In a virtual meeting the Select Committee received a briefing on the Department of Social Development (DSD) and South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) 2020/21 Annual Reports with Minister Lindiwe Zulu in attendance.
The Committee commending the much improved performance in 2020/21 with 48 out of 59 targets achieved. Members agreed that DSD proved that government programmes are possible to deliver even during a restrictive pandemic. Members asked about the permanent employment of social workers; progress on the basic income grant; consequence management for the R1.9 million fruitless and wasteful expenditure; reasons for the underexpenditure; progress on the 17 community care centres in Kwazulu-Natal and Limpopo and their location for oversight purposes.
Department of Social Development (DSD) 2020/21 Annual Report
Mr Thabani Buthelezi, DSD Acting Deputy Director General: Strategy and Organisational Transformation, and other DDGs and programme managers presented each programme under review.
DSD presented significant progress despite the constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic, which proved to be a triple threat compounded by food insecurity and gender-based-violence (GBV). DSD was able to show an 81% improvement rate from the previous year as out of 59 targets it was able to meet 48. It paid more attention to its commitments to a results-based approach that is more aligned to government’s Medium Term Strategic (MTS) priorities. DSD took advice to revise its targets at the start of 2020/21 and that revision was effective. Despite the high demands for its services during the pandemic, DSD was able to successfully support communities through food security packages, social grants and psychosocial support for trauma people faced.
In readjusting to the pandemic’s new normal, DSD had to find ways to figure out how to work in the digital space and automise certain services. This will improve its capacity moving forward.
New systems and pending programmes from previous years are now underway and DSD is confident about another good performance in 2021/22 (see document).
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC) commended DSD for the good work it has done and is continuing to do. It takes dedication to run a clean department and it is rare in the public service. He asked about the 17 community care centres being constructed in Kwazulu-Natal and Limpopo; how far were these projects and could the Committee be provided with their locations for oversight purposes?
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) noted that even though DSD spent 99.18% of its budget, it was still an under expenditure. Could DSD explain why there was a R1.8 billion under expenditure? R 1.9 million had been swallowed up by fruitless and wasteful expenditure such as unhonoured hotel bookings and department property damage. What were the consequences for staff members who were responsible? Then there was R3 million lost due to irregular expenditure because of a lack of robust monitoring and implementation of the supply chain management policy. What is DSD doing to prevent this in the future? Finally, the Auditor General pointed out that there were undelivered goods and unused assets, could DSD shed light on what these were?
Ms S Lehihi (EFF) asked if DSD kept a database where funding could be monitored and regulated? Further, what was being done about children who had permanent disabilities but were being placed on a three month disability grant because their parents did not have IDs?
Mr M Bara (DA) commended DSD on the good work in the past financial year. DSD can only grow from here on out. He asked now that there is a draft policy proposal on income support for 18 to 59-year-olds, how likely is this policy to be introduced in the near future given the fiscal constraints? It was great to note that social workers had been appointed as department staff, but will these appointments be on a permanent basis given DSD's shortage of social workers?
The Chairperson also commended DSD, the Minister and the Deputy Minister on the good work they were doing under very difficult circumstances.
Acting Director General Mr Linton Mchunu delegated the questions to the relevant programmeo, beginning with the CFO.
Mr Fanie Esterhuizen, DSD CFO, addressed the R1.8 billion under expenditure. A large portion of the R1.8 billion was the R1.6 billion funding allocation that had been previously withheld from DSD by National Treasury earlier in the financial year. However, there was a resolution to the difference of opinion between DSD and National Treasury so the money was re-allocated to DSD. This is the money that was meant to cover the backlog of the R350 grants that were extended during the period of February and March 2021. Other smaller amounts were related to the appointment of the social workers. The original hiring target was 1800 social workers, but DSD was only able to employ 1100, thus there was a savings of about R60 to R70 million.
To avoid wasteful expenditure, several policies have been implemented to avoid a repetition of this kind of wastefulness. The Loss Control Committee was given a refresher course on how it should carry out its duties on a regular basis. Finally, in the past six months, the individuals responsible for the wasteful expenditure were identified, letters were issued and individuals are being held financially liable for the costs incurred. DSD has started looking into further measures to enforce more rigorous consequences for wasteful expenditure in the future, starting with including this in the DSD Annual Performance Plan (APP) for this financial year.
Ms Isabella Sekwana, Acting Deputy Director-General: Social Welfare Services, replied about the community care centres. This financial year 17 community care centres had been scheduled for completion, however, at present 14 out of the 17 were completed. The three outstanding centres are in Limpopo and they are now scheduled to be completed by the next financial year. There are now six centres in KwaZulu-Natal, six in the North West, and two in Limpopo. The two in Limpopo are in Boyne and Ndindani. A comprehensive list of addresses for the facilities would be provided.
Mr Khumbula Ndaba, Acting Deputy Director-General: Strategy and Organisational Transformation, added to the CFO’s comments on financial expenditure. Besides recovering losses, DSD has taken the initiative to institute a disciplinary inquiry process for staff members who were found in violation of acceptable staff conduct. This process is still ongoing. However, what has come to DSD’s attention is that there seems to be a misalignment as it were between public service regulations, the disciplinary regulations, and the Public Finance Management Act. This alignment is crucial to ensure that DSD does not unwittingly violate any prescripts, thus this too is in the process of being worked out. DSD is confident that in the next financial year review, progress will have been made.
On social workers, DSD would want social workers to be employed as part of DSD on a permanent basis, but the hindrance to this has been funding. Currently, DSD compensation of employees (COE) has been significantly reduced which impacts on its ability to take on more complementary staff members. Engagement on this is still ongoing with National Treasury. Recently, though, there was an allocation to each province allowing for the hiring of social workers on a contract basis. The original contract should have been 10 months, but because the funds were received rather late, their contracts are now only for four months. But, again, engagement on this is taking place, and DSD hopes to at least start with extending the current contracts beyond beyond four months.
Mr Mchunu added that DSD had received an additional new allocation of about R120 million to employ an additional 2000 social workers through the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package Programme. As a result some provinces such as Free State have already begun to employ social workers on a more permanent basis.
Ms Brenda Sibeko, Deputy Director-General: Comprehensive Social Security, answered the question on the basic income grant. The Minister of Finance already announced that discussions were underway to look for alternative sources of funds and phased implementation methods. There are matters that still need to be agreed upon between DSD and National Treasury, but as soon as a decision has been reached, an announcement will be made.
Mr Peter Netshipale, DSD DDG: Integrated Development, added that the District Development Model, which is championed by the Minister herself, seeks to ensure that DSD meets its role of community development. What DSD would like to ensure is that communities are developed and assisted in becoming self-sustaining bolstered by community entrepreneurship in all nine provinces. He encouraged Committee members to ensure they note during oversight visits in their various communities, the areas needing linking, community development and poverty allieviation.
Ms Dianne Dunkerley, SASSA Executive Manager: Grants Administration, replied to the question on temporary grants for children with permanent disabilities. The system as initially set-up was that parents and caretakers of children could apply for whichever grant they needed, but would be given this grant for a period of three months to allow them to secure an ID document from Home Affairs before they could be placed on the system permanently. However, this system has since been challenged and with the effects of the pandemic, this practice has been suspended for the time being. Thus, grants that were originally set at three months are no longer being suspended, and whatever grant a parent qualified for, they will receive that for as long as the child is in their care. She did reiterate that it is necessary for caretakers to do their best to secure ID documentation because this would not only help them get social grants but will allow them to participate fully in the South African society. She asked Ms Lahihi if she knew of any families who had fallen through the cracks and need assistance, could she please forward these to SASSA so that they could get assistance.
Minister Lindiwe Zulu noted that during the recent elections Members had an opportunity to engage with their communities on the challenges they faced. It is important that committee members continue to hold DSD to task, ensuring that the work being done continues to push forward. It is important that DSD continue to work with the different spheres of government and MECs to ensure a coordinated approach to their services and to remember that local government is always the first point of contact. It is imperative that as the country enters the festive season all the work on COVID-19 behavioural change is maintained, and that communities are encouraged to continue the recommended practices such as social distancing. However, it is encouraging to see that even through this socially restrictive pandemic period, DSD was able to demonstrate the possibility of programmes that are able to effect behavioural change. Finally, as the country heads into 16 days of activism, it is important to ensure this is work is carried on throughout the rest of the year to come. The recent report by the Minister of Police demonstrates that protecting women and children against violence remains pertinent. She encouraged Members to engage their communities on these issues and encourage them to participate in these programmes, to ensure that the ills that plague our communities are eradicated.
Meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.