper and the level of public discourse which had resulted from it. It had reinforced the critical role of society in policy formation, and it showed the need for public engagement.
He commented that the economy was struggling to create jobs, and this was reflected in the statistics of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, which showed very high unemployment rates, especially among the youth. As long as these conditions existed, it would be very difficult for SASSA to offer assistance and prevent people from plunging more deeply into poverty.
Ms Mzobe responded to the questions about Ndzalama and the Limpopo capacity building programmes. The Limpopo capacity building grant and partnership had been affected by the lockdown. However, this had since been finalised during quarter 4. The only thing outstanding was the reconciliation of outstanding invoices which had not yet been received.
Ms Muthen said that the NDA had spent R3.9 million on the Ndzalama Early Childhood Development Centre to date. It was functional, but the three outstanding features which needed to be completed on contract included the integration of the grant funding module with the NDA’s financial system, the deployment of the business intelligence implementation, as well as the testing and deployment of the mobile application.
There had been under-spending of R799 000 at the end of the financial year on the capacity building programme, and the implementation of this programme was continuing in the new financial year. The under-spending of R11 million on programme 2 was related largely to the volunteer programme. There was under-spending of R3.5 million on the volunteer programme, which was connected to the savings made on the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE). Some of the volunteers engaged by the civil society organisations (CSOs) had eventually dropped off the programme, resulting in savings on payments to the CSOs for this.
Digitisation involved the digitisation of CSO development activities. The NDA had advertised the tender during the last year, and no responses were received. At the end of the last financial year, the board had approved the re-advertisement of the tender, which was then taking place in the current financial year of 2021-22. The NDA requested the rollover of the funds for this tender from the National Treasury so that it could implement the tender in the current financial year.
On project monitoring and support, which formed part of programme 2, delayed disbursements on certain projects had had an impact on monitoring activities. The CSOs required time to start implementing their projects, so there was further under-spending of R960 000 for project monitoring and support.
Mr Morule responded to Ms Motaung’s question about the research studies’ influence on society. The NDA had started dialogue with civil society and the private sector around the research study, which had since been concluded. At that point, there was a focus on generating empirical evidence to inform these particular discussions. The NDA Act empowers them to influence this debate in relation to development policy. Empirical information could help to inform the discussions and debates before the development policies are tabled around these research areas. At that stage, the research had no impact on the ground, except to form platforms with others. For example, the NDA was working in collaboration with another agency on a number of research studies. These studies had developed and dialogue was occurring.
On the amended NDA Act, there were mostly internal consultations happening within the NDA.The Act largely encapsulates the number of alignment plans and cosmetic changes related to what the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) pronounces. The Act predates the PFMA, so there were a number of prohibitions within the act which had to be amended against the PFMA provisions. The wisdom around the synchronisation of the amended NDA Act to the turnaround strategy came from this basis.
The competency to amend the Act did not lie within the NDA, which was why they could do only the supposition document. The DSD was the Department which could amend the NDA Act. As such, the implementation of the turnaround strategy would require the DSD to make a number of proposals and recommendations to the NDA for its repositioning. Some of those factors would therefore have an impact on the Act itself, which was why it was wise to delay the supposition documents in order to align it to the pronouncements of the turnaround strategy.
Additional candidates to serve on Central Drug Authority (CDA) Board
Ms Ntsabo, the Committee Secretary, gave feedback on the Subcommittee meeting on the CDA vacancies, as the Portfolio Committee was supposed to consider the recommendations made for additional board members. There was a letter from the Minister requesting that the Subcommittee reconsider the appointment of two additional members for the CDA vacancies. The recommended members had been appointed and inaugurated, but one member had since passed on. The Minister had reservations about the remaining recommended candidate. The co-Chairpersons, Ms M Gillion (ANC, Western Cape) and Ms Mvana, gave advice about how to take the process forward.
They decided that the chairpersons from the NCOP and the NA should meet with the Minister to discuss the recommendations made. Either the Minister could continue with the 11 existing members within the CDA Board, as the law did not require the Board to have 13 members, or the DSD could move forward with the advertisement of the two vacancies. Thereafter, the Subcommittee would send the Portfolio Committee their shortlisted applicants, and then they would conduct interviews and recommend the new members.
The resolution of the Subcommittee meeting had been that the co-Chairpersons should schedule a meeting with the Minister within two weeks so as to discuss these two options. Thereafter, they needed to revert back to the Subcommittee and the Portfolio Committee.
Chairperson Mvana added that budget processes had to be considered in these decisions, because the re-advertisement of the vacancies would require additional finances. Only two posts were open, but this would be discussed with the Minister within 14 days. The Portfolio Committee would be updated in due course.
The meeting was adjourned.
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