Progress on Older Persons Bill: Department briefing

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Meeting report


25 October 2004

Chairperson: Ms J M Masilo (ANC)

Documents handed out
Costing of Older Persons Bill - Department of Social Development PowerPoint presentation
Costing of Older Persons Bill - National Treasury PowerPoint presentation
Department Amendments to Older Person Bill
Older Person's Bill [B68 - 2003]

The Committee was briefed on progress with the Older Persons Bill [B68 -2003]. In a meeting attended by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the National Treasury, it emerged that a thorough costing of the Bill had not been done yet. The Treasury insisted that detailed costing should be done as it was not government policy to pass a Bill before proper costing was done. The Committee agreed, notwithstanding the urgency of passing the Bill, that further work on its financial implications and costing would have to be done.

Ms Mahlangu, Department Director: Older Persons, said that this Bill had been outstanding for a long time and hoped that they would be able to reach consensus on the outstanding issues. They had responded to the mandates and had made a few amendments and had also added an annexure. There had been questions about the whether the Bill would be able to be implemented. The service provider had therefore been brought along to talk about the costing of the Bill, before they discussed the annexures.

The Chairperson agreed that the Bill was due for a long time and said that she hoped it could be finalised in the present session of Parliament. She asked the service provider to inform the Committee on its work.

Ms P Naidoo, Associate Consultant to Avalanche Business Solutions, introduced her team and explained that Mr B Pattison had looked at the legal aspects, Mr I Diamond the costing, while she had looked at the social development aspects. The Gauteng Older Persons Directorate had helped them tremendously in the process of costing the Bill. They had helped them to understand the problems which older persons faced.

Mr B Pattison, Legal Advisor to Avalanche Business Solutions, said that a large portion of the Aged Persons Act had been included in the Older Persons Bill. Constitutional issues might come into play where the difference in ages for male and females for pensions was concerned. The fact that consent was brought into the Bill where an older person was transferred to another facility would also add to the cost. He added that the regulations would be important in the costing of the Bill.

Mr I Diamond, Director of Avalanche Business Solutions, said that in working out the costing, a worst case scenario was envisaged.

The Chairperson asked Mr Sulliman (ANC - Northern Cape), to explain the process ahead so that provinces would be ready for their final mandates.

Mr M Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) said that if they wanted to finalise the Bill before the end of the present term they would have to deal with the negotiating mandates and the subsequent mandates so that the information could be sent to the nine provinces. They would then be able to prepare their final mandates.

Ms B Scott (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) said that she could not agree to this until the final discussion was held. It would largely depend on when the costing would be completed.

The Chairperson acknowledged the concern, but said that the Committee wished to see the Bill finalised as it was overdue and it had other legislation as well to deal with. She asked Treasury to address the Committee.

Mr D Plaaitjies, responsible for Social Services at National Treasury, explained why it was necessary to cost bills. According to legislation, it was important to require the cost projections of bills. It was also important to know who would finance the Bill. Both Parliament and the executive had made policy choices that then had service delivery choices. A scoping exercise therefore had only identified what needed to be costed. It does not show the cost and levels of services that would be provided. It should be very clear whether the provinces or national government would pay for various services. There was a three-year funding cycle and it was therefore important that the costs for a given year be shown. Part of the costing should be what the nature of the service would be and the extent of the service. The programs and facilities would need to be made clear. It should therefore state whether the service would be basic, intermediate or high quality. A cost matrix is needed which showed the different programs provided and the different projects and services associated with it. It would also need to show whether the services would be at institutional, community or household level. There was a strong move to develop policies that facilitated the continuous integration of older persons into the community and households. Programs also need to be developed which protected people. This would have serious cost implications attached to it. The type of care provided to the aged varied across the provinces. It was therefore important to consider whether facilities were the best option.

He then continued to address the Committee as in the attached PowerPoint presentation. He added that the Bill does not address who qualifies for services and programs and does not clarify what programs and organisations are offered. This was needed before costing could be done. The definition of facilities and that of a frail person was also not clear. The rights of the older person were not clear. Norms and standards needed to be clarified as they could help to determine the types of delivery outputs. The Bill mentions accommodation for older persons. This creates tension with institution versus community or family care. The exemption of property rates tax for facilities was also an issue that still needed to be clarified. This was a five-month fiscal policy issue that would need further investigation. The role of provinces was not clear. There seemed to be silence about the role of the MECs in the delivery of services. Since provinces delivered services at present, it was important that issues such as accountability was addressed in the Bill. The Bill had a very centralised view of service delivery. In conclusion, he explained why the age difference between males and females was needed. Historically, the labour market had discriminated against women and therefore the age was lower. If the age was equalised it also carried economic implications with it. The cost of the Bill had originally been estimated at R4 billion. It was now agreed that it would be higher.

The Chairperson thanked Treasury and said that they had answered many of the questions that Members had had. The costing which Avalanche had showed would need to be reviewed as it was very low.

Mr Diamond explained that the costing which had been presented was only for a section of the Bill and only served to illustrate how the rest of the costing would be done.

Ms J Vilakazi (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) said that the Bill was needed because of the exploitation of older persons. She hoped that the Bill would be finalised soon. The presentation by Treasury however was very depressing. It seemed that there was still many things that needed to be analysed. She therefore did not see it being finalised in the present term.

The Chairperson said that she agreed and said that she had to withdraw her first comment in which she said that she wanted the Bill finalised in this term.

Ms Scott (ANC) said that she was not as discouraged as she had expected. The problem was largely that costing had not been done yet. The costing that had been done by the service provider had been done on assumptions. She therefore welcomed the input from Treasury as they had raised the very issues that KwaZulu-Natal had raised. It was important that equity was achieved through the Bill and that services, especially in the institutional framework, reached the poor. She emphasised that they endorsed the principles in the Bill but that they could not go ahead and legislate policy if there was no money. This would open the Government to litigation. Costing had to include issues such as compliance and monitoring. It was important to clarify who would be responsible be it national or provincial government. KwaZulu-Natal already had a problem where pensions were concerned.

The Chairperson asked Treasury and Avalanche to respond and added that since Avalanche was appointed on 17 September 2004, they had very little time to do proper costing.

Ms Naidoo said that it was not possible to do a proper costing because the system and the information available were inadequate. She suggested that they work together with Treasury to find solutions. The Department depended on information from the provinces. This was a mammoth task and it was therefore important to find solutions to the problems raised.

The Chairperson asked Ms Mahlangu to explain if the facilities mentioned in the presentation were the actual figures for state facilities.

Ms Mahlangu said that the figures were for existing facilities. There was a need to look at what was needed for the future. The Bill seeks to protect and develop older persons. The programmes that were mentioned in the Bill would depend on what the people on the ground say. The Minister, in consultation with the MEC, would then decide on specific programmes. The funding of the programmes would have to come from the structure closest to the people, namely the provinces.

The Chairperson asked if there would be intergovernmental grants to the provinces and at which level health and welfare services would be.

Ms Mahlangu said that health was a requirement for older persons and was a major issue for them. The AIDS scenario had now worsened this. If older persons were not well, they would not be able to fulfill the roles that were demanded from them. The type of health services that older persons needed was not yet accessible to them. The health needs of older persons were therefore quite diverse.

The Chairperson asked if there were guidelines for the registration of facilities. Ms Mahlangu said that guidelines existed.

The Chairperson said that she was sure that all the Members agreed that the age differentiation was acceptable and could be regarded as fair discrimination. She asked Avalanche to comment on the costing of the Bill.

Mr Pattison said that it was impossible to do a full costing on the implementation of the Bill. The difficulty at the moment was that programs would only be developed as needs arose. It was therefore not possible to cost these. The costing would be a continual process that would have to be done each time a program was initiated.

Ms Naidoo added that a crucial issue was around universal access versus targeted access. She felt that the Bill isolated certain services and took them to a new level. This could be costed. New and other services however were more difficult to cost.

The Chairperson asked Treasury to comment on Avalanche's remarks.

Mr Plaaitjies said that it was not the appropriate forum to engage them. He stressed though that legislation could not be introduced without proper costing being done. This should not be done for the sake of expediency. He felt it was possible to cost the Bill in its present state. He stressed that as far as services and programs were concerned, the Bill could be costed. The time given to do the costing was probably not realistic. The Bill was very complex and it would probably take some time. It was not possible to say whether intergovernmental funds would be made available as costing had not been done. When the costing was done it had be done per program, service, institution and province. He emphasised once more that the costing could be done. The most important information could be obtained from the provinces.

The Chairperson said that she was sure the Committee agreed with Treasury about the implications of the Bill. She said that before the Bill was introduced research should have been done. The Committee would have to defer the Bill until the outstanding issues were dealt with. She suggested that Avalanche renegotiate with the Department around the timeframe needed for the costing.

Ms Mahlangu said that she understood that the Committee was under pressure to finalise the Bill. The situation on the ground created pressure as present legislation was passed in 1967. The current process had begun in 1999. There was a need to extend the time but she was not sure how much time was needed. The main issues seemed to be the costing of the programs and not the substance of the Bill.

The Chairperson said that they would need to report to the Minster about the delay.

Ms Scott referred to the amendments that were handed out and said that it had addressed most of the Committee's concerns. One concern was that the register of facilities had to be accessible. She was not sure if this had to be written into the legislation. The delegated powers had also not been addressed.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had lots of legislation before it and needed the support of the National Treasury.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.


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