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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
1 March 2000
RATIFICATION OF THE CONVENTION ON NATIONALITY OF MARRIED WOMEN AND DISCUSSION OF THE BUDGET VOTE
Documents handed out
Chair's draft of themes to be discussed at the budget debate
Discussion on Budget Debate: Chair's shopping list of questions to be asked at the budget debate
The Department briefly took the Committee through the Convention on the Nationality of Married Women. It was agreed to ratify the Convention and the resolution of the Committee was agreed upon. The approach of the Committee to the forthcoming budget debate was discussed. Key themes in the areas of health and welfare were identified.
Ratification of the Convention
Mr Kritzinger from the Department of Home Affairs took the members through the Convention. Articles 1 - 3 deal with the substantive issues and provide that a woman's nationality will not automatically be affected by the nationality of her husband. He noted that that the South African legislation is wider than the Convention. South African legislation uses the broader term of "spouse". Articles 4 - 12 deal with procedural matters such as the procedures for ratification, accession and reservations. He remarked that these provisions were fairly standard.
The Chair, Ms L Jacobus (ANC, Gauteng), noted that at the last meeting the Department had been asked to check whether the Convention was compatible with the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. Mr Kritzinger and the other members from the Department confirmed that it was.
It was agreed that the convention be ratified. The Chair stated that there was a draft resolution that should be adopted provided there were no questions or reservations. The Chair read out the resolution. There were no questions and the resolution was adopted. The Chair thanked the members and the Department and excused the representatives from the Department.
The Budget Debate
The Chair turned to the second issue to be discussed - the budget debate. She remarked that the "rands and cents" of the budget should not be discussed in the debate, but rather the issues which affect the provinces. She referred the members to a draft that had been drawn up which identified some key themes for discussion regarding health and welfare. These two areas, together with education, are the main areas of expenditure.
Health - The Chair noted that there were three central issues:
Deployment of medical staff to rural areas. It was noted that there were a number of issues under this heading.
Availability of medicines. The Chair noted that the theft of medicines was linked to this issue.
Management of hospitals and clinics. The Chair remarked that many of the problems could be traced to poor management.
The Chair remarked that these were the main issues requiring discussion but that this did not preclude other issues from being discussed. She emphasised that the matters should be raised from a provincial perspective. She stated that she had drawn up a shopping list of questions that could be put to the Department and that this list had been handed to the members.
Ms N Ntlabati (ANC, Free State) remarked that theft was not confined only to health and the theft of medicines but that it was generalised to all institutions. She suggested that this be discussed. The Chair agreed.
Ms Ntlabati questioned how the Committee would go about a discussion of the deployment of staff. She asked whether it would look at the allocation and then engage in a discussion.
The Chair responded, saying that the clinics and hospitals needed to be looked at to determine whether there is adequate staff. She noted that issues such as accommodating and paying staff impact on the budget. She noted that other such logistical issues needed to be looked at.
Dr P Nel (NNP, Free State) stated that it was necessary to look at the province's abilities to make their payments and pay their debts. He suggested that the NCOP could assist the provinces, specifically the Free State, in raising funds for this purpose.
The Chair noted that there was also a problem in Gauteng, particularly regarding "cross-border patients". In these situations a one province owes money to another for the treatment which its institutions have provided for patients from the other province. This issue could be raised from a provincial perspective.
Ms Ntlabati stated that it was necessary to look at how hospitals might be able to generate and retain revenue.
The Chair asked how this could be phrased generally. Dr Nel suggested the phrase 'payment of outstanding debt'. The Chair remarked that this was too negative. Ms Ntlabati suggested 'generation of revenue'. The Chair agreed.
The Chair stated that it was not desirable to add too many issues to the list of matters for discussion - the committee should be focussed. As the Minister and the MECs would be present, this would leave little time for the members to speak.
Mrs E Gouws (DP, Eastern Cape) emphasised the importance of budgeting correctly.
Welfare - The Chair noted that there were four central themes here:
Management of social grants. This includes pensions etc.
Fraud and corruption management. The Chair noted that the department had fallen foul here and that the Department needed to be asked about this as it affects the budget.
Access to grants, especially the child-care grants.
Integration of welfare systems. The Chair remarked that the committee needed to know whether and how integration is happening, and if it is not happening, why it is not happening.
The Chair stated that there is another point here. Departments have not been spending money allocated for poverty relief and this requires investigation. She proposed that a meeting with the Minister be held before the budget debate. She stated that poverty relief is a major priority in welfare and that therefore a fifth point - "poverty alleviation" (of which unspent money is a part) - should be added to the list of themes under welfare.
Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North-West) remarked that unspent money had serious implications and that there should be some sort of monitoring mechanism in the future. He suggested quarterly progress reports. He regarded the non-spending of allocated money as an act of sabotage against the government.
Ms Ntlabati asked whether the money that had not been used was with the national department and, if so, why it had not been sent to the provinces where delivery occurs. Under the theme of access to grants, she suggested that grants for the aged be specifically mentioned in addition to child-care grants.
The Chair responded that grants for the aged would come under the first theme - management of social grants. Child-care grants had been mentioned specifically in connection with access to grants because child-care grants were a new type of grant.
Ms Ntlabati requested more information regarding the system of child-care grants.
The Chair responded to Ms Ntlabati's question regarding where the unspent funds were situated by saying that they were with the national department. She stated that the Minister should be interrogated and asked why the funds had not gone to the provinces.
The Chair remarked that from this point until the budget debate there is time to go to the department to obtain information.
Mr J Tlhagale (ACDP, North-West) remarked that, in the North-West, people are aware of the child-care grants but that they are not aware that certain documents are required, for example birth certificates. These documents are not presented by potential beneficiaries. He concluded that delays in paying these grants are caused also by the people and the communities rather than simply by the Department.
The Chair stated that the point had been taken. She noted that when Gauteng had been visited, there had been notices posted in welfare officers informing people which documents were required. She stated that this example should be followed and that it is a simple solution.
Mr P Qokweni (UDM, Eastern Cape) remarked that he appreciated the fact that certain documents are required in order to reduce fraud. He suggested, however, that in certain circumstances, there might be alternate ways of obtaining the required information. He noted that in some rural areas birth certificates were not available and suggested that baptism certificates could perhaps be used. He appreciated that this raised the possibility of fraud.
Mrs J Vilikazi (IFP, Kwazulu-Natal) returned to the issue of unspent money. She stated that it was better to overspend than under-spend. She stated that the "rolling-over" of funds from one financial period to the next does not happen easily and that it requires a very strong motivation. When the money is not rolled over, it is simply lost to the department to which it had been allocated.
Mr B Mkhaliphi (ANC, Mpumalanga) raised concerns over the subjectivity of the process of approving grants - it depends on the attitude of the assessor. He suggested that the departments should have guidelines setting out the requirements for disqualification etc.
The Chair remarked that many of these points could be raised during the committee's debates.
Mrs E Lubidla (ANC, Northern Cape) noted that there were deadlines for the renewal/re-registration of pensions etc and that people are not aware of these deadlines. She suggested that the members go back to the provinces to determine whether people have re-registered and to ensure that they do so before the deadline.
The Chair asked whether it could be agreed that what had been discussed would be the framework for the budget debate. If it was agreed, the framework could be sent to the Minister. She repeated that this does not preclude the raising of new issues. She stated that it was desirable that members make a meaningful contribution.
The Chair asked whether there was a deadline for holding the budget debates.
Ms Ntlabati responded that she was not sure about the deadline for holding the debates but that the deadline for the submission of the issues for discussion was the present day.
The Chair noted that it was agreed that the issues above (the themes under the headings of health and welfare) would be the issues to be submitted to the chief whip's office.
Rev Moatshe remarked that he had spoken to the chief whip and he had said that the budget debates would take place in May.
The Chair stated that this gave the Committee more than enough time. She proposed that the debate be held after the members had returned from the provincial week. The Chair concluded that she would add the issues agreed upon in the meeting to the original list and submit the complete list of issues to be discussed in the budget debate to the chief whip's office.
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