Social Assistance and Social Security Agency Bills: negotiating mandates

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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


27 January 2004

Ms L Jacobus (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Eastern Cape Negotiating Mandate
Free State Negotiating Mandate on Social Agency Bill
Free State Negotiating Mandate on Social Assistance Bill
Gauteng Negotiating Mandate
Mpumalanga Negotiating Mandate
Limpopo Negotiating Mandate (included in minute text)
Northern Cape Negotiating Mandate (included in minute text)
North West Negotiating Mandate (included in minute text)
Western Cape Negotiating Mandate

Other relevant documents:
Social Security Agency Bill [B51B-2003]
South African Social Security Agency Bill [B51A-2003]

All the provinces submitted negotiating mandates, with the exception of KZN that had not managed to reach consensus within their Committee.

The following provinces supported the Social Security Agency Bill with concerns or amendments: Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape and Western Cape. Gauteng indicated that they supported the principle and detail of the Bill. North West Province chose to ‘reserve their opinion’ on the Bill.

Eastern Cape indicated that they supported the Social Assistance Bill without amendments, with Gauteng indicating that they supported the ‘principle and detail’ of the Bill. Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape and Western Cape supported the Bill with amendments. North West Province ‘reserved their opinion’ on the Bill.

Final mandates would be received by the Committee on 18 February 2004.

Ms L Jacobus (ANC) reminded the Committee of the decision taken at the end of 2003, to deal only with the Social Assistance and Social Security Agency Bills. Any other legislation would be dealt with by the new Parliament.

The old Parliamentary programme provided that:
- 3 February 2004: The Committee would receive final mandates
- 13 February 2004: Plenary Discussions would be held

However, due to special circumstances this was revised as follows:
- 6 February: Opening of National Parliament
- 13 February: Opening of Eastern Cape Legislature
- 10 February: Opening of Free State and Gauteng Legislatures
- After the elections: Opening of KZN Parliament
- 12 February: Opening of Mpumalanga and Limpopo Legislatures
- 20 February: Opening of Northern Cape Legislature
- 13 February: Opening of North West Provincial Legislature
- 9 February: Opening of Western Cape Provincial Legislature

There would have to be discussions with the Chief Whip on how to deal with the Northern Cape (since they were opening so late and it was imperative that the mandate first proceed through the sitting of the provincial legislature). The date for plenary discussions would be pushed back. Final Mandates would be received on 18 February. It appeared that this might have to take place without first obtaining a mandate from the Northern Cape. The Chairperson requested the Department to communicate these amended dates to the Minister and the Director General.

Negotiating Mandates on the Social Security Agency Bill
-Eastern Cape indicated that although briefings had been held, it had not been possible to hold public hearings on the Bill. The Eastern Cape supported the Bill with serious concerns (as highlighted in the attached document).

Free State had distributed copies of the Bill to municipalities (especially districts). These were followed by public hearings in three districts. The province supported the Bill with the amendments proposed in the attached document.

Gauteng indicated that their first briefing with the provincial Department had taken place on 24 November 2003. Public hearings had taken place on 10 December 2003. The negotiating mandate had been adopted on 26 January 2004. There had been concerns about -implications of the Bill regarding human resources and assets, and direct transfers to the Agency. The province supported the principle and detail of the Bill.

KZN did not have a mandate. Despite the Department’s attempts to explain the Bill and answer questions, the members of that Committee had been unable to reach consensus. They had not held public hearings.

Mpumalanga had held briefings on 24 November 2003. Public Hearings had been held on 3 and 4 December 2003. The Bill had been considered on 22 January 2004. The province was in favour of the Bill subject to proposals of a technical nature (outlined in the attached document)

Limpopo had not held public hearings. Briefings had been held on 24 November 2003. They presented their ‘findings’ on the Bill (see the attached document). The province supported the Social Security Agency Bill, having found that:
-the Bill seeks to broaden the National Social Security Service
-the Department should further inquire on the possible implications of the agency and communicate them to the provinces
-the agency would have a responsibility to put in place effective and efficient management systems of social assistance and
-the agency was hopeful that the system be user-friendly to beneficiaries

Northern Cape had held public hearings on the Bill. The province requested members of the Select Committee to negotiate on the following key points:
‘ -The Agency Bill was not explicit on the relationship between the Agency and the Department. This was important so that the public knew which avenue to use once they had queries.
-No mention was made of a database to assist officials to keep track of applications and/or beneficiaries. This would also help in checking on intra-provincial applicants/beneficiaries.’

North West held briefings on the Bill on 24 November 2004. Public hearings were held on 19 and 20 January. The North West ‘reserved their opinion’ on the Bill subject to the consideration of the following recommendations (the province dealt with concerns for the Social Assistance and Social Security Agency Bills collectively):
" –Let pensioners pay directly to the funeral schemes to prevent fly-by-nights from fraudulently deducting monies. The relevant sectors should be consulted before monies are deducted.
-Traditional leaders should be involved in the drafting of such Bills, to enable them to understand the procedures relating to social security grants, since some pensioners make payments at tribal offices.
-Bills are silent on the issue of pension committee members paying for their own transport, etc. Currently pensioners have to make contributions to the travelling costs of these members.
-The age discrimination between men and women (in terms of their eligibility for pension) should be eliminated. Those who are ‘unfit’ should be given grants irrespective of their age.
-The waiting period after applying for grants should be reduced from approximately three months to seven days.
-The requirement of re-applying for the foster care grants after the lapsing of a certain period should be abolished, since many children lose their grants when parents forget to re-apply. This requirement should only apply if the foster parent has been changed.
-The issue of securing information should be clearly defined and there should be clarity on the steps to be taken in the event of information being revealed without permission.
-The functions of staff employed by the Chief Executive Officer should be outlined so as not to duplicate the functions of social workers.
-There should be timeous notification of procedures in the case of payments made to deceased persons
-The Bill is silent on the issue of the transfer of employees to the Agency. Would they lose their jobs? If an individual does not want to be transferred, will s/he be retrenched and be forced to take his/her package?
-The Bill should clearly outline the relationship between traditional leaders, Councillors and social workers in terms of social security grants.
-Volunteers who are not working for Government, but assisting with social security issues, should be compensated or receive incentives.
-Section 10 of the Social Assistance Bill should be changed to read ‘men and women’ since men too receive grants on behalf of their children.
-Unemployed persons and unqualified widow/ers who are staying with their children should be given grants.
-Hawkers should be banned from paypoints since they sell food to pensioners at high prices.
-The Child Support Grant should be paid in the form of vouchers and not cash in order to prevent the abuse of the grant."
(Please note that some grammatical editing to this paragraph has been done by a PMG monitor)

The Western Cape had held public hearings on 21 and 22 January 2004. The province supported the Bill with the concerns outlined below:
-the manner in which the services of the Agency would reach the poor in the rural towns and farms
-the Agency should not lower standards of service delivery
-there should be negotiations between the DSD and staff involved before the legislation is passed

Response by the Department of Social Development
Mr F Makiwane (Department of Social Development) dealt with concerns on the relationship between the Department and the Agency. He explained the structure and function of the Agency in relation to the Department of Social Development (DSD). The DSD would be responsible for the following functions relating to the Agency:
-policy determination
-setting norms and standards
-providing an Appeal mechanism for a beneficiary aggrieved by a decision taken by the Agency

The national DSD’s functions ‘cascaded’ to the provinces since social assistance provision was a concurrent function. Also, the Agency should not be viewed as an institution existing only at head office as its functions would be decentralised to the lowest levels. With regard to the role of the provinces, provinces did not currently hold this function since 90% of payments were made by private contractors. These third party private contractors would now be replaced by the one permanent Agency. It was therefore important to note that the functions taken over by the Agency were not held by the provinces even under the current system.

There had been concerns about the fact that the Agency would be registering beneficiaries. Mr Makiwane reassured the members that, since the Agency would remain a government institution, DSD would exercise oversight over Agency functions.

Mr S Jehoma added that, regarding the transfer of DSD employees to the Agency, a document dealing with the implications of the establishment of the Agency had been drafted. Also, Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act ensured that employees would be transferred to the Agency should transfer of functions occur.

Dealing with concerns that labour unions and staff had not been consulted, he stated that consultation was ongoing. However, the DSD could not consult with individual employees until the process at the Bargaining Council had been completed.

On the transfer of assets, he said that while it might be true that 90% of the budget would shift to the Agency, this did not necessarily mean that 90% of the assets or liabilities would shift. This issue was not that simple and it was also not a fait accompli, since it is subject to discussions between the Ministers of Social Development and Finance.

He dealt with concerns by Northern Cape that the Bill was not promoting a developmental approach, saying that while the promotion of such an approach was part of Government policy, it could not form part of this Bill. The developmental approach could be promoted by broader Government initiatives, such as public works projects.

The Chairperson referred to concerns raised around the demarcation of the functions of the Agency in relation to the Department, saying that the Select Committee on Social Services would need the document, which had been presented to the Portfolio Committee. She requested the legal drafters of the DSD to submit a copy of the Bill incorporating all the amendments proposed by the provinces by Friday, 30 January 2004.

Negotiating mandates on the Social Assistance Bill
The Eastern Cape had not held public hearings on the Bill. They indicated their support for the Bill, adding however that the Bill did have its limitations, as many potential beneficiaries would continue to fall through the cracks. They had hoped that this would be dealt with in the new Bill.

The Chairperson reminded DSD officials that this issue had been raised in a previous workshop with the Department, who had acknowledged this as a problem.

Free State had provided stakeholders with copies of the Bills to facilitate input at their public hearings. The province supported the Bill with the amendments proposed in the attached document.

Gauteng, after raising concerns around the issue of direct transfers of employees to the Agency, indicated their support for the Bill.

KZN had no mandate.

The Chairperson was encouraged that six of the nine provinces had managed to hold public hearings in the very limited time provided.

Mpumalanga supported the Bill subject to the technical amendments (mentioned in the attached document).

Limpopo indicated their support for the Bill. The Committee had found that:
-The Bill sought to address the historical flaws of the previous legislation on the administration of social assistance to beneficiaries
-The Bill would ensure effective and efficient systems in the payment of social assistance
-The Bill would ensure uniformity, standardisation and compliance in the provision of social assistance
-The independence of the Inspectorate would ensure accountability in the provision of social assistance
-The alignment of social assistance with the Constitution was important to deepen democracy in South Africa

The Northern Cape had conferred upon their permanent delegate a mandate to negotiate their position but felt the Bill did not promote a developmental approach.

The North West Province reserved their opinion subject to the consideration of their concerns. (See their concerns listed under the heading "Negotiating Mandates on the Social Security Agency Bill", since the province dealt with concerns for the Social Assistance and Social Security Agency Bills collectively).

The Western Cape supported the Bill with the following concerns:
-There should be grants for single parents and season workers
-Subsidies for Early Childhood Development Centres should be increased
-There should be assistance to grant applicants waiting for the approval of grants
-The age for pension grants should be 60 years for both men and women
-Scarcity or unavailability of doctors at clinics and day hospitals (whose services were required for the application of grants) resulted in delays of grants.
-Control mechanisms should be put in place to prevent the misuse and abuse of grants
-DSD should identify the most vulnerable households for the consideration of grants
-Grants for HIV/AIDS victims should be paid at an earlier stage
-There should be identification of orphans or child-headed households.
-The level of grant should depend on the level of care required
-The means test for the Child Support Grant should be eradicated in order to overcome barriers for the poor in accessing a social protection package of cash grants
-Grants should be replaced by a caregivers allowance payable to carers
-Focus of Special Needs Grants should be on the needs of disabled adults and children and not on how dependent they were.
-Disability or chronic illness need not be permanent in order to qualify for the grant, thus criteria should be reviewed
-Disabled refugees should be entitled to a Disability Grant
-The Bill should include full medical and social assistance for refugees injured in xenophobic attacks

Response by the Department of Social Development
Mr Makiwane indicated that the amendments raised by the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo had been noted. He asked how the Northern Cape province saw the promotion of a developmental approach being provided for in this Bill. The provision of grants was merely one aspect of a developmental approach.

The Northern Cape delegate accepted Mr Makiwane’s explanation, saying that this problem could perhaps be monitored during the implementation stage.

Mr Makiwane continued that the North West Province had raised mainly policy issues that had been noted.

The Western Cape too had raised policy issues. He explained that policy development had been initiated by the Taylor Commission and that that was outside the scope of this Bill.

Mr Plaatjes (National Treasury) responded to concerns that Social Relief of Distress had been omitted from the Bill, saying that this did not form part of social assistance. This was because the relief was not necessarily in the form of cash (as was the case with ‘social assistance). If provinces wanted this to be included, he requested that they cost the value of social relief and provide proposals with regard to its administration.

The Chairperson referred to the concerns around the age discrimination between men and women, saying that this should be dealt with once policy concerns around this issue had been finalised. She also suggested that DSD apply their minds further around the Social Relief of Distress and confer with Treasury. She asked the Department to reconsider whether the term "Inspector General" was appropriate in the context of this Bill, given that it was also used to describe officials in certain intelligence agencies.

The Chairperson undertook to inform the Department when the final mandates could be expected – she estimated by the end of the week.

The meeting was adjourned.


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