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SELECT COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL SERVICES
31 October 2006
HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT ANNUAL REPORTS: ANALYSIS BY PARLIAMENTARY RESEARCHERS
Acting Chairperson: Mr B J Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga)
Documents handed out:
Analysis of the Annual Report for the Department of Health
Analysis of the Annual Report for the Department of Social Development
The Annual Reports of the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development were analysed by the Parliamentary Researchers for key issues and inconsistencies to provide the Committee with a tool to hold the Departments accountable for their work during the 2005/06 reporting year. Both reports adhered to a user-friendly format that made comparison with original plans possible. However, the Department of Social Development lacked clarity in their reporting style for outcomes. The Department of Health had a user-friendly format with little inconsistency between the reports. The Committee found the briefings useful in preparation for formal hearings with the two departments about their annual reports.
In the absence of the regular Chairperson, the Committee elected Mr B J Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga) to act as Chairperson for the duration of the meeting.
The Chairperson opened the meeting by welcoming everyone present and commenting that he should not always be elected as acting Chairperson as he was sure others could do as well or better and should share the responsibility.
The Chairperson expressed apologies for Ms J M Masilo (ANC, North West), Ms F Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng) and Ms S Chen (DA, Gauteng) who were all away, and Ms A Qikani (UDM, Eastern Cape) and Mr T S Setona (ANC, Free State) who were off sick. He said that in future they should be able to read the Annual Reports prior to meeting about it. It limits their ability to engage productively if the report has not been read. The meeting should have been postponed until they had read it for analysis and so that important issues could be flagged for meaningful questions.
Mr M A Sulliman (ANC, Northern Cape) said that the Committee had a legal obligation to discuss reports but cannot as they only received them minutes before meetings.
The Chairperson responded that they would discuss the Annual Report with the Department at a later date. This meeting was to hear a briefing from the parliamentary researchers about the report.
Presentation by Parliamentary Researcher on Health Annual Report
Ms B Makani-Mansomi (Parliamentary Researcher) presented her analysis of the Department of Health’s Annual Report. She commented that the format of the report makes it a good tool to help the Committee with their oversight function. There were a few structural changes to programs within the Department and a new program for human resources was added. She highlighted the importance of keeping the format of all Department reports identical so that meaningful comparisons can be made between the initial plans and the outcomes. She speculated that the Department had missed so many of their deadlines because of over-ambitious timelines at the planning stage of programs. In summary, the Department performed well in areas that were highlighted by the President but not as well in other areas. There are problems at a policy level.
The Chairperson asked what the acceptable variance in Department spending is according to Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) guidelines.
Ms Makani-Mansomi replied that under spending was never acceptable.
The Chairperson asked what the difference between under-spending and savings was.
Ms Makani-Mansomi replied that savings are often a way of masking under-spending, but it is possible in some instances like in Program 4. She further said that there had been no information on the spending of conditional grants until that morning, which accounts for its absence in her report.
The Chairperson asked if the provinces are spending as they should, as it was important to Select Committees. Fiscal dumping and lack of capacity was a problem. Was it possible to get the spending trends before the Committee meets with the Department?
Ms Makani-Mansomi said that she would forward a report on provincial spending to the Committee.
The Chairperson clarified that the Committee would not meet the Department in 2006 so there was not a tight deadline.
Ms Makani-Mansomi continued her presentation saying that the Department of Health had received a qualified Audit Report for the third year in a row. She outlined what questions would be important for the Committee to ask the Department.
The Chairperson thanked her and said her analysis was very good and highlighted all the issues.
Presentation by Parliamentary Researcher on Social Development Annual Report
Mr F Abrahams (Parliament Researcher) presented his analysis of the Annual Report of the Department of Social Development. He apologised for his report excluding one program and promised to send a complete report as soon as possible. He identified high staff turnover and high vacancy levels as the biggest challenge in the department. The SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) had been established to handle social security grants. This created challenges as it drew capacity away from the Department. The report was good but lacked clarity in the reporting outputs. Public access to documents and information from the Department was poor.
The Chairperson asked if the Department took on interns.
Mr Abrahams said that he did not know and that it was not mentioned in the report.
The Chairperson said that Cabinet had decided that every Department must have interns and it was thus important to find out. Departments usually pay interns what they like and there is no regulation of this. The Committee needed this information.
Mr Abrahams said that there was no overarching social security plan in the Department and that this was a clear weakness. There was a problem with comparing the outcomes with the Strategic Plan. The Annual Report does not give information about how they addressed problems on the ground. Attention is still needed to those provinces that did not have regional offices.
Mr Sulliman asked whether ‘stricter controls’ in the Free State being the cause of low spending implied that other provinces did not have strict control. He said that the wording of reports should be very specific so as not to be misleading.
The Chairperson clarified that the controls must be in place, but it was a problem if the Department underspent.
Mr Abrahams pointed out that the reasons for underspending were provided in the report.
The Chairperson clarified that the question should go to the Department and not to Mr Abrahams.
Mr Abrahams said that the assessment tools differed between provinces even though there are standards in place. It is easier in some provinces to get grants.
The Chairperson said that they must ask the Department if it was right to have such inconsistencies.
Mr Abrahams continued that the reporting style is unclear. He pointed out where the Department made inconsistent points.
Ms Lamoela asked for clarity on spending by Mpumalanga.
Mr Abrahams explained that Mpumalanga had spent all the grant money but had under spent the administration money for grants.
The Chairperson said that they needed the complete reports and that for Home Affairs before Parliament rises. Members must read the reports to ensure that the researchers’ analysis is correct.
The minutes for 12 and 19 September and 11 and 17 October 2006 were accepted.
The Chairperson said that the report from the oversight visit to the Western Cape had been adopted but the Committee needed to decide whether they should debate the report. It would be futile to schedule a debate for the next year as it would then be over a year since the oversight visit. There was only one week left as the Committee would be away in the Free State in the following week.
The Chairperson said that the debate would not affect the implementation anyway. Questions in the house could have the same affect. The report then goes back to the provinces. The Committee’s recommendations are not instructions to the executive.
Ms J N Vilakazi (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) said that they should highlight the issues in the statement to mitigate the problem of time.
The Chairperson said that they still had to pass a Bill by the end of the year and this may require public hearings and consultation with the Department. They should submit a statement if everyone agreed.
Mr J O Thlagale (UCDP, North West) said that the program is set for the next two weeks. Even if they would like to debate the report, he did not think the program can be changed.
The Chairperson suggested that he would make a ten-minute statement if a slot in the program could be found. The Committee agreed to this.
The meeting was adjourned.
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