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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
22 March 2006
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIC PLAN 2006/07: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Department of Social Development Strategic Plan 2006/2007-2009/2010 [available shortly at www.treasury.gov.za]
Department of Social Development Budget Vote 18 [available at www.treasury.gov.za]
Department of Social Development Analysis of 2006/2007 Allocations to Budget Vote 18
Department of Social Development presentation on 2006/2007 Strategic Plan
The Department of Social Development presented its Strategic Plan for 2006/07, which aimed to transform South Africa from a welfare state to a social development state. The Department’s total budget for 2006/07 was R62 billion, of which R61.5 billion was allocated to social security transfers and administration.
Members expressed concern that the large proportion of the budget allocated to social grants could perpetuate a welfare system whereby beneficiaries became dependent on government grants. The Committee interrogated the Department’s strategy for improving the remuneration of social workers, and for retaining professional staff. Members also queried the efficiency of provincial departments in the distribution of social grants.
Department of Social Development briefing
Mr V Mthintso (Department Head: Ministerial Services) outlined the Department’s Strategic Plan 2006/07, which was informed by the ten-year review discussion co-ordinated by the Presidency together with the Department. The Department aimed to transform South Africa from a welfare state to a social development state through inter-sectoral partnerships for improving material conditions, and through interventions at high levels of growth and development (such as the Expanded Public Works Programme) to support the 6% economic growth target.
The Department’s total budget for 2006/2007 was R62 billion, of which R61.5 billion was allocated to social security transfers and administration. Therefore, 99% of the budget was allocated to social security transfers. Of the remaining 1% of the budget, 38% was set aside for development and research. The allocation for administration was only 0.2% of the total budget, while leakages due to fraud and corruption had been reduced to between 2% and 5%, which was within the international norms of between 9% and 33%.
Mr Mthintso presented the Department’s six programmes according to the categories of intent, structure, budget, key achievements, challenges, and future priorities. The Department aimed to meet its general service delivery challenge of eradicating poverty by improving human and social capital capacity at the levels of municipality and family.
Mr B Tolo (ANC, Mpumulanga) queried whether the Department was successful in any of the lawsuits brought against it. He also asked what percentage of the budget was allocated to administration, and whether the Department was able to carry out its mandate effectively when a large proportion of the budget was allocated to social security transfers.
Mr Mthintso replied that the Department was successful in some of the court cases brought against it. However, the majority of this litigation was focussed on administrative issues (such as the cancellation of social grants) rather than policy, and the Department aimed to reverse this situation. Of the 1% of the total budget not allocated to social security transfers, the Department allocated 25% to administration, which included oversight of agencies such as the National Development Agency. The Department was responsible for the formulation of policies, whereas provincial departments were responsible for policy implementation.
Ms F Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng) suggested that the allocation of R61.5 billion to social security transfers could perpetuate a welfare system in which beneficiaries became dependant on government. How would the Department provide for the social workers needed to address practical problems of social development?
Mr Mthintso responded that research by the Department showed that social grants contributed towards the development of families; and the Department was equipping its agencies to intervene in the social circumstances of beneficiaries, as well as to distribute grants. The R104 million allocated to social welfare services was insufficient to provide for the remuneration of social workers. Therefore, the Department was in the process of determining how many social workers were required in each community, in order to make the budget commensurate with these requirements.
Ms D Snyman (Chief Director, Department) added that provincial departments received budgets for the delivery of social welfare services, while the Department’s budget was directed at monitoring these services.
Mr Tolo claimed that the National Treasury would be dissatisfied with the Department’s ‘inflation’ of its budget by devolving the responsibility for social grant distribution on the provinces. The need to meet grant distribution targets in the provinces contributed towards fraud.
Mr Mthintso stated that the decision to use a social grants system was a political decision. The Department co-ordinated an effective social grants system that recorded leakages due to fraud of 2%-5%, compared with the international norm of 9%-33%. The Department had requested an increase on its baseline figure for social security transfer of R50 million in order to protect the integrity of the system. The Department aimed to promote to beneficiaries their rights to receive social grants, and had not yet reached many children who qualified for grants but were not receiving them.
Mr Tolo insisted that the Department should not be satisfied until leakages due to fraud had been stopped completely. He noted that the Department recorded 598 approved posts, of which 399 were currently filled, and asked whether all of the approved posts were funded.
Mr Mthintso conceded that some of these positions were not funded, while others,such as posts for senior social workers, remained vacant due to a scarcity of skills. The Department was also frequently losing public servants to other government departments.
Both the Chairperson and Ms Mazibuko enquired how many learnerships the Department had budgeted for.
Mr Mthintso pledged that the Department would respond to this question in writing.
Ms Mazibuko asked how the Department budgeted for the remuneration of social workers.
Ms Snyman answered that provincial departments were responsible for the payment of social workers’ salaries. Ms Mazibuko further queried the status of contracts between provincial departments and private companies for the distribution of social grants, and whether these companies would accomplish distribution effectively on 1 April. Ms Snyman replied that the Department did not foresee any problems with the performance of third-party contractors on 1 April.
Ms Mazibuko queried whether the Department had budgeted for provision of emergency relief in other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
Mr Mthintso answered that there was no protocol governing South Africa’s relationship with other SADC countries as a relief donor, and therefore the Department was co-operating with the Department of Foreign Affairs on the negotiation of a protocol.
Mr Tolo noted that during the review of disability grants the Department had mistakenly removed many legitimate beneficiaries from the system, and asked whether this could be redressed.
Mr Mthintso responded that the Department discontinued disability grants to some beneficiaries at the completion of the review, and those affected were beneficiaries with temporary rather than permanent disabilities.
Mr Tolo requested that the Department describe the elements of its retention strategy for professional staff.
Mr Mthintso answered that as the salaries paid to social workers were not competitive, the Department was considering categorising social workers as scarce-skilled staff. The Department also planned to retrain social workers, and to free them from administrative duties which absorbed a large amount of time.
Ms H Lamoela (DA, Western Cape) asked how efficient the Department’s process was for placing orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in foster care. Mr Mthintso explained that legislation required that foster-care grant applications were processed by the court system. As magistrates did not give priority to grant applications, the Department had arranged for courts to open on Saturdays in KwaZulu-Natal in order to accelerate this process. It aimed to open ‘Saturday courts’ in other provinces also for the processing of foster-care grant applications.
Ms Lamoela enquired how the Department would attempt to make the ‘means test’ for social grants more flexible.
Mr Mthintso responded that the means test had been updated, and would measure poverty according to three aspects: income, human capital, and assets.
The Chairperson asked whether the Department had completed its research on deductions from social grants, and enquired why information from census 2001 was used in that project.
Mr Mthintso replied that following the completion of this research in mid-2005, the Department intended to formulate regulations on social grants that would make deductions illegal without the permission of the Minister.
Mr J van Zuydan (Department Chief Director: Population and Development) added that the collection of data for research on social grants was difficult as it took statisticians about two years to process the information from each census. The Department planned to use household surveys for the evaluation of provincial population trends before the next national census in 2011.
The Chairperson commented that the Committee would invite the National Development Agency (NDA) to make a presentation on social development issues.
Mr Mthintso agreed that the NDA should address the Committee, particularly on the matter of poverty eradication.
The Chairperson expressed satisfaction with the Department’s inclusion of rural areas in its HIV/AIDS programme, and asked whether the LoveLife campaign was part of the programme.
Mr Mthintso explained that the LoveLife campaign, aimed at young people, was part of the HIV/AIDS programme organised by an inter-departmental task team.
Ms J Vilakazi (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) queried whether this HIV/AIDS programme would reach illiterate people living in remote rural areas.
Mr Mthintso said that the HIV/AIDS programme included community-based care projects organised by community-based organisations. The Department was also collaborating with the spouses of chiefs and kings in rural areas on HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.
The meeting was adjourned.
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