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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
24 March 2005
SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIAL SECURITY AGENCY BRIEFING; Costing of Older Persons’ Bill; WHO FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON TOBACCO CONTROL: DEPARTMENT BRIEFINGS
Chairperson: Ms J Masilo (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Committee Programme 2005
Department PowerPoint presentation: Costing of Older Persons’ Bill
SASSA presentation: Report on Progress and Service Delivery
Department presentation on SASSA to Portfolio Committee: 8/02/05
Department PowerPoint presentation on WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – available at http://fctc.org/about_FCTC/p1.shtml
The Social Development Department Director-General had prepared a presentation on the Department’s Programme for 2005, but Members decided that the briefing should be given at the next meeting as the Minister had not yet formally introduced the Department budget.
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) gave a presentation on progress and service delivery in the Agency, and the timeframes within which phases would be completed. Provinces would continue to be responsible for delivery of social grants until March 2006, but it was anticipated that from September 2005 to March 2006 there would be a trial period to identify and correct any problems before final take-over. Members raised concerns on take-over of staff, assets and liabilities; the rollout periods; and, in particular, on steps taken to address fraud and corruption in administration of the grants. The Agency clarified the position on staff and asset take-over and time frames and assured Members that all possible steps were being taken to try to achieve a "fraud-free system"
The Social Development Department then gave a report on progress of the financial costing of the Older Persons’ Bill. Members raised their concerns about the delay but were assured that the Department, having been faced with a number of difficulties in assessing the costing, would be able to present finalised figures by the end of March. It was agreed that the final costing be provided after 5 April 2005.
The Department of Health briefed Members on the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and asked that Members ratify the Convention before 28 February. Members were satisfied that the Convention would be of benefit to South Africa. The Provinces represented ratified the Convention.
Department Programme 2005
Mr V Madonsela (Department Director-General) reported that he had prepared a presentation on the Department’s programme but pointed out that the Minister had not yet given his Budget speech and he was concerned that the report might be premature. The majority of Members agreed that this was not an appropriate time and it was resolved to defer the presentation to the next meeting.
Progress Report on Costing of Older Persons’ Bill
The Chairperson reported that the only outstanding issue on this Bill was the question of costing and that once this had been cleared by the Committee, the Bill would be able to be tabled. The State Law Advisor had approved the amendments.
Ms N Kela (Chief Director: Welfare Services and Transformation) reminded Members that the object of the Older Persons Bill (OPB) was to maintain and increase the capacity of older persons to support themselves and contribute to the well being of those around them. The cost assessment, which was still under way, had been carried out through consultation, audit, and legal and social assessments based on a national reference group. This would determine, in consultation with Treasury, the cost implications at National, Provincial and local levels across the sectors.
Costing assessments had been made for Residential Care, Community Services, Home Based Care, Poverty Relief, Capital Costs and National and Provincial Administration. Problems encountered arose from short timelines, the drafting of the Bill, the lack of adequate and reliable information, incomplete data being received from the Provinces and the non-standardisation of services, which had led to disparity.
A legal assessment was undertaken to identify compulsory and discretionary obligations that would affect costing and to identify any risk of litigation arising from implementation of the Bill. General provisions throughout the Bill had increased the administrative role of the State at National and Provincial level. For example, Chapter 13 set out a rights-based approach and provided for a register of abuse to be kept, and Chapter 2 provided new conditions for the care of older persons in residential facilities.
Finally, fiscal assessment was performed using a draft service delivery model (based on the Department’s model) and draft costing models. Once again, difficulties were experienced owing to lack of accurate data and lack of uniformity in funding services.
The assessments had shown that there were currently 2 081 528 beneficiaries of old age grants. Estimates were made of vulnerable older persons requiring services based on the number of older persons identified in the 2001 census. An analysis per Province had been undertaken to identify the number of facilities, the subsidies to NGOs for other programmes, the subsidy per province, the total number of beneficiaries and the unit cost.
Core programme facilities were identified as including promotion and protection of older persons; community based programmes (including day care, service centres, assisted living and home-based programmes); intergenerational programmes; economic empowerment programmes; residential care; and Departmental administration.
It was found that the Government was currently spending about R299 million on subsidies for old age homes. Although there were 3.28 million older persons in South Africa, the residential care catered for 31,845 beneficiaries. South Africa therefore needed to ensure that older persons were kept in their community as long as possible.
Consultants had provided draft costing models to the Department and the Treasury who had raised concerns about the calculations. The consultants had now been asked to review their costing, based on specific guidelines provided by the Department. It was anticipated that the final figures would be completed by the end of March 2005.
Mr T Setona (ANC) expressed concern that no final costing was available, as there was an urgent need to find out if there would be financial resources available to implement the Bill. He queried why progress on the Bill had been so slow and asked for assurance that final costing would be available by the end of March.
Mr B Tolo (ANC) agreed that the Bill should not be tabled if there was insufficient funding for its proper implementation but believed that at this stage the Committee should merely note progress.
Mr V Madonsela (Director-General) replied that his Department was aware of the concerns about delay and was fully committed to having the Bill passed. He was confident that the final figures would be available by the end of March.
Ms M Magubane (ANC) asked for clarification on the cost to the service providers. The Director-General reported that the service provider had cost the Department R480 000,00 and that the revised costing - still to be undertaken - would not increase this amount.
The Chairperson requested that the final costing should be presented at the next meeting and stated that they had to be available by 5 April 2005.
Social Security Agency progress report
Mr F Makiwane (Deputy Director-General: Social Security) reported that in 2004 the Department had presented a detailed process for the establishment of SASSA and he now wished to report on progress. He stated that the establishment of SASSA fell into three phases, starting with its establishment by 1 April 2005. The President, apart from the section dealing with key functions, had signed the Social Security Agency Act. The process of ring-fencing (identification of assets and liabilities to be transferred by Provinces), development of policies, procedures and systems was on track and the Memorandum of Understanding was being finalised. Between April 2005 and March 2006 the Provinces would continue to deliver the grants but SASSA would continue to build its capability. The Head Office would be ready for occupation by the end of March 2005. The management team would be in place by end July 2005 and staff would be transferred by the end of August. The financial ring-fencing should be completed by December 2005. Between September 2005 and March 2006 there would be a period of take-over, so that by March 2006, SASSA would be fully functional and any problems would have been addressed.
Mr Makiwane stressed that service delivery was the prime focus of SASSA and fell into two main categories. First, improvement of integrity of the process would examine the eligibility of beneficiaries, fraud prevention and detection (with co-operation from the Scorpions), data clean up and security. Second, improvement of service delivery aimed to improve service-delivery times to the public, retrain all staff, use enhanced technology and increase staff capacity at call centres
Ms F Mazibuko (ANC) queried the position of provincial staff. She also asked what the impact would be of different Provinces using different agencies to administer the grants. She asked to what extent the agencies were requiring proof of eligibility for grants. Finally she asked for clarification on whether banks were being used to process grants.
Mr Makiwane replied that provincial staff currently dealing with the functions to be taken over by SASSA would be ring-fenced or separated from other departmental functions to effect a smooth take-over. The Director-General added that the position of provincial staff was covered both in the Labour Relations Act and in the Bill. The staff would be obliged to move across to SASSA as the resources, both financial and human, would follow the function, and their conditions of service would be unchanged.
In regard to service providers, a model of "best mechanics" was being used to facilitate receipt of grants by beneficiaries. Existing service providers would continue to pay unless their contracts had expired and unless there were contra-indications to suggest that a different model should be used, depending upon what was most accessible to specific communities. If there were indications that contractors should not continue to be used, then their contracts would be terminated. People would be encouraged to use banks wherever appropriate. There had been reports of competition between ABSA and Mzantsi but this fell outside of SASSA’s scope as it was a question of institutions competing for clients.
Ms M Magubane and Mr T Setona queried what steps were being taken to combat fraud and Ms H Lamoela stressed that fraud prevention should be a priority.
Mr Makiwane replied that fraud was one of the most important issues initially identified by the Department and the Government. A national telephone hotline had been set up to report fraud and to facilitate follow up. Data interfaces were being established between the grant system and other government systems to identify those who might be receiving other grants or whose eligibility was questionable. On another level, the Minister had launched a campaign in December to give indemnity to those reporting receipt of mistaken or fraudulent grants. The Scorpions had already become involved and would be working in the Provinces. All these steps should ensure that the risk of fraud was minimised.
The Department was already working with the Micro Funding Regulatory Council to try to identify people who were not grant recipients, but were in possession of ID documents enabling them to collect the grants. In the Western Cape it was unclear whether grant beneficiaries could legally cede their entitlement to grants in order to repay loans. New regulations were under consideration to try to regularise the position. If there were doubts whether a beneficiary was entitled to a grant, the beneficiary would be advised that a review would be undertaken within the next three months.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) asked for clarification whether SASSA could meet its deadlines and asked whether regular progress reports would be given. She queried why staff had not already been retrained if some of the functions were already to be taken over in April 2005.
Mr Makiwane confirmed that progress reports would be given on a regular basis. He clarified that staff training would be ongoing. It was not critical in the establishment stages but would be completed before SASSA administered the grants. All training would enhance the integrity of the systems before transfer of the functions from Provinces to SASSA.
Rev E Adolph (ID) asked for details on the costing, and queried why the President had not signed the section of the Act dealing with key functions.
Mr Makiwane replied that the Department had requested that this section not be signed, as none of the key functions would be exercised during 2005.
The Chairperson asked what would happen to provincial assets on take-over by SASSA. Mr Makiwane replied that both assets and liabilities would be transferred with the functions.
Mr J Kruger (National Treasury) asked for clarification of the operating position between September 2005 and March 2006, as this would affect the financial year.
Mr Makiwane replied that the functions would be transferred finally in March 2006 but there would be a shadow-process running from September 2005 to ensure that all systems were properly in place, fully operational and tested.
Members noted and approved the Report.
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
Ms Z Mthembu, (Director: Health Promotion, National Department of Health) reported that the deleterious effects of tobacco had been classed by the WHO as a "global public health emergency". In 1999, the WHO had initiated a global response to the crisis. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was the first international public health treaty negotiated by Member states of the WHO. It aimed to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke, whilst recognising that tobacco control in developing countries would require financial and technical resources.
The final treaty was approved by 171 Member states of the WHO on 1 March 2003. 57 countries, including 8 from Africa, had ratified the treaty, which would be coming into force on 28 February 2005. After it had come into force, a Conference of Parties would be set up to address issues of implementation and funding.
South Africa had signed the treaty on 16 June 2003 and ratification was now urgent. South Africa had hosted the first ground breaking inter-sessional meeting, was one of the 6 chairpersons of the inter-governmental negotiating body, and by signing the treaty had undertaken to strive to ratify the Convention and show political commitment to its objectives. The FTCT obliged parties to adopt and implement effective measures within 3 years of 28 February 2005.
Ms Mthembu summarised the key provisions of the Convention, including:
- Article 2: relationship between this convention and other legal instruments. The FTCT did not affect the rights of parties to enter into bilateral or multilateral agreements which were compatible with their obligations under the FTCT
- Article 5: the need to establish national co-ordinating mechanisms
- Article 6: reducing the demand for tobacco, in part through price and tax measures
- Article 8: protection from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke
- Article 9: regulation and disclosure of contents of products
- Article 11: packaging and labelling
- Article 12: Education, communication and training
- Article 13: banning and restriction on advertising, which was particularly important since cross-border advertising could not presently be prevented
- Article 14: assistance to combat tobacco dependence
- Article 15: reducing the world supply of tobacco and elimination of illicit trade
- Article 16: restriction of sales and protection of minors
- Article 17: economic support to be given to tobacco growing countries to develop viable alternative crops
- Article 18: Protection of environment and health
- Article 19 : Liability, whereby countries were encouraged to consider introducing civil and criminal liability for use of tobacco products, but were not obliged to do so. South Africa had decided not to participate in litigation in other countries but to attempt to tighten its own legislation on tobacco control
- Article 20 – research, surveillance and exchange of information at regional and international levels
- Article 21 – the Conference of Parties to receive reports on progress from parties
Ms Mthembu reported that the FCTC would be integrated within the existing tobacco control initiatives of the Department of Health so that the main expense would be limited to a contribution for financing the Conference of the Parties, its subsidiary bodies and its secretariat, estimated at US$30 000 per year.
She stressed that none of the provisions of the FCTC was in conflict with any aspect of the Constitution, and indeed ratification would enhance many of the human rights issues and values enshrined in the Constitution, such as the right to a safe environment and the rights of children.
Members agreed unanimously that the treaty should be ratified and voted accordingly.
The meeting was adjourned.
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