Draft Fundraising Amendment Bill; Draft Probation Services Amendment Bill: briefing

Social Development

20 August 2001
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Meeting report

Portofolio Committee on Social Welfare

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 August 2001
DRAFT FUNDRAISING AMENDMENT BILL; DRAFT PROBATION SERVICES AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee

Relevant Documents
Draft Fundraising Amendment Bill
Draft Probation Services Amendment Bill
[copies of these drafts awaited; email info@pmg.org.za ]

SUMMARY
The Department explained that the proposed Bill aims at consolidating the various disaster relief funds into one body known as the new "Social Relief Fund". The draft Bill also addresses the tricky issue of definition of terms such as 'terrorism' and 'victim of political violence'. The Department is keen to fast-track this Bill in order to make disaster relief more efficient.

The National Disaster Fund Board said that it was severely undermanned to effectively take on the enormous task of managing the National Disaster Fund. The Board made the admission after members questioned the unacceptable trend where relief assistance has failed to reach the victims of distress in good time.

The Committee was taken aback when it learned that victims of the Northern Province flooding disaster eighteen months ago had not yet received compensation from the National Relief Fund.

The Board sited lack of capacity as the main constraint as the Board consisted of only six members. The Board had had to process more than 5000 application forms from Northern Province disaster victims.

The Draft Probation Services Amendment Bill will be put before Cabinet soon.

MINUTES
Draft Fundraising Amendment Bill: Background
Mr P du Preez, legal advisor in the Department of Social Development, explained the background to the Bill which aims at remedying the fractured nature of disaster relief operations. By consolidating the national relief funds (Disaster Relief Fund, SA Defence Force Fund, Refugee Relief Fund, Social Relief Fund and the State President's Fund) into one fund known as the new Social Relief Fund, the Bill hopes to inject some efficiency in its operations by pooling all the available resources together. The various disaster relief funds were operational except for the Defence Force Fund which had been moribund for some time.

New developments, such as the onset of the refugee problem, need to be addressed by the Bill. In this regard, the definition of relevant terms was absolutely necessary. The refugee issue was a world-wide problem that had huge financial implications which necessitated a thorough review.

He had hoped that work on the final draft would be completed by September 2001. However as a first draft, the Bill needed much ground work to be undertaken in order to perfect it. He anticipated some problems with definitions of terms.

Input by National Disaster Fund Board
Rev C Nhlapo, accompanied by Father Pearson and Mr Molifi, spoke on behalf of the Board. He noted that the Board was not legally constituted and was thus operating informally. The Board needed a legal framework to be efficient in its work.

He said that the main motivation for consolidating the various relief funds was to save on finances and administration. Consolidation would cut down on meetings and pool the available resources to enhance service delivery. He noted that disasters draw large amount of money yet such amounts are often not budgeted for in national budgets.

Discussion
The Chair suggested that members take this opportunity to get a sense of the background to the Bill and to familiarise themselves with the functions of the Board before going into the substance of the Bill.

As the Board has not been constituted formally, Mr Da Camara (DP) asked if the Board holds meetings under the auspices of one of the funds.

Rev Nhlapo answered that this was correct. The Defence Force Fund is cut out since it has been inoperative for a considerable time.

Mr Da Camara asked if the Refugee Fund was operational.

Mr Molifi, a Board member, replied that the Refugee Fund was not operational. The Board dealing with that Fund was looking into making the provision operational. No funds were assigned to it at this stage. The Disaster Relief Fund had R32 million in its kitty which monies were already committed. Cheques for the Northern Province disaster relief were due to be disbursed in late September 2001.

The Chair expressed shock that it was almost eighteen months since the Northern Province disaster and relief funds were yet to reach the victims. He asked what was the cause for the huge delay.

Mr Molifi explained that the National Disaster office had been overwhelmed by the size of the Northern Province disaster and it could not act as rapidly as expected. The Board had received more than five thousand application forms which it had to process meticulously. The Board's handicap was exacerbated by the fact that the disaster occurred in deep rural areas. This and other operational reasons were to blame for the sorry state of affairs.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) asked if the Board had devised any plans in order to fast-track the disaster relief process. In the same vein, Dr. Baloyi (ANC) inquired about the structure of the Board and if there is any linkage with the provincial disaster relief framework.

Rev Nhlapo replied that the criteria set for the disbursement of relief funds had created a bureaucratic nightmare for the understaffed Board. The process was laborious and the six Board members had to go through the numerous application forms with a fine toothcomb. The forms themselves, he lamented, were a thick ream of paperwork. Part of the problem was the archaic Act of 1978 under which the Board operated. He added that the Minister had warned that the delay was unacceptable.

He informed the Committee that there was no structure in place linking the provincial framework with the national one. He said that the Board would have to look at ways to facilitate the necessary networking with their counterpart provincial structures.

The Chair wondered why the Board had carry out the entire administrative task to the point of disbursing the cheques without the involvement of personnel from the relevant department.

Rev Nhlapo agreed that the Board lacks counterpart structures - hence the difficulty to impact on relief operations at the most critical hour. The Board was in dire need of capacity building if it were to carry through emergency operations successfully.

The Disaster Relief Fund operated in isolation and this created difficult operational challenges. They would like to see a clear linkage with the other stakeholders in relief management.

Mr du Preez appealed to the Committee to fast-track the Bill so that it can be operational before the end of this year. The term of the current Board is due to expire and it would be convenient to have legislation in place before a new Board is constituted.

Draft Probation Services Amendment Bill
Mr du Preez and Dr de Smidt from the Western Cape Probation Office addressed the Committee on the proposed Probation Services Amendment Bill. Dr de Smidt said that it was important to formalise the position of the assistant probation officers. The assistant probation officers were performing well in the Western Cape. There were ten family finders at present and they currently had a 90% success rate.

Mr du Preez noted that the Bill has still to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval. He hastened to add that this would happen soon to facilitate its enactment.

The Chair said that he had been under the impression that Cabinet had already approved the Bill. He asked committee members to study the Bill within their political party study groups so that the Committee can move forward once the Cabinet endorses the Bill.

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