Budget Vote 19: Department briefing

Social Development

28 February 2005
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 March 2005
BUDGET VOTE 19: DEPARTMENT BRIEFIN

Chairperson:
Ms T Tshivase (ANC)

Documents handed out:
PowerPoint presentation by Department Director-General
Draft Analysis of 2005/06 allocations to Budget Vote 18
IDASA Budget Brief: HIV/AIDS allocations (by Nhanhla Ndlovu)

SUMMARY
The Department Director-General gave a presentation on their mission, priorities and objectives. He reported on the recent outputs in the areas of social security policy and planning, grant administration and payments, population and development, and the developmental and preventative programmes of social welfare services. Budget structure changes in all programmes were detailed and explained. The Director-General reported on conditional programme grants in the areas of HIV/AIDS, child support, and food emergency relief, including the spending and budget, and analysed the reasons for the variance in spending between the provinces. Finally he reported on plans and budget allocations for the 2005- 2006 period, during which there would be an integrated programme of social development. Aspects of the presentation were queried and clarified and it was resolved that the meeting and further questions would continue on the following day.

MINUTES

Department briefing
Mr V Madonsela (Department Director-General) reported that the Department wished to ensure the provision of comprehensive social protection services, within the constitutional and legislative framework, so as to create an enabling environment for sustainable development and delivery of integrated services in partnership with other organisations. The Department’s priorities included development of a comprehensive social security system (including establishment of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)), improving upon the current programmes and expanding developmental welfare services.

In line with these objectives, the Department aimed to:
- develop social assistance programmes for children, youth, families and the disabled
- monitor social assistance delivery and disaster relief by establishing standards and improving compliance
- transferring obligations to provinces and set up SASSA
- implement welfare service programmes to support vulnerable people, including mitigation of the effects of substance abuse and crime
- design and monitor policies and programmes for poverty alleviation and community development. This would include supporting NGOs and NPOs
- develop specific strategies for children and families infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS
- research and disseminate information on population and development trends to facilitate implementation of local and intergovernmental programmes.

The Director-General reported on recent outputs as follows:
Social Security Policy and Planning: the Social Assistance Act and the South African Social Security Agency Act had been passed. Various studies (which he listed) had been completed and a financial and demographic model for projecting future beneficiaries had been developed.

Grant Administration and Payments: Social grants were currently provided to over 9 million beneficiaries. Better models for administration and delivery had been refined and implemented, including a fraud hotline and fraud register, and comparisons made between data of various departments responsible for payments. Disaster relief of R60 million had been provided to communities affected by drought.

Strengthening social welfare services: The Children’s Bill and Older Persons Bill had been tabled in Parliament. Draft norms and standards for social welfare services had been developed and policies on financial awards to NGOs and service providers had been finalised. Procedures and standards for treatment centres, the child protection register and strategy on child abuse had been completed and work was ongoing on the drug master plan and a victim empowerment strategy for shelters for women and children. A draft integrated development service delivery model had been developed. 116 000 orphans and 5000 child-headed households had been identified and were receiving care and support and a draft policy framework had been developed for children orphaned or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Population and Development: On the international side, conferences on the programme of action of the International Conference on Population and Development had been held. Locally, pilot projects, local research and supporting research programmes had been set up in various areas.

There were nine programmes in the Department, but the budget structure changes – which had been agreed with the National Treasury - occurred in three categories. Grant Systems and Service Delivery (Programme 3) now combined two previous programmes. Social Assistance (Programme 4) was a new programme arising from the shift of functions from the Provinces to National level, and the setting up of SASSA. Development and Implementation Support (Programme 7) covered issues relating to poverty alleviation, and incorporated issues of community development

The projected spending for 2005-2006 had kept the normal allocation at similar levels but there were major increases in Special Allocations, detailed by the Director-General. The most significant increases (figures have been rounded off for ease of reading) were in the areas of Social Security Grants (an increase of R52 million); HIV/AIDS (increase of R60 million); the National Development Agency (increase of R12 million); and the establishment of SASSA (increase of R55 million).

The Conditional Grants managed by the Department were the HIV/AIDS Programme (a national integrated plan for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS); Extension of the Child Support Grant and Food Emergency Relief Programme.

The HIV/AIDS Programme aimed to provide social welfare services to vulnerable children, in partnership with NPOs, and to develop and support existing structures. The number of vulnerable children receiving appropriate care and support – both financial and physical (counselling and care) – had increased, as had the number of structures for management and maintenance of the services. The spending by province was detailed and the Director-General explained some of the variances, stressing that where the allocation had not been used, the amounts budgeted could be transferred to other provinces or programmes. Figures were given to highlight achievements in different aspects of the programme, together with an indication of the challenges still faced and the action taken to address the challenges.

The Child Support Extension Grant aimed to extend child support to eligible children between the ages of 7 and 14 over a period of three years. Some of the discrepancies in spending between the Provinces were explained by migration patterns, and projected figures were somewhat inaccurate, being based upon the 1996 census, but the programme had been nationally successful, reaching 95 000 children in excess of the targeted figure. The Department had taken action to adjust the estimates for funding, to check the integrity of applications, and addressed the need to increase staff capacity and interaction with other role players.

The Food Emergency Relief Programme aimed to provide relief to vulnerable individuals and households. Figures and achievements of the programme were summarised, and the Director-General explained that the statistics showed that only 17,8% of the allocation had been spent. The original budget allocation had been made in October 2002 and was predicated by spiralling food prices, with no indication when prices would stabilise. There had been some problems in identifying vulnerable households, and some criticism of the unintended effect of this programme upon shopkeepers who were dependent on purchases by their local communities, but the programme had finally been allowed to proceed. Difficulties arose from the system of tendering and from the service delivery as well as an inadequate allocation for administration. The Department had applied to Treasury for a rollover to allow the allocated amounts to be spent in the next financial period. Action had been taken to formulate a comprehensive policy on social relief of distress, a new delivery model, and a new and less provincially restrictive conditional grant. It was emphasised that as food parcels were delivered, other needs could be properly assessed so that future needs could be identified and assistance in obtaining grants given at the same time as immediate needs were being met.

Mr C Pakade (Department Chief Financial Officer) spoke on the grants proposed for 2005-6. The food emergency programme would be reassessed, and an integrated programme of social development services (aimed at enabling the provinces to provide immediate and appropriate short-term relief to vulnerable households or individuals not receiving any other form of assistance) would be set up. The HIV/AIDS Conditional Grant figure had been increased from R70.1 million to R138.4 million and Social Assistance Grants (for pensioners, children and the disabled) were budgeted at R52 million. The Provinces would be closely monitored on both delivery and improvements to the Social Assistance administration system pending its take-over by SASSA. Memorandums of Understanding had been signed between the Minister and all Provinces focusing on integrity improvement, fraud prevention strategies, training of officials and improving the manner of delivery of service. Mr Pakade stressed that any shortfall in the allocations to Provinces would be brought back for inclusion in future budgeting, as the intention of the Integrated Social Development Services was to allocate equitable shares to the Provinces towards an integrated service. The figures budgeted were demand-driven and took account of population and poverty levels.

Discussion
Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) asked whether the Department’s training programmes were being provided to non-citizens. He further asked why there was apparent discrimination since women became eligible for pensions at age 60, but men at age 65. He further queried whether pensions were available to other classes, such as war veterans.

Mr Madonsela clarified that the training was provided to all staff under the Public Services conditions of service and that although the staff might include those who were not South African citizens, the necessary processes had ensured that all were either permanent residents, or held valid work-permits. Historically, social workers had not been properly graded and there was some difficulty in keeping people in this profession, but the Minister of Finance had made provision in the new budget for social worker positions. There was currently a shortage of South African skills in this area. The new delivery models would address these challenges.

On the question of eligibility for pensions, Mr Madonsela reminded Members that the Constitution only prevented unfair discrimination and there were many historical reasons for the difference in eligibility. This position had been challenged in a case brought before the Cape Provincial Division, but the case had not proceeded.

In answer to the third question Mr Madonsela reported that very few people qualified for a War Veteran’s grant, which was applicable only to those who had served in World War II or Korea. A few people, who were veterans of liberation armies, might however qualify for special pensions.

Ms H Weber (DA) asked whether any documentation dealing with the funding to partner NGOs and NPOs was available. The Director-General indicated that he had documentation and would make it available to her. Ms Weber also queried how food parcels were delivered as she had received reports from her constituency that one area would receive parcels for a while, then the parcels would be stopped and another area would benefit. She queried how the costs were being contained and whether anything was being done to address the discrepancy between maize and mealiemeal prices.

Other Members also raised queries regarding the distribution of food parcels. Mr M Waters (DA) asked how households were identified and to whom the distribution was entrusted. He had heard complaints that distribution was being done by local councillors. Other Members reported on complaints from their constituencies about discrepancies and lack of delivery.

Mr Madonsela stressed that the programme, which was a pilot project, did not pretend to be able to reach all households. The programme targeted households who were spending less than R200 on basic food. In doing so it followed the mapping produced by Statistics SA which concentrated on areas where patterns of low spending were apparent. This was not to say that all households in an identified area would receive food parcels. Those most in need would be identified through a stakeholder forum, which could include NGOs, Departmental officials, faith-based organisations and local Councillors. Similarly, distribution of food parcels would be done by that forum and thus may include Councillors acting on behalf of the forum but certainly not in an individual capacity. The Department would investigate complaints and notify all Provinces again of correct distribution procedures to try to ensure that no further problems occurred. Mr Madonsela stressed that the food parcels were a temporary measure only and that the three-month period had been selected as a time frame during which other interventions by other departments, such as the Department of Agriculture, would occur. After the three-month period, households should have been provided with seeds and implements to enable them to undertake subsistence farming and cash crops, and those who qualified for other grants would have been assisted in obtaining ID documents and making applications.

Mr Madonsela responded that pricing was outside the ambit of his Department. The Department of Agriculture controlled prices; all that the Department of Social Development could do was to deal with those in need.

Ms I Mars (IFP) queried the current status of NGO legislation and asked that the Committee be kept informed of developments. She also queried whether there was documentation available on the impact of social grants.

Mr Madonsela replied that the Department had recently been involved in a consultative forum to discuss policy for financial awards to NGO partners, and that this documentation could be made available. He agreed that in future the Committee would be apprised of discussions and meetings, which Members might wish to attend.

On the question of the impact of social grants, he replied that documentation could be made available, which in many cases showed positive spin-offs from grants. For instance, preliminary findings showed that members of a household receiving assistance were more likely to find employment as they had some resources to assist them in their search for work.

Mr M Waters (DA) reminded Members that the costing of the Children’s Bill had been problematic, and asked for further clarification on the costing for Programme 3.

Mr Waters also asked for clarification on an apparent discrepancy, (in regard to identified child-headed households) between the current presentation and the figures previously presented by an NGO to the Committee.

In regard to the apparent discrepancy in numbers, Mr Madonsela agreed that the Department’s programmes did not currently reach every needy and eligible individual, particularly since many child-headed households were not easy to identify, but that this was a matter of concern and every effort was being made to improve reach and delivery.

In answer to Mr Waters’ question on costing, Mr C Pakade (Chief Financial Officer: Department of Social Development) reported that no policy would be passed through Parliament without proper costing. The budgets now presented included fairly significant amounts for IT development and software maintenance, arising from the necessary improvements to interface-systems being developed in the Department. While consultants might be required in the IT areas, they would not be the sole source, as much of the work, maintenance and research were being done in-house. A significant amount of the budget under the Grant Systems and Service Delivery (Programme 3) catered for the establishment of the SASSA and the Enterprise Resource Planning System, for which tenders had been advertised.

Mr M Waters queried whether the HIV/AIDS grants were allocated to a particular person or administered by an NGO, and why these grants had not been specifically listed in the presentation.

Ms F Batyi (ID) added that many affected people were unaware of the criteria for such grants, and Mr L Nzimande (ANC) queried whether people with an HIV /Aids condition would be eligible to receive a disability grant.

Mr F Makiwane (Deputy Director, Department of Social Development) reported that there was no HIV grant as such. Instead there was a conditional grant from the National Treasury to the Department, devolved to Provinces, to assist persons infected, and families and dependents affected by HIV/AIDS. The precise form of assistance would depend on the circumstances – for instance, children in the household would probably benefit from school feeding programmes, while those infected would be assisted by a hospice. The criteria for disability grants did not distinguish between health conditions, but depended solely on whether the person suffering any type of ill health was unable to enter the labour market. Medical practitioners, not social workers, would make this assessment.

Ms F Batyi (ID) asked whether there was any collaboration with the Department of Housing in regard to the provision of safe houses as part of the vulnerable persons’ victim empowerment programme mentioned in the presentation. Mr Madonsela confirmed that in general there was collaboration across a range of programmes.

Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) queried what was being done specifically to address problems of fraud in the system. Mr F Makiwane (Deputy Director, Department of Social Development) replied that several interfaces had been established with other public sector institutions to verify data and identify those who might be receiving other grants, assistance or pensions. It was hoped that this collaboration would soon be extended to private sector organisations.

Mr L Nzimande asked Mr Pakade to expand upon the notion of equitable shares in the integrated programmes. He also asked for clarification of the Department’s role in the Early Child Development (ECD) programme.

Mr Madonsela clarified that the care provided through the ECD programme always included an educational component. In the expanded public works programme the roles of all Departments had been clearly identified, to assist with integrated delivery. There had been a conditional grant from the Education Department, but the Department of Social Development had not received any allocation specifically to the ECD area. His Department had taken this up with Treasury, as it believed it was an area requiring immediate clarification.

Mr Pakade clarified that there would be an attempt to promote uniformity across the provinces. The needs of the provinces and the areas of specialisation of the social workers would differ, so that although there would not be total standardisation or absolutely equal division of personnel and resources, there would be a standardisation of the service delivery models.

The meeting was adjourned.


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