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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
15 March 2006
SA SOCIAL SECURITY AGENCY: STRATEGIC PLANS & PROGRAMMES 2006: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
South African Social Security Agency: Strategic Planning 2006/7-2008/9 [available shortly at www.sassa.gov.za]
Presentation on 2006/07-2008/9 Strategic Planning (PowerPoint)
The South African Social Security Agency presented its Strategic Plan and Budget for 2006/7-2008/9. Key strategic priorities included improving service delivery quality, enhancing grant process integrity, organisational capacity, improving financial management and administration, the management of payment contractors and minimising fraud.
The Committee expressed concerns on the inefficiency of the Agency to reach communities in terms of delivering services. They referred specifically to the difficulties experienced by people in accessing their grants and obtaining information on the progress of applications. Members urged the Agency to attend to those problems as they impacted on the improvement, or the lack thereof, of peoples’ lives, especially those from poor backgrounds and in deep rural areas. The Agency pledged to work with Members of the Committee to see that the issues mentioned were given enough attention.
Mr F Makiwane (CEO) introduced the senior management team: Mr P Lesufi (Communications), Ms N Mlangeni (General Manager: Information Technology), Mr R Poyours (CFO), Mr Z Dangor (General Manager: Strategic Planning & Corporate Governance.
Briefing by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)
Mr Makiwane stated that the Agency operated under the theme of paying the right grant amount to the right person at the right time. The SASSA was informed by the South African Social Security Agency Act of 2004 and the Social Assistance Act of 2004. The key strategic priorities included improving service delivery quality, enhancing grant process integrity, organisational capacity, improving financial management and administration, management of payment contractors and the minimisation of fraud. SASSA aimed to improve service delivery by developing and implementing alternative service delivery models, enhancing data improvement quality programme and developing the forecast models (micro and macro).
Mr Makiwane outlined seven programmes that the Agency was embarking on. These included administration to manage the Agency; corporate services, which would focus on the overall management of human capital delivery of auxiliary services and the provision of legal services; communications, marketing and chain management to provide advice on marketing and communication to create awareness of the SASSA brand; and finance and supply chain management which would provide financial management services by implementing policies for suppliers of goods and services. The fifth programme focused on information communication technology to provide an automated grants process, and implementation of a business intelligence solution. Programme six was on Customer Services for the administration of grants that improve delivery of social security services. The seventh programme aimed at strategy and business development to create innovative strategies and mechanisms to improve service delivery. This would integrate social assistance function at national and regional levels.
Finally Mr Makiwane presented the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) (see presentation for full briefing)
Ms H Weber (DA) asked what the Department had done to make sure that people produced their ‘absolute’ identification when applying for and receiving disability grants, children and pension funds. She was concerned that there was a trend of fraud whereby people fraudulently received pension funds using other people’s identification while others "rented" out children to access child grants.
Mr Makiwane responded that the Department understood the legacy inherited by his Department and was hoping to tackle those problems. He indicated that there were a series actions to address various problems, one of which was the development of a of fraud strategy. Another measure would be working on the data integrity as a consistent measure to prevent the penetration of fraudulent cases. The Department also intended to utilise information technology services to monitor data. The Department was implementing three projects to ensure a functional system. The projects were aimed at the electronic content management, the ERP system and the enhancement of the system itself. All these systems and processes would ensure that the system contained relevant information with the correct addresses of people and all other data to prevent irregularities.
Mr M Waters (DA) asked how far the Department had gone in reducing the number of days people had to wait before being able to access grants, and when the Department thought it would be able to achieve the three day turnaround that it sought to achieve. He asked how the Department hoped to ensure that people who have been found guilty of fraud were not transferred to the SASSA, in order to avoid the possibility of corrupting the system
Mr Makiwane responded that there was a pilot project being carried out in three provinces to test the turnaround period, and results had indicated that the goal was possible to achieve. The Department had presented earlier, as part of its service delivery improvement, that services could be automated and run efficiently to reduce the waiting period. The Minister of Social Development, Dr Zola Skweyiya, would make an announcement when the pilot projects were finalised and, based on that, indicate the number of days for grant applications to be processed.
Ms M Gumede (ANC) sought clarity on the timeframe within which the Department sought to achieve its goals. She commented that there was a huge problem across the country whereby cases of fraud were reported, while people struggled to gain access to their pension funds and other social services. She proposed that a strategy be established to interrogate people at grassroots level with the assistance of community development workers. Cases could then be submitted and reported to the Department for immediate attention.
Mr Makiwane responded that the Agency hoped to equip and train officials, especially those that dealt directly with people at the grassroots level. He indicated that there were deadlines set to address the challenges acknowledged. The Agency relied on the availability of resources at various Departments. He added that, to deal with the lack of communication that resulted when people did not receiving their services, the Agency aimed to focus on strategies whereby information would be communicated in the languages most understood by people. Across all provinces, letters to applicants would be provided in a uniform manner to ensure that there were no differences and the procedure was applied to everyone in the same manner, regardless of their location.
Ms Gumede posed a follow-up question on the issue of communication. She was concerned that communication was a challenge in the field of social development, especially for people residing in the deep rural areas. She asked how the Department hoped to address and reach people in areas that could not be easily reached and yet required the services even more urgently.
Mr Makiwane acknowledged the difficulties around communication and said that the Agency had the means to make things work better. He mentioned the establishment of a call centre at the head offices, which would be staffed with people who spoke all languages.
Mr Lesufi added that the Agency was going to introduce product messaging, whereby information would be communicated and advertised on key products used by people, such as Mageu, Bread, Maize Meal and Coke. They would also make sure that all officials at offices that dealt directly with queries understood basic information that would assist people.
Ms I Ludwabe (ANC) was concerned that cases were not being followed up regarding pension funds and fraud. She enquired as to the mechanisms used by the Department to monitor the system.
Mr Makiwane replied that the Agency had a Compliance and Investigation Unit as well as a Fraud Hotline that people could call to report cases of fraud. Furthermore, the Agency worked with other entities, such as the Scorpions, to investigate cases of fraud. Mr Makiwane said that in his capacity as the CEO, he would look into those cases immediately.
Mr Waters asked how the Department hoped to improve the standards at pay points, considering that there were challenges in terms of a lack of capacity. He further asked if there were any penalty clauses in the contracts signed between the Department and the contractors in an event where the standards and norms were not met.
Mr Makiwane responded that capacity was the solution, although it remained a challenge. The Agency would consider the issue and make sure that there was enough capacity and that duties were separated between staff members to ensure efficiency. He added that they would embark on a comprehensive strategy to deal with cases of fraud. The Agency had been in communication with stakeholders, such as the Post Office, to improve current grant payment systems. Mr Makiwane informed members that they were not yet ready to indicate when an optimal policy would be to put in place but had advised the Minister on the benefits of managing the contractors themselves, which would minimize costs as well. The Minister had extended the period of monitoring, and the Agency hoped that by the end of financial year 2006 they would have agreed on a strategy to utilise to improve the current grant systems.
The Chairperson questioned the Agency’s strategy to monitor grant payments to children born in South Africa whose parents were foreigners. The system currently allowed such children to qualify for a child grant
Mr Makiwane responded that the Convention on the Rights of the Child advised against discriminating against children in the country, and there were other pieces of legislation that addressed issues of immigration. What the system required to assist children was a birth certificate and a bar-coded identity document of the caregiver, who should be South African. He was not certain whether or not foreign parents had access to South African identity documents. The Agency relied on the assistance of the Department of Home Affairs as the Agency had no means to see whether or not a person was really South African or not if they produced a South African Identity Document.
Ms Gumede expressed her concern about people who had direct access to the pension funds of certain old people. She referred to people who were members of Burial Societies whereby burial funds were accessed by means of debit orders, which resulted in the pensioner receiving a deducted amount of money. She asked how the Agency considered assisting such pensioners.
Ms S Mars (IFP) added that, other than burial societies, there were other people who had access to older people’s funds for their own interests. She requested the Agency to take the matter very seriously. A law permitting deductions by burial societies existed but needed to be regulated.
Mr Makiwane said that Social Assistance Act of 1992 permitted such deductions and with the new law, approved by the Committee, a decision had been agreed upon that deductions for burial funds would be allowed but needed to be regulated. In line with the Financial Services Board, the Agency hoped to look at the registration of such entities that had access to pension funds. The Agency would also ensure that beneficiaries were aware of their rights when such deductions occurred.
The meeting was adjourned.
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