National Development Agency: briefing

Social Development

21 August 2001
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Meeting report

Portofolio Committee on Social Welfare

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
22 August 2001
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY: BRIEFING

Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee

Relevant Documents
NDA Powerpoint presentation
NDA information guide

NDA website: www.nda.org.za

National Development Agency delegation: Acting CEO and Board chair: Mr Delani Mthembu, Acting deputy CEO: Prof Rose September, Mr Mzwabantu Nlanseni.

SUMMARY
The National Development Agency is now South Africa’s key funding agency that addresses poverty and contributes towards the creation of a healthy, economically vibrant and stable civil society. It is a statutory funding agency whose primary focus is to contribute towards the eradication of poverty and its causes. Its other central brief is to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations in the important yet onerous task of combating poverty and underdevelopment.

MINUTES
Address by Prof Rose September
Briefing the Committee on the birth of the NDA, Prof September said that in 1998, the South African government passed the National Development Agency Act. This Act stipulates that the activities of the NDA were, among others things, to grant funds to civil society organisation for the purpose of meeting the developmental needs of the poor communities.

The idea of the NDA was born out of the quest for transparency and commitment to the plight of the poor sectors of society and that government delivers in uplifting the living standards of its poverty-stricken people. Means and ways were to be devised to heal and assuage the imbalances of the past and empower people on the basis of an equitable distribution of resources. It was necessary to strengthen the institutional capacity of civil society organisations for long-term sustainability. This mandate was entrusted to the NDA.

The critical objective of the NDA was to disburse and focus funds in poverty-stricken areas while at the same time developing and implementing a capacity building model aimed at improving competency of civil society organisations.

Prof September concluded by asserting that the NDA, ultimately, aims to become highly responsive and proactive to the development needs of poor communities. It hopes to successfully build the leadership, technical expertise and management capabilities necessary to deliver on the NDA poverty alleviation mandate.

Address by Mr Delani Mthembu
Mr Mthembu, the acting Chair of the Board, said that the main challenge of the NDA was how to take over the operations of the defunct Transitional National Development Agency (TNDA). He said that the NDA inherited over 4000 applications for project funding from the TNDA.

He added that most of the inherited aplications were not addressed due to the limited resources the NDA had at the time. The NDA had to recruit temporary staff to deal with the huge backlog. At the same time, the Board received an additional inflow of many thousands of applications.

Mr Mthembu said that the NDA was to report to the Social Development Portfolio Committee. The Board would, however, deal with the Director General on purely operational matters. He pointed out that the NDA was independent from the government.

The NDA Board of Trustees is composed of six representatives from government and nine representatives from civil society appointed by the Minister of Finance who is the Executive Authority of the NDA. The Board is divided into the Management Committee, Human Resource and Remuneration Committee, Finance and Audit Committee, Policy, Projects and Programmes Screening Committee

Mr Mthembu said that the vision and mission of the NDA was developed through a number of workshops that were all linked to the NDA mandate of poverty alleviation. The NDA had an accelerated grant disbursement process, which is achieved through its temporary provincial satellite offices. These offices screen projects for amounts under R200 000 and over R200 000 where a parallel national process is involved.

The NDA’s current funding sources were the Government, the European Union and the Independent Development Trust, which was a once-off funding. He added that a potential funder was the National Lottery which had not yet allotted it any money. He said that the EU funds had many strings attached and that before certain structural measures were in place, the funding was not forthcoming.

Mr Mthembu said that the NDA was fast moving away from sectoral funding to programme level funding which would entail partnering with all the stakeholders in the field. The NDA would strive at institution building and human capacity development. The NDA aimed at spreading its wings to the provinces with a view to make a strong presence for better service delivery to its constituency.

To date, Mr Mthembu concluded, the NDA has developed a project enhancement programme that boasts of grant making tools and systems through IT review and staff development. Among its other achievements was performance contracting, risk management, decentralisation, policy review, funding criteria and resourcing.

Discussion
Ms Mars (IFP) asked if it were possible for the list of NDA funded projects in the provinces to be made available to members. To which Mr Mthembu replied that this would be possible.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked how project management and monitoring is carried out and where, if at all, the NDA had offices in the provinces and if so how one would make contact.

Mr Mthembu replied that the NDA had temporary offices in every province manned by temporary staff. He added that the NDA has recently carried out a massive information campaign through television and other media to educate people on its projects. He said that the NDA had a call centre manned by qualified staff who attend to queries from the public. He added that the call centre is inundated with callers seeking all manner of information.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) pointed out that many poor rural women were unable to put together project proposals for funding. She wished to know how the NDA attempts, if at all, to reach out to such hapless members of society.

Prof September replied that people had sent in a whole range of projects proposals for funding. She said that the NDA has approved a variety of projects and that the breakdown of the exercise could be made available.

She added that it is true some of the projects proposals are haphazardly worked and when this happens and the Board is satisfied that the project is nonetheless viable, personnel are often sent to talk through the project with the applicant. She said that projects are rigorously assessed to avoid situations where resources go down the drain without benefiting the recipients.

Prof September explained further that capacity building is a standing mandate of NDA and that before funds are released, the merits of the proposed project have to be evaluated. The project officer must know who is on the project’s management team. Where weaknesses in mechanisms are noted, the NDA would then release money in tranches to allow the applicant to grow at a managed pace.

Prof September assured members that the project screening exercise is undertaken with utmost transparency and a high sense of integrity is maintained. She said that everybody is encouraged to apply - be it rural woman or any other person. Members of Parliament are encouraged to make presentations on behalf of their communities. Strategically designed communal projects are encouraged, she said.

Ms Rajbally (MF) wished to know the kind of project the NDA funds and how these projects are monitored.

Mr Mthembu explained that the NDA funds all kinds of projects as long as they are viable and contribute to the alleviation of poverty. He clarified, however, that the NDA does not fund major projects such as erecting hospitals and such facilities. He said that monitoring is handled at various levels by the NDA temporary satellite offices spread out in the provinces

Ms Kalyan (DP) asked what had happened to the 4000 funding applications the NDA had inherited from the TNDA.

Mr Mthembu replied that some of the applications had been addressed and closed while others could not be traced to the original applicants. The bulk of the applications were re-written and resubmitted. They were then screened accordingly.

Ms Kasienyane (ANC) sought clarity on the work being done to promote community self-help projects in rural outposts.

Mr Mthembu said that the NDA is encouraging tele-communication community centres projects and other related ventures that would open up these areas to outside investment inflows. The NDA, he assured, is keen to commit resources to community-based projects such as multi-purpose centres.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked if there are strategies in place to assist people with projects to develop and find markets for their products. In the same vein, Mr Masutha (ANC) asked to what extent, if at all, the NDA is networking with the Department of Trade and Industry to open up and tap the vast overseas markets for the local communities.

Mr Mthembu replied that the NDA had engaged various stakeholders in search of market opportunities for the people. He noted that the NDA is currently interacting with the South African Bureau of Standards. The NDA and SABS had agreed on a programme that would go into operation next month.

Mr Mthembu said that the NDA is working with various departments even parastals to find communality of approach to issues of mutual interest. It is also working with historically black institutions to develop research capabilities. Some black empowerment bookkeeping firms have also been contracted to run projects for NDA. The NDA, he added, had pumped millions of rands in early childhood development projects as well.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) noted that the NDA carried a heavy burden and sought to know how the board ensures that it had enough money every year to meet its mandate.

Mr Mthembu agreed that funding was a critical resource for the NDA. He challenged the Committee to become involved in helping NDA build the necessary capacity. He said that the board received R4 billion worth of applications annually. This, he said, calls for a vigorous campaign for funding.

The Chair thanked the NDA representatives for the fruitful interaction. He said that he hoped these interactions would be institutionalised to ensure a good working relationship between the parties.

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