Social Security: discussion with Provincial Mecs

Social Development

09 March 1998
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WELFARE

WELFARE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
10 March 1998
SOCIAL SECURITY: DISCUSSION WITH PROVINCIAL MECs

Chairperson Saloojee (ANC) announced that he had asked the MECs from each province to attend the meeting in order to discuss two issues: which body should administer social security (national, provincial, or a combination) and how should the problems associated with social security payments be handled.

The MEC for Gauteng, Ignatius Jacobs, commented that the administration working as a national entity meant strength in terms of sharing information and experience as well as having a uniform set of regulations. However provinces should have a say as problems vary. Yet there must be first aid from national if a province collapses. General comments were made by other MECs about the possibility of a hybrid system. Mr Jacobs commented that in Gauteng there are no application backlogs but there are applications that are waiting because applicants do not bring the right documents. He suggested that the required paperwork be reduced from three forms to one. Social security is mostly outsourced in Gauteng in order to allow people to apply where they live.

Mpumalanga reported that they have a fraud and corruption prevention committee. They check whether pensioners have died by liaising with Home Affairs. They have problems with foreign pensioners whose family live in Mpumalanga. Double payments are a problem. Officials are stealing from pensioners. Dealing with corrupt officials is being hamstrung by labour laws. The need for shelters for queues was also mentioned.

The MEC for the Northern Cape pointed out that fraud had always been present in the system.
One problem he identified was new employees who lacked experience. Reconciliation from month to month had not been done up until now but would be. Backlogs longer than six months are referred to the MEC.

The MEC for KwaZulu-Natal stated that a fraud squad had been introduced in the province with great success. There are pensioners' committees to assist elderly people but some of them are even involved in fraud. He indicated that not just the applicants are acting fraudulently; often doctors, lawyers, and department officials are corrupt. He also sited problems with foreigners claiming pensions.

The MEC for Northern Province reported a lack of skilled civil servants. People had been grouped by areas and now the situation was well-managed. The delegate also discussed the management of fraudulent applications that were often run by syndicates.

The MEC for Free State said that Lesotho citizens claim pensions from their province. The MEC from the Eastern Cape stated that a problem seen in that province is the lack of proper documentation. Former Transkei and Ciskei citizens do not have ID books. Some do have ID books as well as old identity documents and benefit twice. The problem is that if one pays out only on production of an ID book, old people who only have their "dompas" are going to suffer. The MEC for Venda reported a similar problem of applicants who have more than one ID booklet.

There were a range of comments made by the committee members during the meeting:
W.A. Botha (FF) asked why the government took so long to intercede when things collapsed in the Eastern Cape. The Acting Director-General, Mr Mokaba defended the government who he believed acted swiftly in the Eastern Cape. He pointed out that there was a national team in place there five days later. A legal advisor from the Ministry said that a system for intervention by the national government would be put into place that would be not purely legal but also humane. Mr Botha countered that the crisis had caused real hardships before the national department took notice.

E. Gandhi (ANC) spoke of the need for a more uniform process everywhere and she commented on the long delays that exist after lodging an application. J. Chalmers (ANC) stated that applicants should be paid from date of application, that is, given back pay. She questioned whether there was a common policy on backlogged applications. B.O. Dlamini commented that backlogs exist even if the application forms are properly completed. M. Turok (ANC) spoke about the computer management system, Socpen, that seems to be off-line most of the time. A departmental official commented that Socpen has improved but paypoint officials blame Socpen and not their own lack of knowledge. Other members spoke about arbitrary payments by clerks, differences at pay-points and that the inherited system was not user-friendly and was riddled with fraud.

The Chairperson, Mr Salojee, ended the meeting, noting that the committee now had a clearer picture, however the next meeting on this issue would have to be more structured.

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