The Western Cape Department of Social Development presented its 2021/22 Adjusted Budget as found in the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill. The two main budget adjustments are an additional R40 million for contingency planning for wage negotiations and R17 million for the Presidential Youth Empowerment Initiative. The Department shifted funds from programmes it underspent to programmes where the funds were needed. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector was greatly affected by the pandemic and those ECD unspent funds will be shifted to the Department of Education effective from 1 April 2022.
The R40 million is exclusively for wage negotiations and will be surrendered to the National Revenue Fund if unspent. The Department had greater underspending at the end of 2020/21 due to limitations imposed by COVID-19. Activities such as monitoring and evaluation of NGOs are postponed. Certain traditionally physical activities are held virtually thus eliminating travel and accommodation. The Department has over 100 food relief centres across the province but it aims to intensify its campaign in the rural areas, where a significant number of farm workers lost their jobs during the pandemic. The Department underspent on its Substance Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation programme due to the reduced number of those treated. The success rate of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation programme currently stands at 65%.
Members expressed concern about the shifting of funds from the Department to another department given the enormous needs Social Development has. It was inappropriate for WCDSD to shift ECD funds to the Education Department when many ECD centres face financial constraints. The Committee requested comprehensive lists of beneficiaries for the various Department programmes. The Committee resolved to ensure effective oversight of these programmes to ensure optimal return on investment.
Western Cape Department of Social Development (WCDSD) 2021/22 Adjusted Budget
Dr Robert MacDonald, WCDSD Head of Department, said the most significant amount in the adjustments budget is the R40 million additional funds for contingency planning for wage negotiations. The Department might end up not spending the funds if there is no agreement to increase wages nationally. DSD also received R17 million in the form of a conditional grant for the Presidential Youth Empowerment package. The ECD sector, particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, benefited the most from the conditional grant.
Ms L Botha (DA) sought clarity on the modification and customisation of vehicles for children with intellectual disabilities as reported on page 160 of the document. Which organisations benefit from this programme and does it cut across all districts in the province?
Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) expressed appreciation for the additional funds received from national government and the rollover of unspent funds from the previous financial year. She, however, expressed concern about the shifting of funds from the DSD to other departments, given the need to protect DSD frontline services. Page 149 referred to funds saved on Compensation of Employees (CoE) and she asked for the number of vacant funded posts and the reason behind the vacancies. She urged the DSD to enlighten the Committee on the changes experienced in operational activities. How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect its activities and what was the impact on expenditure? She sought clarity on the debts written off by WCDSD. How many posts were affected by exits and retirements as well as the number of posts affected by recruitment delays or promotion?
Mr Charles Jordan (CFO: WCDSD) replied that the Department handed over two customised vehicles for children with disabilities last month, one in Beaufort West municipality and the other in Philippi. The procurement of another two vehicles is on track and WCDSD aims to give vehicles to each district in the province. On the shifting of funds to other departments, the Department of the Premier (DotP) shifted R400 000 to WCDSD to cater for the ECD Summit held about a month ago. The only significant internal shift was the R45 million moved within its programmes as it had to rectify certain budget allocations during the financial year. It also shifted some funds to the Department of Health (DoH) to fund certain projects of interest to WCDSD.
Ms Annemie Van Reenen, Director: Operational Management Support, WCDSD, replied that the significant number of vacant posts resulted from promotions, prolonged recruitment process, exits and retirements. It sometimes takes six months to recruit for certain positions but it is developing measures to shorten the recruitment process. It currently has 58 vacant posts to fill and there are a significant number of resignations. WCDSD aims to employ social worker graduates to fill some of the vacant positions on a permanent basis.
Dr Robert MacDonald, WCDSD HOD, replied that the changes in operational activities resulted from the COVID-19 restrictions. WCDSD could not monitor NGOs physically and other activities such as family sessions and strengthening interventions were either postponed or delayed. Therefore, WCDSD did incur costs on trips, accommodation and overnight stays. Some of the engagements were done telephonically or through MS Teams. It thus shifted the unspent funds to other places where they are needed.
The CFO said most the written off debts result from vehicle accidents. WCDSD investigated each case thoroughly and negligent staff were disciplined. It also tried to recover funds were possible but it could not recover debt in certain cases, especially when it does not make financial sense to do so. Debts from deceased staff were also written off.
Ms R Windvogel (ANC) noted on page 151 that WCDSD earmarked R9 million as additional funding for a potential wage agreement as seen of the document. It does not need to set aside the amount since National Treasury already caters for wage negotiations. She sought clarity on the number of additional residents and the total funding earmarked for the residents as well as the shortfall recorded on page 154.
Ms N Makamba-Botya (EFF) expressed concern about the R40 million designated as a contingency fund as the HOD said WCDSD might not spend the money. For what purpose and when does it intend to spend the money? She asked exactly how WCDSD spent over R30 million on the Substance Abuse, Prevention and Rehabilitation programme. How does it measure the success of the programme? How does it spend the fund on Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Livelihood programme seeing people still search for food from waste bins in the province?
Ms A Bans (ANC) expressed concern about the shifting of funds from WCDSD to other departments given the various needs in the Department. Why was the spending in the first half of the financial year slightly higher than in the second half? Are there plans to employ social workers and graduates from the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package? What is the justification for the budget cuts in the Substance Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation programme?
Ms Van Reenen replied that there are an additional 35 bed spaces in the medical facilities. WCDSD also recruited additional nurses, care staff, cleaners, amongst others, spending R9 million for this purpose.
On the concern about underspending on page 154, the CFO reiterated that the underspending resulted from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Most engagements were either done telephonically, via MS Teams or postponed.
Dr MacDonald, HOD, said that the R40 million was exclusively earmarked for wage negotiations. WCDSD must return the money to the Treasury if the wage agreement did not sail through. The success rate on the Substance Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation programme is about 65%. Total recovery from substance abuse is not always immediate. It is a progressive process and it is more accurate to measure the success of the programme in terms of harm reduction associated with substance abuse over time. Due to the pandemic, the number of those seeking treatment has drastically reduced at the moment. Thus, the Department decided to reduce the number of bed spaces to save funds for the future when the demand for treatment become higher. The unspent fund can also be shifted wherever necessary in the short term. The Prevention and Rehabilitation programme is a much-needed intervention because there will always the need for treatment of substance abuse in every generation.
The HOD said that there are over 100 sites where people can go to get food relief in the province. All stakeholders including WCDSD, local municipalities, private sector, public sector and NGOs work together to ensure the success of the food relief programme. It is concentrating more on the rural areas, where farm workers recently lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
The CFO said that the spending for the second half of the year was lower than the spending in the first half due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic. WCDSD spent less on training, trips and monitoring.
Ms Van Reenen replied that WCDSD employed about 145 social work graduates at the end of September 2021 from the backlog of 339 social workers. It earmarked funding for 37 social workers and had to source additional funding to accommodate the 145 social workers.
The HOD explained that WCDSD underspent on the Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation programme because training scheduled for university campuses was delayed due to the pandemic.
The HOD commended the Committee and Department staff for their hard work and dedication during the year, despite the limitations imposed by the pandemic. However, WCDSD might end up with more unspent funds due to the pandemic, especially in the ECD sector. Some ECD centres are closing and certain engagements are delayed. The unspents fund in the ECD sector will shift to the Education sector, which is faced with many challenges at the moment due to budget cuts. WCDSD will have to return the part of the R40 million it does not spend to Treasury.
Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez thanked the Committee for an effective engagement. She also expressed appreciation for the hard work and commitment of the Department team. The shifting of funds from the ECD sector to the Department of Edcuation (DoE) will likely occur on 1 April 2022. The biggest challenge is the wage negotiations; the Provincial Department awaits the outcome of the negotiations at the national level. It has been a difficult year for WCDSD as it had to consider three adjustments to the budget. It obtained a clean audit opinion which is an indication of good governance and financial management. WCDSD comprises only 2 500 staff but services over seven million people in the province. She wished everyone a peaceful festive season.
The Department left the meeting.
Ms Botha urged the Committee to request a list of the NGOs that benefited from the customization of vehicles from the Department.
Ms Bakubaku-Vos acknowledged the Department's commitment to the feeding scheme. She urged WCDSD to provide sufficient food parcels that will cover beneficiaries from December to January. Money saved from other programmes can be shifted to cater for the additional food parcels.
Ms Makamba-Botya urged the Committee to request a list of the centres that benefited from the food relief programme.
She wanted further clarity on the plans for the R40 million contingency fund. Is it exclusively for wage negotiations or does it apply to all aspects of compensation of employees?
The Chairperson said the money will be used for salary increases. Unspent funds will be surrendered to National Treasury.
Ms Bans said that there are a number of struggling ECD centres in the province which do not get the required support from the Department. It will be inappropriate for WCDSD to shift funds to other departments, while certain ECDs continue to struggle. She urged the Committee to get a list of beneficiaries of the ECD programmes.
Ms W Philander (DA) urged the Committee to get a list of vacant Department posts. It is also important to know the exact procedure it uses to fill the vacant posts. How many vacant posts are available for social workers?
Ms Botha said that the Committee should monitor how the funds for the Children and Family programme were spent. The Committee should ensure effective oversight of the various activities.
Ms Windvogel urged the Committee to get a list of the districts that benefited from the Presidential Youth Empowerment package, especially in the rural areas.
Committee Report on WCDSD 2021/22 Adjusted Budget
Mr Baku-Baku Vos, on behalf of the ANC, opposed the Bill. Although the Bill seems favourable, there are certain areas of concern.
Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) and Ms Makamba-Botya also opposed the Bill.
The Procedural Officer noted that the EFF does not have a voting right in the Committee. Therefore, the view of EFF was not recorded but formed part of the minutes. He read out the Committee Report:
The Standing Committee on Social Development, having deliberated on the subject of Vote 7: Social Development, of the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill [B6-2021], tabled on 7 December 2021 in accordance with the Standing Rule 188, supports the vote. In terms of Standing Rule 90, the ANC and Al Jama-ah expressed the minority view not to support the vote.
Ms Philander moved for the adoption of the report. Ms Botha seconded the move.
The Committee duly adopted the Social Development adjusted budget vote.
The Chairperson thanked Committee Members for their commitment throughout 2021. He urged Members to keep safe and enjoy the festive season.
The meeting was adjourned.
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