Budget Briefing

Social Development

08 March 2001
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Meeting report

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
9 March 2000
BUDGET BRIEFING

Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee

Documents handed out:
Department of Social Development Budget and Programmes

Director-General's Briefing on Budget

SUMMARY
The Director General convinced the Committee that a lot of work had been done by the Department of Social Development in the area of social security, poverty relief, HIV/AIDS, children and youth, women, old persons and persons with disabilities. There was a much emphasis on the transformation of welfare services. The Committee was of the view that despite the efforts by the Department of Social Development to improve, there was still a lack of capacity within the Department of Social Development.

MINUTES
The Director General, Ms A Bester, provided a detailed review of the past financial year. She also listed the activities and priorities for the next financial year.

Allocation 2000/2001
The Department of Social Development has estimated a projected expenditure of R381 017 000. An estimate of R2 248 000 was calculated as savings.

Medium Term Expenditure Framework - National Department
The total allocation figures seem to be decreasing. However, the DG explained that there had actually been a decrease in special allocations and not the normal allocation. There had been slight increases in the normal budget, although the Departments core budget is relatively small.

Departmental Budget 2001/2002
The Department was allocated R50 000 000 for poverty relief in the financial year 2000/2001. The Department had received permission from Treasury to be allowed to stretch this amount over three years. There is a need to consolidate this amount over three years so that the Department ensures that poverty relief programmes are focused on strategically.

The small allocation for disaster relief funds had been increased to R10 000 000 due to the frequency of disasters that occur.

The Department's operating budget is much smaller than the special allocations in the budget.

Social Security
The Department has reviewed the regulations of the Social Assistance Act to eliminate inconsistencies in the Act. The amendments would be forwarded to the Committee shortly.

The Department drafted various reports on the function and operation of numerous pension pay-points. The contracts of pay contractors were reviewed so that minimum standards and norms for the pay-points could be developed. This is in pursuance of a long-term goal to develop and improve social security systems. The DG referred to the Integrated Rural Development Strategy and said that it is necessary in the interests of this programme that basic services are provided at pension pay-points.

Poverty Relief Programme
The Department had conducted a mid-term assessment of a number of projects. The Department officials physically visited these projects. Reports on these assessments had been drafted. Half of the projects that were visited had a good chance for sustainability. There is a need to provide more assistance within informal settlements.

HIV/AIDS
Most projects that the Department subsidises have AIDS awareness on their programmes. Funds from the Departments' Special Allocation, primarily from the Poverty Relief funds, were used to accommodate for AID awareness and other AIDS related issues.

Transformation of Welfare Services-Priorities for 2001/2002
The Department has entered in to an agreement with Deloitte & Touche to assist with the Department's financial management. The company will provide ad hoc auditing and procurement services.

Discussion
Mr M Masutha (ANC) said that the core problem with social security is the fact that there is no legislation that provides for the regulation of pay-points and SOCPEN, the Social Pension electronic database. The regulation of pay-points depends on control agreements and there is a lack of a legal relationship between the pay contractors and the Department.

The DG replied that this was a problem. However, the "norms and standards exercise" would help to develop and improve norms and standards for social security.

Ms O Kasienyane (ANC) asked whether Deloitte & Touche was a permanent contractor. The DG replied that the contract with Deloitte & Touche would extend over 22 months and would expire next year.

Ms Kasienyane suggested that transport should be provided for the beneficiaries to get to the pay-points.

Ms P Naicker (Director: Social Assistance) said that the Department had already considered transport for beneficiaries. The Department is waiting for an approval from National Treasuries so that this service could be provided at pay-points. The Department needs a commitment from the Provinces to ensure that control mechanisms are in place for the operation of such a service.

Ms P Cupido (DP) asked what would happen to the Committee of Inquiry into Comprehensive Social Security, after 1 July 2001. The DG replied that when the work of the Committee was complete, Cabinet would decide whether further work needed to be done or not. The Committee was not intended as a long-term Committee.

Ms Cupido asked on what basis the people serving on the Committee of Inquiry had been appointed. The DG replied that people with expertise in the area of social protection were chosen. Since the appointees had to look at the technical points of social protection, such expertise was required. There was no need for any representation of sectors.

Ms Cupido noted that last year out of 1000 approved projects, about 100 did not exist. The DG responded that the Provinces submitted a range of approved projects, however, not all of them were accompanied with the relevant information, such banking details. These projects were terminated.

Ms S Rajbally (ANC) asked whether anything was being done at grass roots level, so that the public is aware of what was being done by the Department. Ms Naicker replied that teams were visiting service delivery points and reports were being drafted on those visits. Information brochures were available to the public in English and provision was made for the brochures to be written in other languages.

Ms T Tshivhase (ANC) asked where the various projects were located. The DG replied that the Department had previously provided the Committee with a detailed list of projects and where they were located. The Department is willing to provide this list again.

Ms Cupido asked whether the three vacant posts in the Department's Internal Audit section had been filled. The DG replied that these posts had been filled.

Dr E Jassat (ANC) referred to the incident at a Lenasia pay-point, where it was reported that three pensioners had fainted whilst waiting for their pay-out in a queue that extended to half a kilometre. Ms Naicker said that the Department was very distressed to hear what had happened in Lenasia. The problem was created due to a lack of communication between the beneficiaries and the contractors. The pay-out was to take place over two days. The beneficiaries all arrived on the same day and at the same time, even though they were supposed to collect at different times.

Ms Cupido asked whether there was a plan for the support of children between the ages of seven and eighteen. The DG replied that there were Flagship programmes and the Poverty Relief programme that provided support and assistance to children of these ages. There was also Foster Care grants and Disability grants that are available to assist these children.

The Chairperson said that there was a serious problem with the lack of capacity within the Department. The DG simply saying that capacity had improved was not sufficient, the Committee needed to see that this had really happened. The Department will meet again with the Committee for a special briefing on staffing.

The Chairperson said that there was a lot of confusion created due to the Department's financing policy. It was not clear which organisations could apply for funding and which could not. The motivations were difficult to draft as well. The large organisations that are well established could apply and provide good motivations. The informal organisations, however, cannot even make advances because they have no technical support. The DG replied that the financing policy was being looked at and that whether an organisation gets funds or not should be taken up as a part of the review of the financing policy.

The Chairperson suggested that when the Department drafts new financing policy, it must provide for a provision that ensures that before funding an organisation, the Department must be sure that the organisation is doing what it is supposed to be doing.

Ms M Magazi (ANC) asked whether the Child Support grant was being terminated. The DG replied that the State Maintenance grant was being terminated and not the Child Support grants.

Ms Tshivhase asked what would happen to the pension of a beneficiary who dies before collecting it. Ms Naicker replied that if the beneficiary dies within the month then the deceased's family could collect the pension for funeral expenses, provided they provide proof of the beneficiary' death.

Ms Rajbally said that there were various religious organisations, such as the Hare Krishna and the Sai Society, that were waiting for the Department's request to get involved with providing food and other services to the pensioners queuing at paypoints. Could the Department at provincial level approach these religious organisations?

The DG replied that there were a lot of churches that were assisting in rural areas. The Department is trying to have a broad approach to faith-based organisations.

Ms Cupido was not satisfied with the answer that the DG provided for her question relating to children between the ages of seven and eighteen. The DG had answered very generally. There should be a separate presentation on children where various issues relating to children of these ages could be dealt with. The DG agreed to make such a presentation.

Before adjourning the meeting, the Chairperson said that the Department and the Committee would have to meet again soon.

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