The Committee met to be briefed by two social development entities on their 2023/24 Annual Performance Plans. The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) reported that manual processes still dominate its operations and depends on face-to-face encounter with the clients/applicants. Their annual plan was developed in alignment with National Development Plan and the 2023 State of the Nation Address, to name a few. They aim to be a leader in delivering social security services to improve the quality of life for vulnerable people living in poor conditions. They recommended that the Committee considers and support their 2023/24 annual performance plan as tabled in Parliament.
The National Development Agency’s Annual Performance Plan was developed in line with the provisions of the revised framework for annual plans and strategic plans. It will be implemented amidst high levels of poverty and rising unemployment. They pride themselves in championing development for a society free from poverty and will implement their turnaround strategy to achieve this. They recommended that the Committee consider and support their 2023/24, as it is vast and will make a difference in their focus areas.
The Committee noted the Social Security Agency’s slow response to the changes brought by loadshedding to their operations. Queues are very long, some offices do not have alternative power supply, new cards have not been issued, applications take time to be approved, some offices run out of cash during operations, and customer service is mostly bad. Members were concerned with the high portion of the Development Agency budget being allocated to employee salaries and not programmes. Some programmes were noted to be performing slowly due to the lack of funding. Members said that the money could have been used to improve the performance of their programmes so that they could yield good results.
The Chairperson welcomed all the attendees and confirmed if the meeting had reached a quorum for it to proceed.
Received apologies from Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) for her absence.
Adoption of the Agenda
Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) moved to adopt the agenda, and Ms B Masango (DA) seconded the adoption.
Opening Remarks by the Minister of Social Development
Minister Lindiwe Zulu said that the Department would have to present its budget after the presentations by the entities at this meeting so that it can report back to the Committee to present it Operational Plan. She indicated that all presentations made to the Committee must be read in conjunction and oversighted from the point of view of a coordinated effort by the Department to pursue a transparent relationship between the Committee and the Department. The APPs and Operational Plans must reflect an objective of changing people’s lives, be responsive to the challenges they face, and create a conducive environment for them to be empowered. The Department and South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) are looking to work closely with the Post Office and Post Bank to ensure every SASSA beneficiary receives their social grant at the right time. There was a meeting between the chairperson of the board of the Post Bank, the executive management of the board and SASSA to establish executive commitments towards these matters.
SASSA Annual Performance Plan 2023/24
Mr Sipho Zwane, General Manager, SASSA, said that their 2023/24 annual performance plan (APP) has been developed and aligned to, among others, the following strategic policies and frameworks:
- National Development Plan
- Revised Framework for Strategic and Annual Performance Plans
- The 2019 - 2024 MTSF
- The seven government priorities as adopted by Cabinet.
- SASSA Strategic Plan, 2020 - 2025
- The Signed Minister’s performance agreement
- The 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA)
For Programme One, there are three new targets and a total of 18 targets in the final draft of the APP. The new targets included the development of the HCM Strategy, integrating new technology with the legacy system, and finalising 70% of labour relations cases.
For programme two, there are no new targets and a total of 11 in the final draft of the APP. The target for new social grant applications approved changed to social grant applications processed which will report on all approved, rejected, and outstanding applications. Targets on turnaround time (online and face-to-face) merged and timeframes aligned.
Mr Tsakeriwa Chauke (CFO, SASSA, reported that the year-on-year six-percent increase between 2022/23 and 2023/24 was caused by an additional R400 million allocated towards the cost of implementing the SRD R350 Grant. There is an amount of R7 970 261 000 available for the 2023/24 period, of which 54% is allocated to goods and services. Goods and Services include items like advertising, bank charges, fraud investigation costs, property costs, medical assessment, and travel fees. Capital Expenditure of R64 942 000 is allocated for items like alternative energy, electronic queue man system, improvement of office accommodation, computers, and laptops.
See attached for full presentation
National Development Agency (NDA) Annual Performance Plan 2023/
Mr Ben Morule, Senior Manager: Office of the CEO, NDA, said that the 2023/24 APP was developed following a consultative management process involving all senior managers, in line with the provisions of the revised APP framework for APPs and SPs (strategic plans). It was developed outside the pillars of the turnaround strategy, as it is yet to be considered and approved by the board. The NDA will therefore implement programmes aimed at reducing poverty by creating job opportunities and sustainable economic activities in poor areas.
For Programme One, there are nine targets which include percentage of prior year audit findings resolved, ICT Security strategy approved, and number of NDA projects profiled to market the work of the Agency. This programme promotes and maintains organisational excellence and sustainability through effective and efficient administration.
For Programme Two, there are six targets which include Rand value of resources raised for funding of CSOs and number of CSOs provided with skills to implement poverty eradication projects. This programme designs and implements poverty eradication programmes and projects that respond to the primary mandate of the NDA.
Programme Three has six targets, including the number of research publications produced and the approved multi-year evaluation plan. This programme is responsible for conducting evidence-based research and evaluations to inform debates and engagement on development policy and generating information on best practice examples for improving the NDA CSOs development programme interventions.
Mrs Karen Muthen, CFO, NDA, reported a total revenue for the 2023/24 period to be R222 199 626, of which more of it is from Transfer Allocations. The budget adjustments over the remaining two years of the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period average 4.48%. Third-party funds held as at 31 December 2022 amounted to R24 572 877 and are regarded as liabilities and only recognised in revenue when contractual conditions for disbursement are met. About 69% of the 2023/24 budget is allocated to employee compensation, 26% to goods and services, and 4% to transfers to CSOs. Programme One is allocated 21% of the total budget, Programme Two has eight percent, and Programme Three is allocated two percent of the total budget.
See attached for full presentation
Ms B Masango (DA) appreciated the presentation by SASSA and asked what kind of customer experience they were referring to when they said they planned to introduce a new customer experience and by when it would be implemented. She asked what criteria would be used to identify which offices would be suitable to receive the alternative energy and new tools of trade, and whether these services would cover all the offices nationwide or not. Are there any attempts or efforts made for systems to work faster and possibly be fixed within this period, considering that winter is fast approaching and that it is not healthy for grant beneficiaries to queue in the cold for a long time? She asked if the agreement between SASSA and Post Bank which was supposed to be finalised on 31 March 2023, has been processed. If it has not been finalised, does that mean the two parties operate outside an agreement? She thought the service fees of R188.81 per beneficiary at cash pay points and the R72.95 per beneficiary in SAPO branches were high.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) noted that, on slide 16 of the SASSA presentation, there was no breakdown of the child support top-up fund. She found it confusing why its growth was not measured separately. She mentioned that AGSA previously mentioned that there were 40 leases of buildings that were not in the procurement plan and that this could lead to irregular expenditure in the future. She asked for more information about those leases. She noted that slide 33 of the presentation has a line item dedicated to bursaries, of which she did not know that SASSA issues bursaries. She asked if the bursaries are for internal staff members or outside people and what course the bursaries focus on. There is no mention of staffing in SASSA’s presentation, knowing that they have lost a lot of employees during Covid-19. What plans does the entity have to ensure that vacant positions are filled? It is concerning that the provincial/regional offices are in possession of generators while local offices do not have generators when they are ‘client facing’ offices.
She pointed out that, in the Eastern Cape, a local office is five minutes away from a provincial office. Clients are not transferred to the provincial office to be assisted while the local office is experiencing loadshedding. The queue management system was said to be 100% in the East London office, and SASSA spent about R170 000 on it. On a recent oversight she went on, there was no system in place. There was no machine giving out tickets to clients, and there was a person manually writing out tickets for the clients.
She also asked NDA why the approval, funding and implementation of the turnaround strategy were delayed and what they are doing to block these delays. It is alarming that the NDA can fill vacancies with a limited budget, but SASSA reduces vacant posts due to a limited budget for employees. What is the progress with the CEO position at the NDA? Why is it only 2714 of the 24 000 community-based organisations registered with the MPO? Is there a possibility for the Committee to get a list of those organisations so that they could perform oversight? She noted that Programme Two of the NDA is not well funded, hence its low performance.
Mr D Stock (ANC) thanked the presenters and noted that there was an issue between SASSA and the labour unions about the implementation of the biometric system in local offices where the unions said that it was going to be an additional burden to its members. He asked if the issues between the two parties were addressed and if there would be a full implementation throughout SASSA offices or if it was still in the pilot phase. He asked what SASSA would do to attribute the gradual decrease of the foster care and child support grants over the years due to increased teenage pregnancy rates, and what key interventions they would make to ensure that 95% target for processing the Covid-19 SRD grants is achieved. What considerations have been made to ensure that issues affecting SAPO and SASSA are resolved so that the targets are not affected? How would the entity prioritise achieving the five percent women SMMEs? In which areas?
Ms P Marais (EFF) asked SASSA if the registration for the R350 grant is still ongoing. She raised concerns about the top-up grants not being clearly presented. She asked how an additional call centre is needed for online applications. What is SASSA going to do about the long queues that clients stand in under unpleasant weather conditions, and what are they planning to do about the office in Thaba ‘Nchu that has been closed for over two years? What criteria are they going to use to identify which offices are going to receive generators? How is the teenage pregnancy issue going to be approached? What is SASSA doing to reach out to SMMEs to help people like artists and performers, and is there a special fund for people like that? She raised her concerns with 90% of the NDA budget being allocated to salaries making the other programmes suffer. Is there any way the Agency could cut salaries and support programmes so that they could be effective? Where do the 100 programmes on poverty eradication run? She asked if the 5 000 skilled beneficiaries go out to skill others, and if they function on their own without the help of the NDA. Do they succeed in passing their skills?
Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) appreciated the presenters and noted that there was an incident where one of the Post Banks ran out of cash while the clients were still queueing for their money. They had to sleep over at the bank to be the first in line when there was cash the following day. She asked if there was no indication before the fact so the beneficiaries could be notified. What is SASSA planning to do to prevent this from happening again in the future? Why are they targeting 70% for backlog labour-related case, as this gives an idea that they do not want to improve and that there is no clarity about the type of bursaries they give out? She asked that they explain what they mean by six offices per region because some provinces are vast, and if numbers are the same for each province, it would be far for people in some provinces to get services. How often do they buy cars, because the cars that SASSA currently uses are subsidy cars and not owned by the Department? She asked the Minister for merchandise (t-shirts and hats) that indicate they represent the Department when they are going for oversight.
Ms L Arries (EFF) said that she was concerned that SASSA offices have generators that do not have the capacity to carry on with the work up to a point where there is a pile of applications that need to be finalised. What are they planning to do to prevent long queues and fraud that the expired cards held by beneficiaries may cause? What are the possibilities that payments could be insourced again because the challenges with the Post Bank are causing a lot of frustration to the beneficiaries? She commented that SASSA needs to up their game because they are still struggling with assessment doctors that would examine disabled people and that what they say in meetings is not what they deliver to the people out there.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) asked SASSA to elaborate on the alleged donor agenda influencing the CSO funding. What does this mean? Are there any plans from the NDA to encourage engagements and debates between government, civil society, and private sector on development policy? If so, they should elaborate. She lastly asked if there was a plan in the turnaround strategy to turn these groups into their best potential.
The Chairperson was concerned about the queue management for SASSA beneficiaries and local offices not having generators. She reckoned that the amount for rentals is too much for the kind of offices they have and for the fact that clients are always outside the premises. There should be a plan about the shortage of doctors for assessments, even if it must include the Department of Health.
Response by SASSA
Ms Busisiwe Memela, CEO, SASSA, apologised for not separating the top-up grant from the normal child grant and indicated that the bursaries they offer are for staff members that want to further their education. She indicated that the SASSA offices are often confused with those of the Department. The offices that are not functional in Thaba ‘Nchu do not belong to them; they have their own offices in the area. The office in Pretoria does not get affected by loadshedding. The recent issue they have had was related to laptops, and 400 new laptops were issued to ensure that there are sufficient tools of trade. She said she would investigate further what is happening in East London and get back to the Committee once she has sufficient information.
Mr Brenton van Vrede, Executive Manager: Grants, SASSA, said that, in the current year, there are targets set relating to queries where 90% of queries are set to be resolved within five working days and 80% resolved within 14 working days. They are aware that the customer care experience is broader than the customer care unit and that more interventions need to be made about that. The Post Bank has gotten an extension from payment from association with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to extend the expiry date of the cards to 31 December 2023, and they are engaging Post Bank that they meet the deadline so that there would not any problems in future payments cycles. The agreement with Post Bank has not been finalised as determined because they cannot reach an agreement on price. In 2017, SASSA used to pay R2 billion for the services offered by Post Bank, but the budget has recently decreased to R1.4 billion as opposed to an increase to R3 billion. They still try to provide the same level of service with the current budget they have, considering the low budget they have.
They are not operating outside of the agreement because, when the agreement was initially signed, it was with an option to review, hence the current agreement which was effective from 2018, remains the binding agreement for the contract. It is a risky agreement for Post Bank. It is in their interest to ensure that they do not run on a loss like the Post Office. The queue management system can run without equipment; it costs nothing, and SASSA has developed it in-house. He was unsure what happened in East London and where all the amounts came from. He said they would investigate the matter further and revert to the Committee. The biometric system should be rolled out by the end of the current financial year. There are issues that need to be addressed like the unions and the procurement of the system which is set to be done by the end of the first quarter. The decrease in the child support and foster care grants is because of the implementation of a Children’s Act that states that orphans with family members should not be under the grant.
He was unsure about the cause of the decrease in the CSGs but indicated that there were reviews done in the previous year where it was found that many people under CSGs were employed and were further suspended. SAPO remains a risk and they think the Post Bank is in a slightly difficult position, given its reliance on SAPO’s delivery of services. They hope there would be improvements in this area, as they have increased capacity within local offices. SASSA is overwhelmed by the beneficiaries wanting to change their banking details, and they have extended working hours in many regions to honour their requests. In some regions, they have outsourced the services to the municipality offices so that a larger group could be helped sooner. The Covid-19 SRD registration is open and will remain open for as long as government still provides the grant, and those who have previously applied have no need to reapply as they are still in the system. The top-up grants would be taken as a separate line item in the future, and the call centre is needed to assist with the little interaction offered by the online system when applicants get stuck while applying online.
There are 4 000 staff members on the front line in the local offices dedicated to engaging with applicants, but there are non-employees to deal with online applicants. Hence, there are 300 agents in the call centres to help them. Fidelity decreased the amount of cash they put at one of the Post Banks due to past bombing incidents. That is why there was a run out of cash during the day of operations. They see the cardless solution as a valuable introduction to Post Bank. It has been used for the Covid-19 SRD with success, and they hope it would be a successful reduction in the number of people who need to be in queues. It would, however, not be forced on everyone. But they encourage those who can use this method to do so, and they still would offer card replacements for those who are uncomfortable using this method. There are open contracts for doctors to be available to assist with assessment. Most regions have enough doctors, and there are some regions where there are just not enough doctors due to the population, and they are trying to get some from more urban areas where there may be extra doctors.
Mr Chauke said that the staffing for SASSA at the end of March was 7 723, taking about R3.47 billion. When National Treasury told them they would not be funding the 7.4%, they had 31 posts planned to be filled in 2022/23 and further lost 156 staff members. These posts had cost R141 million, yet there was R81 million available. So, they decided to restart the process of prioritisation of the posts using the following criteria:
- Service delivery in local offices
- Internal control divisions that have to do with segregation of duties.
- Opportunities for alternative utilisation of staff
- Management control
They are engaging National Treasury to find out the implications of this process government-wide, and they hope to have addressed the issues by the end of June. They have looked at the available budget and prioritised offices that have a huge number of beneficiaries going to them, the distance between service points and villages, whether there could be available infrastructure to support online services, and the stage that procurement of the office for the alternative energy is at. He said every office they procure, whether leased or otherwise, should have an alternative power supply as a standard lease agreement. The 40 leases are included in the SASSA demand plan but are procured by the Department of Public Works because the SASSA policy says that, when they want accommodation, they should request the DPW to procure them. The AGSA then projected a possible future irregular expenditure, and SASSA has been monitoring the leases closely to avoid it.
They have also reviewed the SASSA SMME Policy that has been approved by the Expo, to include goals targeting women, especially of the black race. This policy states that more than 51% of businesses owned by black women are to automatically get 20 points. And for tenders above R50 million, businesses owned by black women are bound to get 10 points. The policy prioritises women, then the youth and then people with disabilities. He confirmed that SASSA acquired 489 cars during the 2022/2023 period, using the retained surplus funding from National Treasury and the region that got fewer cars is the Western Cape because there were shortages of cars. The Eastern Cape was allocated 38 cars, Gauteng 167, Limpopo 30; Free State 42, Northern Cape 27, KZN 73, North West 46, and Mpumalanga 17 and Western Cape 46. They have started assessing offices to ensure that any alternative power supply they have is able to supply adequate power for the need of each office.
Response by NDA
Ms Lorraine Hlapolosa, Corporate Services Executive, NDA, said that, as management, they are also concerned about the staff costs. They have a total of 326 positions on the structure and have only managed to fund 197. They will be embarking on an organisational review to review the affordable structure so they can reduce costs.
Ms Susan Khumalo, COO, NDA, said they have a few CSOs registered during the year and would provide a list of all the CSOs with their details as requested. The beneficiaries of the skills programmes can employ other unskilled people so that they pass on the skills they have received from the Agency. There is a project in the Eastern Cape that is producing and exporting paper. There are 57 people employed under the project, and it has been doing well. She confirmed that the projects they support are not enough to eradicate poverty because they can only fund a few projects with their limited budget. The NDA partners with the private sector and some government organisations for additional funds and other forms of support. Hope Worldwide SA has supported them in three provinces by renovating structure and giving out food parcels to children from poor households.
Ms Muthen said that funded vacancies are critical ones. Examples are the positions of the CEO and development staff in provinces. The budget from National Treasury is indeed limited, but one of the outcomes of the Turnaround Strategy is to focus efforts on raising funds from third-party partners and direct them to Programme Two. Once the board has approved the turnaround strategy, they will be able to supplement funds to achieve the goals of the programme.
Mr Bongani Magongo, Acting CEO, NDA, said that the turnaround strategy should change the current NDA perspective towards the mandate that states they must contribute to eradicating poverty. They have been focusing on CSOs to do that, and their strategy needs to be clear that they are targeting and impacted on the reduction of poverty. On 25 April 2023, they signed an MOU with a German Apex Cooperative Body to define the pathways to take people out of poverty so that they have a clear end game when they approach funders. They currently have been looking at funders that would help them support CSOs, and they need to create a platform where communities are able to come up with their own Community-Based Enterprises. Skills are for people who would be able to apply them and enrich themselves from them. But when a CSO receives funding, it has the capability of providing skills to a certain community structure to produce a product that can be sold in the market. The structure and skills within the NDA must be reviewed so that they are in a position to have programmes that have an impact on the ground. The NPOs that they have been trained were trained so that they could ensure compliance to reduce the failure rate when they start their businesses.
Ms Nozabelo Bhengu, Chairperson, NDA, said that the process of developing a Turnaround Strategy started before the current board assumed office, in a period where there was no permanent CEO. When the board assumed office, a workshop was educating them about the strategy. At the same time, there was a process started to fill the CEO vacancy. The selection committee will present to the board on 11 May 2023 whether they have approved the strategy. The board is of the view that a permanent CEO must implement the strategy. Since the position is still vacant, a delay is then arising. The board had identified that, in the past, when there was a transition phase, there would be a duplication of programmes where the NDA would fund and develop skills that the Department of Higher Education and TVETs should take over.
They hope this would disappear, as they now operate all government departments and entities and are encouraged to use the district development model to align their plans, budgets, and programmes to specific projects. The process that has started with the DGRV is to facilitate a situation where the development of cooperatives to eradicate poverty would be done in collaboration with the DGRV and Apex of Cooperative Body in Germany. They are looking forward to using the DDM to collaborate with the DHET to develop skills so that the NDA is relieved from the funding they must use for skills development.
Closing Remarks by the Minister
Minister Zulu thanked all the entities and the Committee for their time and participation in the meeting. She said they would soon communicate with the Committee once the date for the budget vote debate has been received from Parliament. She invited the Members to the outreach programmes, where it has activities that bring grant beneficiaries to ‘introduce them to their future’, as it brings young people who are in universities or starting out new businesses. She thanked the chairperson of the NDA for bringing a wealth of experience to the board and wished the Agency good luck in its future endeavours.
The Committee Chairperson wished the NDA good luck and said she is confident in the newly elected board. She thanked all the attendees for their presence and participation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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