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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 August 2001
DEPARTMENT ON THE PROPOSED NORMS AND STANDARDS FOR SOCIAL SECURITY
Chairperson: Mr. E Saloojee
Social Security Improvement Programme
The Department is set to overhaul the entire social security service delivery system to streamline the cumbersome process of service delivery to beneficiaries.
Three major projects are involved namely the development of comprehensive norms and standards, the replacement of the Social Pension (SOCPEN) data processing system and the improvement of physical infrastructure at pension pay points. Some of the identified critical areas of weakness are that the social security function lacks capacity at both national and provincial level.
Provinces have their own priorities, which do not necessarily align to national priorities. The priorities of the national and provincial social security have to be realigned to ensure ownership of the new norms and standards.
The Chair introduced Department officials led by Mr Fezile Makiwane (Chief Director: Social Security and the presenter Mr S. Jehoma (Chief Director: Grants Systems & Administration).
Mr Jehoma stated that the objective of the programme is to focus on norms and standards and to ensure that the aims of the project are in line with the expectations of the beneficiaries.
The social security cluster priority aims at improving efficiency, effectiveness and equity of service delivery to the beneficiaries. The project carried three major components:
- the reengineering business processes,
- a new grants payment system and
- infrastructure of pay points and offices/service points.
The programme scope entailed visits and consultations at the provinces, analysis of the current status with regard to uniformity and to review local and international Best Practices.
The other factors would be to develop norms and standards and to carry out a functional analysis of SOCPEN, Business Case and User Requirements Specification for new Grant Payment System. An audit of infrastructure for social security would be undertaken while plans for implementation strategy for the programme would be rolled out.
In the area of institutional arrangement there is a gap in policy intentions and execution leading to varying service levels and unequal success rate at service delivery. The national guidelines were subject to varying interpretation and therefore there was need for additional human resource capacity at the national level. The role of the National office should be more involved in supporting provinces and facilitate the standardisation of the process of service delivery.
The national office should strengthen the monitoring and evaluation role to ensure equitable service delivery across provinces. There was a need for accountability to rest with officials at the department and that resource allocation for delivery should be balanced in order to facilitate a developmental approach to service delivery.
The process of grant administration was long and tedious hence took a heavy to on the already subdued and hapless beneficiaries. He recommended a rationalisation of processes to reduce cycle times from the current 3 to 6 months to 2 days. Application forms should be standardised and automated and those access channels should be increased to bring delivery closer to the beneficiaries.
Operations would be decentralised to facilitate quick decision making and accountability in addition to the installation of an automated file tracking, verification and approval.
Human resource capacity should be built at the national level to effectively support provinces in delivery and that the norm for official to beneficiary ratio of 1:1000 be adopted in capacitating provincial offices.
It is evident that service delivery is not tempered with 'Batho Pele' principles hence the poor customer service culture. He recommended training on service orientation to captivate and built a customer friendly service delivery.
An increase in access channels would fast track service delivery and there is a need to establish a national call centre to support remote service delivery.
On third party contractors, Jehoma decried the litany of poor management systems that has characterised this service and recommended that third party contracts be negotiated at the national level in order to maximise on the department's buying power.
Payment should be facilitated through social security cards that cater for beneficiary movement between provinces and that payments through banks and post offices be encouraged. Compliance should be enforced through performance targets and in- built penalty clauses.
On financial management, Jehome recommended that national and provincial offices will be responsible for budgeting and that modern financial management tools be implemented for the disbursement of grants. The human resources capacity of the finance unit should be increased and that fraud and compliance unit be set up as a matter of urgency.
On Information Techology (IT) and related technology, the deployment of IT must be driven by business goals modernised to enable process improvement. IT hardware and software and networks must be standardised to provide a reliable and predictable service.
On the controversial issue of pay points and infrastructure, Jehoma said that although there was a deliberate policy to move toward increase use of Banks and Post office; pay-points must not service more than 1000 beneficiaries. The size of the pay-point must be determined by demography and that payment machines (ATM) should service a maximum number of beneficiaries or-else payment time should be staggered. These points must be inspected at least 3 times a year and those office sizes should be in line with Public Works norms.
Jehoma concluded by assuring the Committee that the outlined measures are but common, simple and standardised processes. The measures would ensure reduction of fraud and corruption together with improved decision making and open communication and partnerships with other stakeholders.
He expected efficiencies in casework, simple and standard policies and procedures, most efficient and effective service delivery and administrative and qualitative savings. As for implementation time frame, a full scale roll-out could occur in all provinces when resources become available within the next three fiscal years.
The Chair asked why such a beautiful document is not reflective of the situation on the ground where service delivery remains pathetic.
Jehoma replied that the project was still in the pipeline but that when implemented it will deliberately target certain areas that were identified by the President as badly affected in his state address to parliament. Rural areas were, therefore, a top priority for the project.
Prof Mbadi (UDM) said that while this effort was highly appreciated and most welcome, he did not foresee its effective implementation in the vast deep rural areas. The situation in the far-flung rural outposts was desperate. There were no postal services and that in some place four districts shares one bank and roads were non-existent. Many people were and still have never accessed their pensions for years.
While admitting that there are no simple solutions, Jehoma said that it is not the intention of the department to recoil into submission and do nothing about it.
The idea of the project was to ameliorate the situation on the ground while a lasting solution was being looked into.
Ms Ramotsamai (ANC) commented that what was presented was an ideal situation but how much would be cost of implementing the project.
Mr Jehoma replied that the department had carried out a thorough survey on costing and a figure of R2 billion spread over a span of five years had been arrived at.
Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked if there was any document on the norms and standards alluded to. How would the provincial programmes be funded?
The Chair responded in the affirmative. Funding for the provinces would be addressed at the implementation level.
Mr Jehoma replied that the document for norms and standards was available and the same can be made available to the Committee members.
The Chair asked how soon the document could be made available to the Members.
Mr Jehoma replied that it was possible to avail the document in two weeks time.
Ms Kalyan (DP) said that the method of implementation looks too ambitious. How would the issue of lack of uniformity between the provincial and national projects be addressed?
Mr Jehoma replied that provinces have their own compliance mechanisms. The disparity was caused by lack of norms and standards, which is, being addressed at present.
Ms September (ANC) asked it there would be any input by the Committee members before implementation of the project.
To this question, the Chair added that Members had had first hand experience of the shortcomings in the system and would certainly offer invaluable input.
Mr Jehoma replied that the department is co-partnering with the Committee members and that their input would definitely be sought.
Mr Van Jaarsveld (NP) asked when information on the implementation would be made available to the Committee.
Mr Jehoma replied that it is expected to complete the grant administration toward the end of next year by which point there would have been another interface with Committee Members.
The Chair requested of the department to take note and inform the Committee as soon as the software system comes in operation.
Ms Cupido (DP) requested that the Committee should be informed as and when some plans have been implemented so far.
Mr Jehoma acknowledged this point.
Mr Masutha (ANC) commented that the norms and standards should be based on a legal instrument for purposes of attracting any sanctions. Such norms and standards, he advised, would remain a dead letter without the teeth of the law. The department should start the process of framing a legal instrument in this regard. He pointed out that the document had failed to address the important component of review process.
Mr Masutha added that review procedures could not be gainsaid in complex processes like the present one. A further breakdown needs to be undertaken in the area of defining terms like 'user friendly system facilities'.
Mr Jehoma noted the critique and promised to look into the issues raised by the member.
Ms Kasieyane (ANC) asked who supervises the temporary staff at the pay points and for how long would such employees remain temporary.
Mr Jehoma replied that the whole issue of staff rationalisation is addressed in the project. The current set-up was that the provinces are in-charge of the employees they hire.
Ms Rajbali (MF) asked whether there was a premium still put on the value of one's property. to which Makiwane replied in the negative. Property valuation is at present nil.
Mr Da Camara (DP) asked what would become of those who would be affected in the staff rationalisation programme
Mr Jehoma replied that nobody would loose his or her job in the envisioned staff rationalisation. In fact more staff are needed to interface with the beneficiary and that the target of 1:1000 people need to be met
The meeting was adjourned