The Portfolio Committee on Social Development met virtually to consider and adopt its Committee report on the annual performance plan and budget of the Department and its entities; the report of the Committee Workshop, the Committee 2023/24 annual performance plan and Committee minutes.
Members raised several concerns relating to entities such as the National Development Agency (NDA) and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) which did not provide the requested information to the Committee on a number of occasions. The Committee resolved to follow up on this.
Members were also concerned about the liquidation of the South African Post Office (SAPO) and Post Bank which had run out of money and was unable to make payments, resulting in staff staging a sleepover at their offices.
Members highlighted that many grant recipients were unaware of the transition to cardless payments and that this would negatively affect them. There was also reluctance to switch to the cardless mode, as some people had linked their cards to funeral schemes. Members emphasised that vacancies needed to be filled within the Department within a timeframe of two months, instead of six months. Funds allocated to the Department that were not spent should be reprioritised.
Members also expressed their unhappiness over the Committee Workshop held on 29 and 30 March 2023, which they felt was an extended Committee meeting where they were simply provided with longer presentations as opposed to receiving an in-depth analysis of programmes and sub-programmes.
The Chairperson made brief opening remarks, and welcomed all present in the meeting. She then acknowledged all apologies reported.
The agenda was adopted.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Budget Vote 19, the Annual Performance Plans of the Department of Social Development and its Entities for 2023/24
Committee Content Advisor, Ms Yolisa Khanye, took the Committee through the report. Please find report here https://pmg.org.za/tabled-committee-report/5333/
Ms A Abrahams (DA) said that she did not have a question, but said that the Committee Secretary should follow up on the matter of not receiving information from the entities when requested. She said that information had been requested from the NDA for a list of the CSO’s that they had been working with, but it was never received. The Committee had also requested information from SASSA on a breakdown for the Child Support Grant top up, but this is still being presented with the normal Child Support Grant. She asked the Committee Secretary to follow up with these entities, on when the information would be sent to the Committee.
Ms P Marais (EFF) said that the Post Office would be liquidated, and there would be issues with Post Bank because people had slept at the Post Office since there was not enough money. Will the Post Offices have separate offices so that people could get paid, or is there a solution to solve this issue?
The Chairperson said that the Department was not a part of the meeting.
Ms Marais said that she was aware of this, but wanted to know what the plans were for the next payment for the older persons grant.
The Chairperson said that Ms Khanye would include Ms Marais's comments in the report.
Ms L Arries (EFF) said that she was concerned about cardless payments and the fact that people are not really informed about this decision and its impacts.
The Chairperson said this should also be included in the report under deliberations.
Ms Abrahams said that the Committee had requested a list of closed Post Offices from SASSA, but this was never received.
The Chairperson said that this would also be included in the report.
Ms J Manganye (ANC) said that yellow cards were expiring, and many people were involved in funeral schemes using the card and were reluctant to change cards.
Ms B Masango (DA) asked where the report was going, and what would happen moving forward as Members had raised important questions. Would the report be sent to SASSA? She was confused about the status of the report and the inputs being made.
Committee Secretary, Ms Lindiwe Ntsabo, said that the next process was to send the report to the NA for debate. She would write to the Department on the resolutions to receive the requested information. The Speaker would communicate with the Minister after the report is debated in the House. The Minister must then respond to the Speaker, and this will then be referred to the Chairperson when there is a response from the Department.
Ms Khanye said that she raised the point in the report that people had a sleepover at SAPO as Post Bank had run out of money. She also asked what plans were put in place.
She also captured the issue of cardless payments and the response from SASSA was that it was to reduce the volumes of gold cards with expiry dates. The Department cautioned that the cardless payments would not be user-friendly for some.
Ms Khanye took the Committee through the Recommendations made.
On points one and two of the recommendations, Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said that the Committee could not wait six months for vacancies to be filled. In the lead-up to meetings, the Committee was told that posts had been advertised and that interviews were well underway. Giving the Department another six months to fill vacancies is too much time. She recommended that the timeframe be reduced to two months. She said that when Departments do not spend funds allocated to them, such as for sanitary towels, the funds should be reprioritised towards the work of NPOs. This should be included in the recommendations. There is non-visibility on some of the Department's key programmes on GBV and gangsterism. There should be greater visibility of these programmes in communities.
Ms Marais said that a recommendation should be made on centres for substance and drug abuse, as this was a big issue in communities which had not been addressed. The Department did not state how many rehabilitation centres there would be and where it would be located.
Ms Arries said that, in the previous year’s report, the Committee noted that 3.7 million children were missing school annually due to not having sanitary towels. A recommendation was made on this a year ago, but nothing has since happened. This is a social issue.
Ms van der Merwe said that the Minister should be approached to engage with the Departments of Health, Education and Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities to ensure that the programme on Sanitary Dignity is rolled out. The budget for this resides with these three departments.
On rehabilitation centres, Ms Khanye suggested that the Department should be requested to provide a list of these. The Department could also present to the Committee the details of the Sanitary Dignity Programme.
Ms Abrahams said that, when it comes to the NDA, the responses on the turnaround strategy cannot be implemented until the CEO is appointed, because the Department would like to give the incoming CEO an opportunity to comment on the strategy and for the new CSO to take ownership of the turnaround strategy. She asked whether a point could be added to the recommendations to fast-track the appointment of the CEO, which would fast track the turnaround strategy.
Ms Khanye said that she would add this to the report.
The report was adopted with amendments.
Consideration and Adoption of Committee Report on the Workshop
Ms Khanye presented to the Committee the highlights of the Committee Workshop held on 29 and 30 March 2023.
The Chairperson asked Members to engage on the report.
Ms Abrahams said that she noted one comment was not included in the report. The Members said they felt the workshop did not feel like a workshop, but rather an extended Committee meeting. The workshop did not go into any depth on certain topics such as unpacking programmes and sub-programmes. The Committee was instead simply given longer presentations of what is already discussed in Committee meetings. Yet again, the Committee was rushed and pressed for time. She did not see this concern in the report. If more workshops like this will be done in future, the Department must stick to the Committee’s terms of reference and what it expects from the workshop. The MEC for Gauteng needs to appear before the Committee to account to it on certain matters. But when the request is put to the Chairperson, nothing happens.
The Acting Chairperson, Ms J Manganye (ANC), said that a proper workshop should take place in the future. Most of the MECs should be called to account to the Committee.
The report was adopted with amendments.
Consideration and Adoption of Committee 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan
Ms Khanye took the Committee through the report.
The Acting Chairperson asked Members to engage on the report.
Ms Masango asked for clarity on the report presented and whether Members needed to make inputs.
Ms Ntsabo said that the report could be adopted if Members did not have any input.
Ms Khanye said this was the Committee’s framework which it would have to implement for its oversight.
Ms Masango thanked the Committee and support staff for the thought that went into the framework. She said that the Committee should monitor its implementation. The framework should also be kept as a working document. She supported the report.
The report was adopted without amendment.
Consideration of Committee Minutes
The Committee considered and adopted its minutes of 08 and 15 March 2023.
The Acting Chairperson made brief closing remarks, and thanked Members for attending the meeting and their engagement.
The meeting was adjourned.
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