The Provincial Department of Local Government (DLG) briefed the Committee on the successes and challenges of the Community Development Workers (CDW) programme, and on the indigent policy at Western Cape municipalities.
The DLG said the CDW programme had a footprint in each of the local municipalities in the Western Cape. Its primary focus was to ensure that communities had access to government services and information. It assisted in improving service delivery and the accessibility of services to the public, and the marketing of government projects and programmes. It also assisted with inter-governmental coordination between government line departments and the three spheres of government, facilitating community development and stronger interaction and partnerships between the government and communities.
The challenges facing the CDW programme involved the fiscal problems related to filling vacancies; managing expectations of the national and provincial government departments regarding the utilisation of CDWs; and managing the complexities of the vast distances to be serviced by the CDWs with reduced numbers and financial resources.
The Department said the municipal indigent policy was intended to guide the national initiative to improve the lives of indigents and to improve access to free basic services. The policy recognised the need for intergovernmental cooperation in the process of dealing with indigents, but placed a specific emphasis on the municipal sphere. The guidelines provided municipalities with options for the development of their indigent policies, and applied specifically to free basic services within municipalities in respect of water, sanitation, energy/electricity and refuse removal. All municipalities in the Western Cape complied with the national indigent framework adopted by the Cabinet in 2005. Qualifying thresholds were not prescribed, but the decisions rested with councils, although the definition of an indigent household should be guided by definitions provided in the Constitution.
Members wanted to know if CDWs identified service delivery and accessibility challenges and brought them to the attention of the Department and that of the Committee to ensure that all corners of the province were reached; whether they provided adequate communication to communities of legislation that affected them; how many CDWs were able to find work when their contracts were not renewed; how to avoid conflict when CDWs contested elections and lost, resulting in a negative impact on the municipality; and what was being done to ensure that the funds transferred to municipalities were used for their intended purposes.
On the indigent policy, Members asked which other departments and municipalities the DLG was working with to deliver indigent relief; what the Department was doing to help people alleviate their socio-economic circumstances, and what percentage of people who applied for the indigent grant was now no longer in need of it; what measures were in place to ensure they continued to provide free services in municipalities, especially when considering the high rate of unemployment, the ripple effect of Covid-19 and the impact of load-shedding. They also questioned whether municipalities used standard criteria to determine eligibility for indigent support.
Department briefing on Community Development Worker programme
Mr Heinrich Magerman, Chief Director: Community Development Worker (CDW) programme, said the programme had a footprint in each of the local municipalities in the Western Cape. Its primary focus was to ensure that communities had access to government services and information. It was a partnership programme that aimed to support the three spheres of government. 40% of CDW activities were assigned to support national and provincial departments, including their various agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). 60% of their activities were assigned to support municipalities facilitated through signed memorandums of agreement (MOAs).
The CDW programme had registered successes. It has assisted in improving service delivery and the accessibility of services to the public. It marketed government projects and programmes, such as the training of community members on how to access and use government digital services; it provided support to access services such as the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) with late registrations of births, etc, and provided a gender-based violence (GBV) programme across district and local municipal boundaries.
The CDW programme also assists with inter-governmental coordination both between government line departments and the three spheres of government by providing support to the Thusong Programme, and participating in citizen interface projects and in local and district inter-governmental relations (IGR) structures. The programme facilitates community development and stronger interaction and partnerships between government and communities. For example, the City of Cape Town has facilitated the following initiatives:
Humanitarian relief projects/programmes (e.g. dignity packs to young women);
Community education programmes (e.g. waste recycling, housing consumer education, etc.)
The CDW programme also supports participatory democracy. It provided support to the “Thetha Nathi” programme of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament and the public education outreach programme. Other support was provided to public hearings; the passing of bills; the national Parliament through the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) with the implementation of State of the Nation Address (SONA) initiatives across the province; local municipalities with the training of ward committee members; and it had helped local municipalities to mobilise community members to attend and participate in Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and budget meetings.
Mr Magerman said the challenges facing the CDW programme were around fiscal problems relating to the filling of vacancies; managing expectations of the national and provincial government departments in relation to the utilisation of CDWs; and managing the complexities of the vast distances to be serviced by CDWs in relation to the number of CDWs and financial constraints.
See attached for full presentation
Department briefing on indigent policies in municipalities of the Western Cape
Mr Nabeel Rylands, Director: Municipal Performance Monitoring, said the municipal indigent policy was intended to guide the national initiative to improve the lives of indigents and to improve access to free basic services. The policy recognised the need for intergovernmental cooperation in the process of dealing with indigents, but placed a specific emphasis on the municipal sphere. Therefore, it required a local understanding. The guidelines for implementing the indigent policy provided municipalities with options for developing their indigent policies. The guidelines applied specifically to the Free Basic Services (FBS) programme within municipalities -- free basic water, free basic sanitation, free basic energy/electricity and free basic refuse removal.
He said that all municipalities in the Western Cape were complying with the National Indigent Framework adopted by the Cabinet in 2005. Qualifying thresholds were not prescribed, but the decisions rested with the councils. However, the definition of an indigent household should be guided by definitions provided in the Constitution. In some areas, a blanket approach was used, whereby all households receive FBS by virtue of their geographical location -- for example, the City of Cape Town. COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown have also impacted on the registration and verification of indigent households. The restricted movement of people had hampered re-registration. The trend was that municipalities had been retaining previously registered numbers on their registers.
Lastly, concerning the registration and maintenance of indigent registers, households must apply annually to be considered for the indigent subsidy, as provided for in the indigent policy. Some systems were designed to automatically refresh registers at the beginning of each year, necessitating re-registration/application. The applications were registered and considered in line with the policy, and then captured on the indigent register. Indigent registers, together with the applications and required documentation (proof of income or unemployment, etc.) were maintained with due consideration of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA). Municipalities may conduct audits to verify the authenticity of the information furnished or possible changes in the status of applicants. The Department of Local Government (DLG) and CDWs played a critical role in the door-to-door campaigns to assist with identifying and registering qualifying households.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate indigent households data; qualifying thresholds, free basic services – quantum provided by Western Cape municipalities; and matters to be covered by the Municipal Indigent Policy)
Discussion on CDW issues
Ms M Maseko (DA) asked if there was an awareness of the challenges the CDWs had identified when looking at the objectives of service delivery and accessibility to services, and if they brought them to the attention of the Department and the Committee to ensure that all corners of the provinces were reached. She wanted to know if support was provided to the legislation, because the Committees struggled to reach out to people so that they made submissions on pieces of legislation. She asked if communication was done properly to CDWs so that they could identify stakeholders were relevant for these pieces of legislation.
Mr Magerman said they were grateful to officials in the legislature who were responsible for the outreach programmes. Globally, communities were apathetic when it came to expressing their ideas on policy development and draft legislation. The Department collaborated with the officials in the legislature when a programme was developed and identified the role-players in respect of the various pieces of legislation. It was an ongoing challenge to keep people involved in terms of the processes, depending on the type of legislation and how it would determine the level of interest in the processes. He said the projects they were undertaking had to enhance sustainability. For example, the Department of Local Government had joined forces with the Department of Environmental Affairs regarding the green economy. The DLG had active partnerships with municipalities, so when it developed its focus areas, they were based on local priorities reflected in documents like the IDP. There were various ways in which that information and the CDWs' involvement was rolled out.
Ms C Murray (DA) wanted to know about the duration of the contracts, the percentage by which they were they extended, and the percentage of CDWs who were able to find work when their contracts were not extended.
Mr Magerman said community development workers were permanently employed. There were no contract extensions or percentages. Programmes such as the community works programmes were contracts from the national government programmes. The reason why there were reductions in the number of CDWs was because the Department had to create supervisory levels, and that had to be funded out of the baseline, which took some of the vacancies. This contributed to the lower number of CDWs.
Ms Maseko commented that the province needed to look at how it could maximise working with the Department of Local Government, using the CDWs in the outreach programmes to assist Members of Parliament with the legislation issues, because the reality was that Parliament was seen as not doing well in outreach projects. She had seen some video clips about the successes of the CDWs. Involving them at an early stage would be a good idea so that they could inform and prepare people on the ground about pieces of legislation that directly impacted them.
The Chairperson said that in 2021 some CDWs had stood for elections and campaigned. Some had been successful, while others were not. He wanted to know how the Department was ensuring there was no conflict between the CDWs that did not do well in elections and those who had won, so that the work of the CDW did not impact negatively on the municipality. Regarding municipalities that had not signed any MOU with the Department, he wanted to know if the Department had any information to share with the Committee on why these municipalities had not signed these MOUs, and if they would be willing to sign them in the near future. He also asked how the Department ensured that the funds transferred to municipalities were used for their intended purposes.
Mr Magerman said that over the last 17 years, the number of CDWs participating in elections had decreased. Public servants were allowed, in terms of the public service regulations, to enrol for election if they wished to do so. Even though the constitution allows freedom of association and expression and for people to avail themselves, this caused tension and there was no maturity around this. The Department paid attention when it was aware some people had expressed interest. It was the right of people to stand for elections. The Department had tried to deal with the fall-out that arose. Each area had its own dynamics. The Department had no control over the CDWs that stood for elections because that was allowed -- it only ensured the code of conduct for public officials was maintained.
He said the Berg Rivier and Swellendam municipalities were the only ones that had not signed the MOUs. The Berg Rivier wanted to enter into an agreement with the DLG, but Swellendam had been firm about not signing the MOU. The Department did not see that as a challenge, although it was better when there was an agreement and the service was rendered. In the case of Swellendam and Berg Rivier, the CDWs were under the auspices of the district municipalities. In Swellendam, CDWs were under the Overberg district municipality, while those in Berg Rivier fell under the West Coast district municipality.
He added that there was limited grant funding. In the last two or three years, there had been a few rollovers, but they had managed to not need rollovers, and there were various mechanisms to track the expenditure of the funds. Conditions for use were gazetted. There were monitoring mechanisms through the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) and annual reports.
Ms Maseko asked how the Department was proactively managing the contestation of elections by CDWs so that it did not create a negative effect in the communities, who saw the CDWs as just being there to have a position in politics, because those in the rural areas represented a hope for help for all the people.
Ms Nozuko Zamxaka, Chief Director: Integrated Service Delivery, DLG, explained that before staff members stood for elections, a document was circulated by the Director-General (DG) and Head of Department about the code of conduct to those candidates who were standing for elections. In the case of CDWs, the Department focused on its own staff members. Mr Magerman always held regional meetings to share the information and remind staff members on how they should conduct themselves when they were campaigning, and to remind them to come back and render the service when they had lost elections. The Department ensured that they went back to work and rendered their service, without taking sides. Where there were complaints, each municipality had a dedicated staff member to oversee the CDW programme. Mr Magerman would engage with the staff member to ascertain if the challenges had been attended to, because the Department did not want a staff member to choose a certain political party. Community members and ward councillors were encouraged to report matters bothering them to the Department. In the past, the DLG had dealt with written complaints, and staff members were fully aware of compliance matters and how to conduct themselves. Mr Magerman went to all seven regions to remind people about the code of conduct.
Discussion on indigent policies
Ms Murray acknowledged the amazing work the Department had been doing. She wanted to know which other departments and municipalities the DLG was working with in the Western Cape to deliver this indigent relief. What was it doing to help people alleviate their socio-economic circumstances, and what percentage was going to people who had applied for the indigent grant and now were no longer in need of it, because Mr Rylands had indicated in his presentation that people who had needed indigent support were overcoming their socio-economic circumstances and no longer requiring that relief.
Mr Rylands said all municipalities supported indigent households, except district municipalities, seeing that they did not provide basic services to the communities. The Department worked closely with the provincial treasury to monitor the amounts and how the policies were implemented.
Ms Maseko asked how the municipalities' indigent beneficiaries got aligned to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) ones. Did numbers from both sides make sense or was there a huge difference between SASSA beneficiaries and indigent beneficiaries? How were municipalities coping, because some did not have revenue-generating systems to provide service delivery and sustain themselves? What measures were in place to ensure they continued to have a source to close the gap, because they had to provide free services in municipalities, especially when considering the high rate of unemployment, the ripple effect of Covid-19 and the impact of load-shedding, so that municipalities could respond to demands that were there?
Mr Rylands replied that the Department did not have information on that matter, but they would do some research to get a suitable answer and respond in writing. He said the sustainability of the municipalities was a challenge, because they had to do a lot more with less money. The Department worked closely with the provincial treasury to look at alternative revenue strategies to enhance the sustainability of municipalities.
Mr P Marran (ANC) asked how the Department was engaging with municipalities regarding seasonal workers who got the indigent grant, because when they worked for six months, they made more, and after that six months, they were left with the indigent grant. He wanted to know if the Department proposed one set of rules to be applied to all municipalities and if not, why not? He said one would see a plot with one structure, or a house with two "wendies," as some municipalities used the income of the main house as the criterion, but in other municipalities, the income of those staying in separate wendy houses was added and became more than what was required.
Mr Rylands acknowledged that the framework was quite old. A lot of things highlighted by Members had been raised with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta). That was why the policy was being reviewed. Any additional points raised by Members would be taken to Cogta to be included in the review process to ensure the Department responded appropriately to the challenges.
The Chairperson wanted to know if the grant was defined as an income -- were child support grants and old-age grants seen as an income by the Department? He said some municipalities stated that for one to qualify, it must be two times the old-age grant. If people stayed on your property, one automatically became above the threshold. He was of the belief that a grant was not an income and municipalities should not disqualify people for that. In terms of indigent household data, he wanted to know how it was possible that in 2018 there had been about 373 000 in the Western Cape, but in 2022 the figure stood at 249 000 -- yet in 2018, there had been no Covid-19. He asked if the decrease of 124 000 individuals was possible.
Mr Rylands said it was possible because this was about the verification and registration process which was incumbent on the households within the municipalities to undergo on an annual basis. There were cases where there had been significant drops. A blanket approach had been applied in certain areas with regard to free basic services by virtue of their geographical location. The drop could be attributed to the City of Cape Town seeing that the majority of indigent households were residing within the metro.
Ms Murray asked the Committee to be given more information and percentages on the households that had come off the indigent relief.
Mr Graham Paulse, Head: Department of Local Government, said the questions from the Members were valid. The Department would see how it could accommodate some of the questions from Members when it gave effect to its work. He thanked the Committee for its oversight role.
Adoption of Committee documents
The Committee considered and adopted three sets of minutes dated 28 November 2022, 16 March 2023, and 11 April 2023.
It also adopted four Committee reports:
Third quarter report (October 2022 – December 2022);
Fourth quarter report (27 February 2023);
Annual activity report; and
Committee tracking document.
The Committee resolved it would call the Provincial Parliament to engage with the Committee on how the CDWs could be maximised when considering the legislation. It wanted more information and percentages on the households that had come off the indigent relief and the kind of support they received. It further resolved to get an update from the national Department on the status of the guidelines, because most questions from the Members were about the guidelines. It also asked if it was possible for the municipalities to send the Committee their annual plans.
The meeting was adjourned.
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