The Portfolio Committee on Social Development went through its Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report for the social development portfolio for the 2020/21 Financial Year. Members resolved to have a follow-up meeting with the Department of Social Development and the Auditor-General.
The Committee had repeatedly asked for progress reports on the state of investigations and consequence management processes in response to allegations of fraud, as reported by the Auditor-General. Government employees had been applying for the R350 social grant, and the Department had not yet identified the perpetrators. The Committee asked about the Department’s alternative solution to the R350 grant, as it was coming to an end soon. The Committee sought out an in-depth analysis on the impact of the R350 social relief grant.
The Committee wanted to receive briefings from the Department on the performance and regulations of Early Childhood Development centres in every province. The Committee sought to receive clarity on the Department’s action plans and their strategies for service delivery. Members voiced their concerns with unfulfilled critical vacancies in the Department, as well as fruitless and irregular expenditure. The Committee urged the Department to make payments to non-profit organisations on time, and to offer awareness programmes for the Vangasali programme and the registration process for Early Childhood Development centres.
Some Committee Members felt that the Department needed to implement the Committee’s recommendations within the 2020/2021 financial year, while others felt that these deadlines were unrealistic. However, in general, Members agreed that they could not let these deadlines be delayed much longer. The Committee had continuously struggled with their Departmental communications. The Committee felt concerned that the Department of Social Development often left their questions unanswered.
For example, they had repeatedly asked the Department to hire permanent social workers and social work managers. They had also raised concerns with the accommodation of disabled children in ECD centres, but these requests were inconsistently attended to. Perhaps by pressing for shorter deadlines, the Department would be pressured to enforce implementation. The Department needed to offer progress reports and detailed impact assessments on the Vangasali Programme and the ECD programme amongst other outstanding recommendations.
Members felt that oversight of the National Drug Authority Board needed to be intensified. The National Drug Authority Board had been fulfilling research, much like the Department of Social Development. Yet they had not offered performance reports on their service delivery, their core programmes with civil society organisations, the Criminal Asset Recovery Account and their Volunteer programme. Members particularly highlighted the over expenditure on the Volunteer Programme. The Committee felt that the NDA needed to review their food and nutrition strategies. The NDA also needed to offer skills development programmes to reduce reliance on Community Nutrition Development Centres.
The Committee felt that the South African Social Security Agency needed to offer an update of their investigations and the implication on post-office branch closures on the payment of social grants. The Committee needed a detailed report or at least an explanation of their challenges. SASSA needed to offer responses about corruption and allegations of fraud in the distribution of ECD grants. The Committee felt that the Social Grant Card System needed to be reviewed.
Overall, the Committee expressed frustration with the lack of communication from the Department of Social Development, the National Drug Authority Board, the South African Social Security Agency and other related entities. The Committee requested that each of these organs offer more regular, consistent reports on their performance, expenditure, action plans and consequence management strategies. The Committee had seen concerning, repetitive findings in each of the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report as well as the Fourth and Fifth Quarter Reports. The Committee felt that the Department of Social Development needed to strengthen their communication with non-profit and non-governmental organisations, as well their respective stakeholders.
The Chairperson welcomed Committee Members. She hoped that everyone was doing well since everybody was tired after elections and public hearings. Ms B Masango (DA) was asked to open with a prayer, and she obliged.
The Committee Secretary, Ms Lindiwe Ntsabo, said that Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) had sent an apology for her absence, as she was at another meeting.
The Chairperson said that she hoped that Ms A Motaung (ANC) had received a note saying get well soon since she was sick.
Ms Ntsabo said that Ms Motaung should receive a note by the end of the week to wish her a speedy recovery.
The agenda was adopted by Ms A Abrahams (DA) and Ms Masango.
The Chairperson asked Members how they wanted to approach the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR).
Ms Abrahams suggested that the Committee go through their recommendations.
Ms Masango agreed.
Portfolio Committee on Social Development Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR), 2020/2021
Ms Yolisa Khanye, Committee Content Advisor, said that the report was 61 pages. Section 1 dealt with the mid-year budget assessments and the Committee’s quarterly reports and key performance findings. Section 2 dealt with annual performance reports. Section 3 contained the audit findings by the Auditor-General (AG).
Ms Khanye had placed these audit findings in a table alongside the recommendations made by the Committee, which they could use to conduct oversight and follow-ups. The final section of the BRRR contained the recommendations, which differed from the resolutions.
The recommendations went to the House of Parliament, while the resolutions were mainly requests for follow-up information and action. For example, the resolutions included the following:
• A request to obtain the addresses of ECD centres built by the Department.
• A request to have a meeting with the Department of Social Development (DSD) and its entities.
• A request to be briefed on the action plans related to the BRRR findings and recommendations.
• A request for a follow-up Portfolio Committee meeting to discuss annual plans and service delivery.
• A request to organise a meeting with the DSD and its entities, where the Portfolio Committee (PC) could be briefed on the outcomes of consequence management.
• A request for the DSD to provide the Committee with the names of service providers that were involved in uncompetitive and unlawful procurement practices as found by the AG.
Ms Khanye asked if these resolutions accurately reflected the requests made by members.
Ms L Arries (EFF) said that the resolutions were clear. In terms of the vacancies, these issues would be addressed in the action plan.
Ms Masango said that the resolutions had accurately captured the discussions the Committee had, and she proposed that the Committee accepted the resolutions.
Ms Abrahams said that the Committee resolved to have another meeting with the AG, not with the DSD. The meeting did not need to include the Minister and the Director-General of the DSD.
Ms Abrahams had also asked for the management report that went to the accounting officer. The Committee still had not received that report. Would this request be captured in the resolutions or the recommendations? When would the Committee receive the management report?
Ms Arries agreed with Ms Abrahams’ comment.
The Chairperson asked that Ms Khanye correct the resolutions.
Ms Khanye said that she would add this comment by Ms Abrahams into the resolutions. It was included in the deliberations that were made by the Committee. These responses were forwarded to the Committee.
The DSD had responded and advised that the Chairperson’s office request a follow-up meeting with the AG’s office. The Committee would have to write a letter to the AG’s office. Ms Khanye would include this request in the resolutions.
Ms Khanye moved forward with the recommendations.
Ms Khanye referred back to recommendation 8 that said that the Minister should ensure that DSD employs people with disabilities to reach the official target of employing 6%, disabled people. The target was actually 2%.
Ms van der Merwe had sent in her responses. She said that within the next three months, the Department should provide a detailed action plan to resolve the repeat findings on fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure as highlighted by the AG.
Ms van der Merwe said that the Department should aim to finalise all outstanding investigations on irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and provide a detailed report to the Committee within the next three months.
Ms van der Merwe said that the Department should move with speed to fill all critical vacancies and provide a detailed report stating the time frames of these appointments before the end of 2021.
Ms van der Merwe said that the Department should, before year-end, table a detailed report on investigations into the unlawful collection of the R350 grant, and provide a detailed report on the resultant consequence management and prosecutions.
Ms van der Merwe said that before year end, the Department should table a report on how it intends to streamline its systems in order to stop double-dipping in the collection of grants, food parcels and other governmental support that was highlighted by the AG.
Ms Khanye said that there were similarities between Ms van der Merwe’s recommendations and those laid out by Ms Khanye. The only differences were in the stipulated time frames.
Ms van der Merwe recommended that these deliverables were achieved over the next three months, while Ms Khanye suggested the end of the 2021 financial year in March since December was a very quiet month.
The Chairperson called on Members to comment on the different timeframes. Some of the timeframes seemed impractical. With only one response from Ms Abrahams, the Chairperson asked whether there were any other Members present in the meeting.
Ms A Abrahams said she was able to respond quickly because she was more rested since she was not travelling with the Committee. She was thinking of the Members as they travelled.
Regarding the NPO payments in recommendation 2, the DSD had said on numerous occasions that they were not responsible for NPO payments. Provincial governments were responsible for these payments. However, the oversight of these payments still rested with the national Department. Within the recommendation, it should be noted that the Committee understood that NPO payments were the responsibility of the provincial government, but that the national Department still needed to play their oversight role to make these payments happen.
Ms Abrahams agreed with Ms Khanye’s suggestion to start implementing recommendations in the new financial year.
Going back to Ms van der Merwe’s suggestion, she said that an Excel sheet would be a good tool to format the action plan and show what had been done and what was outstanding. This would make it easier to see the Department’s progress.
The Committee often spoke about gender-based violence (GBV), and it was important that the Department played an active role in the mitigation of the issue. Sixteen Days of Activism was starting in November. Perhaps the Committee should include within the recommendations that every three months or so the GBV Command Council should send their statistic to the Committee. This would show their continuous progress, allow for statistical analysis and it would convey the number of calls that the Council received. Instead of constantly asking for updated statistics, the Committee should regulate this procedure by asking for the consistent presentation of progress updates.
In response to recommendation 4, Ms Abrahams said that the Department had already started with phase 2 of the Vangasali programme. The recommendation should only refer to phase 3.
Regarding the appointment of a Director-General in recommendation 7, the Committee had been asking about this for a very long time. The Department had simply not answered this question and the Committee still had no clarity, so it was a good thing that recommendation 7 was included.
Ms Arries referred to recommendation 3, which sought to ensure the payment of ECD stimulus packages. She had spoken to a Department head recently who said that the Department was sitting with the money, but people were not coming to apply for funding. The Department should have a programme to ensure that NPOs offer assistance to citizens when they were applying for funding.
The Chairperson agreed.
Ms Masango said the Committee had been urging the Department to strengthen their communication systems with stakeholders, NGOs and NPOs. This would allow for better service delivery.
The Committee had not received any departmental responses that explained why the rest of the ECD centres were unable to access the grant. It was shocking to see that people in northern KwaZulu-Natal could not gain access to the grant. It did not make sense.
There needed to be a strong, credible and reliable database, and better communication. The Committee could not make all of their important announcements at public hearings as though there were no other formal communication networks.
Ms Masango supported Ms Arries and Ms Abrahams’ recommendations and comments. It was embarrassing and ridiculous that there was so little communication with stakeholders.
Ms J Manganye (ANC) agreed with the other Members. The departmental vacancies were seriously concerning. Since 2019, when the Committee met with the Department, they had been told that the critical positions and vacancies would be filled. Today, there was no progress.
Regarding the Vangasali Programme, the Committee had been hammering the DSD to speed up the rollout for ages. Phase 3 should be implemented before the end of the current financial year. The DSD had introduced the programme and told the Committee that they were doing the work, but the Committee had not received an updated report yet.
The Committee needed updates from most of the provinces, except KwaZulu-Natal which was much better than others. Cape Town had not offered any updates; it seemed as though they did not even know what the programme was.
The Department was avoiding the Committee’s questions, but they needed to show the Committee a report. The Department needed to be held accountable for the promises made about the Vangasali programme. Constantly having to ask for updates was tiring, and the Department needed to send updates on the Vangasali programme and the timeframe for vacancy appointments soon.
Members were always asking about these issues. How long would they have to wait for these tasks to be achieved?
Mr Linton Mchunu, the Acting DG, had been telling the Committee that phase three would be rolled out soon. Clearly, something had to be done in order for the Department to take the Committee seriously.
The Department should offer a report that explained their challenges in implementing programmes like the Vangasali programme. The ECD was struggling, yet the Department was not distributing the funds that they were supposed to distribute.
Ms Arries mentioned the shortage of social workers. This issue came up often. Would this issue’s resolution be included in the recommendation to fulfil vacancies?
Mr Abrahams referred to the action plan. It was very important for continuity’s sake that the action plan included a section that spoke to the impact of the Department. The Committee had asked for this inclusion since 2019. The phrase “impact assessment” needed to be included in the first point of the monthly action reporting.
Regarding Ms van der Merwe’s final point about the R350 grant, the Committee had already asked the DSD to take them through a deep analysis of the grant. Could this request be included in the recommendation? Some time needed to be set aside for this.
To expand on Ms Arries’ comment about social workers, Ms Abrahams said that it was important to note that the DSD needed permanent social workers, not contracted ones. The last 1 809 social workers were on a contract for three months, which was then extended for another five months.
New social workers had to be vetted by the Department, trained, resourced and given access to vehicles. After all of this, how could these social workers only have a contract for one year, only to be left by the wayside afterwards? Short-term contract social workers cannot have a deep impact. DSD needed permanent social workers.
The Committee also needed to employ more social work managers. Social work managers were under-resourced, but they were needed to provide oversight management. There needed to be permanent social work managers too. Social workers had very little impact when they were the impermanent staff.
Ms Manganye emphasised the issue of social workers, management and supervisors. There were too many social workers and too few managers, which was probably why the Committee still had not received sufficient reports and updates.
Ms Manganye agreed with Ms Abrahams. Social workers should be organised in similar structures as those that existed in KwaZulu-Natal. The DSD wanted social workers in each and every ward, but they were only in KwaZulu-Natal. The other provinces did not have the same success as KwaZulu-Natal.
Ms Arries said Ms Manganye’s point was very important. Each and every ward in the country needed to have a social worker. The DSD needed to regulate the distribution of ECD centres. There should not be more than one ECD centre in the same street. Right now, you might find that there were five ECD centres in one ward and none in another ward. The DSD needed to ensure that every ward had an ECD centre to accommodate everyone.
The Chairperson agreed that ECD centres needed to be regulated by the Department of Basic Education, as the responsibility was being migrated to the DBE. Each ward needed one ECD centre.
Ms Arries said that she was not implying that each ward should only have one ECD centre. She simply meant that, at least, there needed to be a minimum of one ECD centre in each ward.
The Chairperson said that she was sceptical to recommend that the DBE should roll out phase three of the Vangasali programme. When members first raised this issue, they were also implying that an awareness programme was needed to spread information about the Vangasali programme.
Other provinces were unaware of the Vangasali programme. Ms Khanye should include in recommendation four: the suggestion to establish an awareness programme for the Vangasali project. It was strange that some provinces were unaware of the Vangasali plans taking place.
Ms Arries said that in the Committee’s public hearings the Committee had seen a lot of issues surrounding disabled children. These children were specifically in ECD centres because there were no facilities or trained, professional practitioners to work with them. The Committee should aim to resolve this issue in the 2022/2023 financial year programmes. Disabled children were being excluded from society.
The Chairperson said that all of the provinces that the Committee visited had raised this point. Has the Committee ever discussed this issue?
Ms Arries said that they had mentioned the issue while discussing ECD centres. These ECD centres were meant for able-bodied children, and they were not accommodating enough of disabled children. The Committee had raised the issue numerous times.
Ms J Manganye said that this was true. The Committee had highlighted the issue of disabled children in ECD centres many times.
Regarding recommendation eight, the DSD needed to hire more disabled people. The DSD’s target should not be 2%. This was too little. The president, the Minister and the Deputy Minister had all spoken about the targets to hire more disabled people in their speeches.
The DSD needed to increase their target from 2%. There were so many disabled people in South Africa who were not receiving education, and this prevented them from gaining employment.
The Chairperson said that she was not sure whether the recommendation made provisions for people with albinism.
Ms Arries said that the recommendation was meant to make provisions for autistic people.
The Chairperson said that it should also include people with albinism, as this was also a disability.
Ms Arries said that the issue of public drug rehabilitation centres was very important. Children get lost within society because their parents could not afford to send them to private rehabilitation centres. This needed to be included in the recommendation.
The Chairperson said that Ms Arries seemed fresh. It was as if Ms Arries was still in a public hearing. But this was a meeting, and the content adviser would ensure that the points raised would be included in the recommendations.
Ms Khanye said that she and her manager, Ms Ntsabo, were confused about how to handle the discussion points. The issues raised by Members were important, and they were included in the findings made at the public hearings. However, the public hearings dealt with the separate processes to the Committee’s current agenda in the BRRR meeting.
Ms Ntsabo would soon show Members her reports that highlight these issues. Thereafter, the Committee could have a discussion regarding those key findings from the public hearings. Then various Departments would respond to these findings, including the Departments of Home Affairs, Justice, Education and Health.
Members would have an opportunity to deliberate on these public hearing findings in the upcoming processes. Based on those public hearings, Ms Khanye made the recommendations. She said that her manager could hopefully advise her on how to proceed.
The Chairperson asked who her manager was.
Ms Khanye said that her manager was Mr D Bandi [unit manager: committee support services], but he had logged out.
The Chairperson said that as much as these issues were interlinked, the current report could not be based too much on the public hearing findings.
Ms Arries interjected and said “no” repeatedly.
The Chairperson told Ms Arries to wait. There were sentences within the recommendations that encompassed the same issues in the public hearings, such as the recommendations talking about the ECD centres and the employment of disabled people.
Although the Committee had not elaborated on the issue of disabled children within ECDs, the recommendations could be expanded and phrased in a way to cover what was raised. The manager did not need to offer advice on this. Ms Khanye could include these issues in the report by referring to the public findings.
Ms Arries tried to interject again.
The Chairperson asked why Ms Arries had not raised her hand before she spoke.
Ms Arries said that she could not raise her hand on her device.
The Chairperson said that Ms Arries could speak after Ms Manganye.
Ms Manganye said that the rollout of the Vangasali programme, the regulation of ECD centres and the problem of unfulfilled vacancies had been long-standing issues. The Committee had hammered on these issues in each and every meeting, but the Department never even tried to answer. They give shallow answers. This was why the Committee kept bringing the issues up time and again. The BRRR should still reflect these issues even though they also appeared in the findings from the public hearings.
Regarding the permanent employment of social workers, the Department had said that social workers would be appointed in all wards. This needed to be done.
Ms Arries interjected again to ask the Chairperson if she could just get one thing straight.
The Chairperson asked Ms Manganye if she was finished speaking.
Ms Manganye said that she was not finished because Ms Arries interrupted her, but she could proceed.
The Chairperson said she was chairing the meeting. Ms Manganye needed to finish up, and then Ms Arries could follow.
Ms Manganye said that the issues being raised were not only emanating from the public hearings. These issues were reflected in all of the Committee’s documents. If one perused the Committee’s documents, they would find these same issues popping up everywhere.
The Department was provoking the Committee and causing them to repeat themselves. When would the Committee have a meeting with the Department? The Acting DG, Mr Mchunu, was not giving the Committee what they needed from him.
The Chairperson said these were repetitive findings. She thanked Ms Manganye and said that Ms Khanye needed to try and insert these repetitive findings in the recommendations. The Chairperson handed it over to Ms Arries.
Ms Arries said they were currently busy with the financial year, but the Committee wanted resolutions for the financial year 2022/2023. To reiterate Ms Manganye, these issues were not only relevant to the public hearings; they had been repeatedly mentioned in previous Committee meetings. If the Committee included these recommendations and findings of social ills in the report now, then the issues could be excluded from the following financial year’s plan.
The Committee needed to use the programmes and plans currently in place to deal with the drug issue that society was facing. The South African youth was getting lost. The Committee and the DSD were responsible for the youth and those who did not have financial means.
The Chairperson said that all of the repetitive findings would be included in the report, and Ms Khanye knew what to do. The Committee would repeat these findings again when they proceeded with processes for the public hearings.
Ms Khanye read the amended recommendations to the members.
Ms Arries referred to the R350 grant. The R350 grant was going to come to an end in March. The Committee had not spoken about what would happen thereafter. There was a television programme that stated that 46% of South Africans relied on social grants.
Since the Minister had not responded, the Committee needed to determine what the plan was to replace this grant. The Committee needed to have a plan in place for the following year: It needed to include a recommendation that the DSD implement a new social relief grant to replace the R350 grant.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Arries. She asked if Ms Khanye understood.
Ms Khanye said that she would need to think about it more.
Ms Arries said that Ms Khanye did not need to think about it more. It was an important point. Ms Khanye needed to tell the Committee how this would be addressed in the recommendations.
Ms Khanye said that was exactly what she was talking about.
Ms Abrahams said that the recommendation needed to specifically call for an in-depth analysis of the entire impact of the R350 grant from its commencement to its completion. The recommendation should ask for a report about the investigations and collections as well. The report needed to have a broad scope, and perhaps it could even include what the DSD envisioned for the future of the social relief project.
The Chairperson agreed that the Committee needed to ask the DSD to give the Committee continuous updates and reports in each and every meeting. When the Committee drafts an agenda, they should also appoint a time to check in on these updates and follow up on any requests. It was embarrassing that the Committee did not know what was happening with the social relief grant.
Ms Manganye said that the Chairperson had not properly heard the Chief Executive Officer when he spoke about the R350 grant. He said that the DSD would never follow up on these unlawful collections.
The Chairperson did not hear the CEO say “never”. This was not permitted. The Committee was not asking whether the DSD would or would not do the investigation, the Committee was instructing the DSD to do so. It was public knowledge that certain public servants had unlawfully collected these grants. The Committee had to obtain information from the DSD.
Ms Arries said that she read an article discussing the issue of young girls missing school due to their lack of access to sanitary towels. This was a sensitive issue that the DSD needed to address in the next financial year. This needed to become a part of the DSD’s legacy.
Ms B Masango said that the DSD needed to brief the Committee and offer updated reports on all of the recommendations - particularly the investigation into the payments of the R350 grant - before the end of the current financial year.
Ms Ntsabo read out the amended recommendations made to the DSD. Once those were concluded, she went through the recommendations for the National Drug Authority (NDA).
Ms Ntsabo noted that the AG said that the Committee needed to follow up with the NDA Board.
Deliberations on the Recommendations and Resolutions: National Drug Authority
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) greeted everyone. The Committee had consistently raised concerns that the NDA had problems executing their mandates on the ground. The Committee needed to see tangible results and feedback from the NDA Board. Ms Sukers requested that oversight would be intensified, and this request was supported by Ms Abrahams.
The CSOs on the ground and the mandate of the NDA were inconsistent. The report should state that the Committee wanted a real-time, evidence-based report about the work of the NDA where CSOs are concerned. Oversight needed to be intensified. The investigation that the recommendations referred to were no longer investigations. The investigations were opened by the AG, and it was then forwarded to the old NDA Board to deal with.
The AG told Ms Sukers that the investigation now needed to be referred to the new Board. Because time had passed and the contract of the CSO had come to an end, the Committee should request a report from the board.
The Committee needed to see the status of the investigation and an action plan for the NDA. The Committee needed to see progress reports and success rates for the core programmes of the NDA, which involved the CSOs, from each province nationally. Ms Sukers asked if Ms Abrahams could add anything to this point.
Ms Abrahams said Ms Sukers had covered it correctly. The NDA was doing exactly what the DSD was doing: research. They were running similar programmes to the DSD. The main concern was the actual impact of the NDA. In one quarter they were leaning towards strong losses, in another quarter they had miraculously recovered.
Ms Abrahams thanked Ms Sukers for bringing up the point about the Criminal Asset Recovery Account (CARA) because it was important.
Ms Abrahams only found out about the vacant CEO post in the Committee’s meeting with the AG. Again, this was concerning. There was another critical post that was vacant. When would the post be filled?
During the current quarter, there was an irregular expenditure of R29 million within the volunteer programme. This was Ms Abrahams’ main concern. The Committee needed to ask the NDA about this programme. What had happened?
Ms Abrahams had assumed that the volunteer programme was a short term Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) contract with the youth. What has happened to those youths? Were they unemployed? If that was true, then it meant that the DSD had spent R29 million on a six-month contract without any real impact. This expenditure needed to be highlighted.
Ms Abrahams had asked the NDA to forward the Committee their presentation because she had noticed that the presentation they displayed was not the same as the one the Committee received. There were one or two slides that were missing. Pages 10 and 11 were not a part of the presentation that the Committee received, and she thought that those slides were the ones that included the expenditure of the volunteer programme.
Ms Arries said that there were problems with the development programmes of the NDA. If the Committee really wanted to improve the employment rates, then the NDA would need to come up with a skills development programme. Each Community Nutrition Development Centre (CNDC) needed to offer developmental programmes to ensure that its stewards could eventually become independent from the CNDCs.
South Africa was facing food insecurity, and the government needed to establish food banks that could decrease food insecurity. The CNDC had underspent on their budget. They needed to step up and think outside of the box. There were some centres that functioned as soup kitchens. These centres needed to become official CNDCs. The Committee needed to link these centres in order to create communal food banks.
Ms Arries said that this issue was very close to her heart. The Committee needed to review the food and nutrition programme. Communal food banks could reach more people. There was a budget for these development programmes, but the programmes were never implemented. There was too much reliance on the CNDCs. The Committee needed to help the 14 million food-insecure people to advance past dependence on the CNDCs.
Ms Arries said that the final recommendation about the food and nutrition programme needed to acknowledge the existence of food insecurity in South Africa.
Deliberations on the Recommendations and Resolutions: SASSA
Ms Arries said that the Minister must also ensure that there was a skills audit of all South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) employees because some SASSA officials did not have the necessary qualifications.
The Minister should also ensure that all investigations into SASSA employees were concluded in the current financial year. These reports had not been updated for a very long time.
The SASSA card system was also a headache. The Committee needed to review the SASSA card system. Ms Arries had read somewhere that there was another post office in Sea Point which had closed down. What alternative would the Minister put in place to ensure that people would not be disadvantaged by lacking access to post offices?
Ms Sukers asked if the Committee could excuse her early.
Ms Sukers said that, in terms of the investigation, the Committee needed to use different words when asking for an update on the investigations. As Ms Manganye had said earlier, the same words and messages had been given to the Department before.
The Committee needed to ask for a progress report on every single issue within a set deadline. If SASSA could not do this, then they needed to offer an explanation of the challenges that prevented them from submitting the report. Otherwise, these issues roll over into delayed deadlines.
The recommendations were wordy, but the Committee needed to be concise and definitive of their instruction.
Ms Arries said that Ms Sukers needed to understand that they were dealing with different entities. The DSD was different to the NDA and SASSA. The Committee needed to include recommendations for different entities.
The Chairperson asked to proceed to the final set of recommendations.
Ms Khanye said that she included what Ms Arries and Ms Sukers added to the recommendations. She would add the suggestion to intensify oversight into the Committee’s resolutions.
On the request to do a skills audit in SASSA, did the members want SASSA to report back to the Committee or just do a skills audit amongst their employees?
Ms Arries said that SASSA needed to bring their progress report to the Committee.
Ms Arries asked whether Ms Khanye had added the suggestion that the DSD offers an action plan and budget for the provision of sanitary towels in the next financial year.
Ms Khanye said that it would be better if the DSD could brief the Committee on their action plan for the distribution of sanitary towels before making a recommendation. This would allow the Committee to make an informed recommendation based on the DSD’s plan and budget.
The next recommendation was concerned with how the closure of South African Post Office branches would affect the payment of social relief grants. Ms Khanye said that this comment would be a resolution.
Ms Khanye had amended the timeline for the recommendation that cited that SASSA needed to conclude their investigations. Ms Khanye would amend the other recommendations and resolutions.
Ms Ntsabo requested that someone move for the adoption of the BRRR.
Ms Mangayne, Ms Sukers and Ms Abrahams moved to adopt the BRRR with its amendments.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Third Quarter Performance and Expenditure Report for 2020/21 of the Department of Social Development (DSD)
Ms Khanye said that some time had passed since the third quarter report was discussed. She read some of the observations and deliberations that the Committee had made, as well as the DSD’s response. Some questions had responses but others were not addressed due to time constraints.
Ms Khanye read through the Committee’s questions and the Department’s answers.
Ms Arries referred to the response that said that the Department had not yet identified government employees who applied for the ECD grant, and once identified, they would be referred to their respective Departments for disciplinary processes. Ms Arries agreed with this.
However, the DSD was responsible for the administration of the R350 ECD grant, and they should take further action irrespective of the disciplinary hearings conducted in other departments.
The DSD needed to send a clear message that they did not tolerate fraud and corruption. The DSD needed to institute criminal charges against such persons, because this was fraud. These people needed to be removed from public service.
The unemployment statistics in South Africa were very high, and there were unemployed educated people sitting at home who were more honest and less corrupt than those who were in the system. If the DSD did not remove these corrupt employees from the system, then the Committee would hear about similar issues year in and year out.
The Chairperson said that she did not think anyone would be against this comment.
Ms Abrahams thanked Ms Khanye for the report. She agreed with the report. Ms Abrahams had read some of the Department’s answers and it seemed that the Department had answered more thoroughly. There was an improvement, but there were still some unanswered questions. Hopefully the Committee could press the Department for more answers.
Overall, the report was good. With regards to Ms Arries’ comment, perhaps the Committee could just take a step back and get the Department to conduct an investigation into who applied for out of work remuneration in the ECD area.
Not wanting to jump up again on the public hearings, but the issue of social workers and government employees benefiting from the ECD grant had come up many times. The Department would have to do their own homework into the perpetrators.
Ms Abrahams moved for the adoption of the report with amendments.
The Chairperson asked if the Members were still in the meeting.
Ms Manganye said that she was there. She seconded the movement for the adoption of the report, but she believed the Department still needed to pull up its socks.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Fourth Quarter Performance and Expenditure Report for 2020/21 of the Department of Social Development (DSD), South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the National Development Agency (NDA)
Ms Khanye said that this report was for the entire Portfolio Committee. The Committee did a briefing for the Department and its two entities.
Ms Khanye added that there was one meeting where the Committee was very low on time, and that some answers had not been adequately addressed. The comments being presented at the moment were just some of the points that Ms Khanye was able to capture.
Ms Khanye reminded the Committee that the report was from the previous financial year.
The Chairperson said that the Committee could move forward.
Ms Abrahams said that she was happy with the report. Both reports were done now, and everyone could see that the same items had come up every quarter with the same inadequate responses. The Committee could not continue in this fashion.
Ms Abrahams hoped that the three-month action report would improve the performance and the impact of the Department and that it would assist the Committee with their oversight work. She re-emphasised that the social workers needed to be permanent staff and not contracted staff in order to generate real impact.
The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee had dealt with the same problems in each quarter. They did not want to keep dealing with repetitive findings.
Ms Manganye said that she supported what Ms Abrahams said. She moved to adopt the report with amendments.
Ms Abrahams said that the Committee could not adopt the report because they were not a quorum.
Ms Ntsabo said that there were four Committee Members present and they needed six Members present to adopt the report. Ms Masango had left early for another meeting.
The Chairperson said that she also needed to be at another meeting.
Ms Arries rejoined the meeting and apologised because she lost connection momentarily.
Ms Ntsabo said that the DA was fairly represented but the Committee needed more Members present from the ANC.
Ms Manganye said that she could not reach Mr Stock.
Ms Ntsabo said that Ms A Hlongo (ANC) had logged off early to go to the airport, but that she had rejoined the meeting and now the Committee was a quorum.
Ms Manganye and Ms Abrahams moved to adopt the report.
The Chairperson thanked them. She asked Ms Ntsabo if the Committee could defer the adoption of meeting minutes.
Ms Ntsabo said that they could do the minutes when the Committee covered the first term programme. The Committee’s last meeting was on 10 December. The Committee could do the minutes on 5 December when they went to the Western Cape.
Ms Manganye asked if the Committee could do it after their public hearing in Johannesburg.
The Chairperson said that they would discuss a date later because she still had other meetings to attend.
The meeting was adjourned.
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