A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
FINANCE SELECT COMMITTEE
11 May 2007
HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT 4TH QUARTER CONDITIONAL GRANT AND CAPITAL EXPENDITURE: INPUT FROM PROVINCES
Chairperson: Mr Tutu Ralane (ANC, Free State)
Documents handed out:
Free State Conditional Grant PowerPoint presentation
Free State Social Development PowerPoint presentation
Eastern Cape Department of Health PowerPoint presentation
Eastern Cape Social Development presentation
Gauteng Health PowerPoint presentation
Gauteng Conditional Grants
KwaZulu-Natal PowerPoint presentation
KwaZulu-Natal Welfare & Population Development presentation
Limpopo Conditional Grants and Capital Expenditure presentation
Limpopo Capital Expenditure presentation
Mpumalanga Health Services Vote 10
Mpumalanga Social Services Vote 13 PowerPoint presentation
Northern Cape presentation
North West Conditional Grants and CAPEX presentation
North West Capital Infrastructure presentation
Western Cape Conditional Grants presentation
Western Cape Capital Expenditure PowerPoint presentation
Health Services Preliminary Outcome, National Treasury PowerPoint presentation
Social Development Preliminary Outcome, National Treasury PowerPoint presentation
Audio Recording of the Meeting
Spending on the conditional grants to provincial Departments of Health had increased during the Financial Year, and most provinces had been very close to budget. There were reporting problems. Recurring themes in the individual presentations were consistent underspending on the conditional grant for forensic pathology and problems with the Department of Public Works.
Members questioned the level of planning in some departments. There was some uncertainty over the nature of equipment being purchased, and if this was being used effectively.
National Treasury in its overview of Social Development provincial departments, said that there had been a shift of emphasis. There had been no additional grants and little Capital Expenditure. Provinces were re-establishing their social welfare functions, and there had been a small increase in funding. Generally there was a substantial year-to-year growth.
Social development was being re-introduced as a priority issue. There was a shortage of social workers in many areas. Another problem being experienced was the control of pension pay points. In some provinces the situation was being improved, although Members still expressed concern over the abuse of merchants acting as pension agents both by increasing prices and by acting as loan sharks.
National Treasury overview on provincial health departments
Dr Mark Bletcher (National Treasury) said that spending in the Health and Social Development sectors had increased by a factor of 14% year on year. Spending had been 100.6% of the budget. Over the years underspending had been a problem. The lowest spenders had been North West (96%) and Eastern Cape (98%). Overspending had been mainly on non-personnel and non-capital expenses. Capital expenditure (Capex) had increased strongly. He gave a breakdown of the spending patterns for each province. The nett overspend had been R 328 million. There had been a general pattern of underspending on district services, and overspending on hospital services, where there had been a growth of 10.8 %. The biggest spending was on the central hospitals, where there were budget problems. There was underspending in the area of personal impact.
He said that the provinces were expected to submit reports. By the end of the last quarter, performance reporting had been poor. It was hard to comment on spending patterns under these circumstances. One area where there had been good spending was the HIV/AIDS programme, where delivery was strong.
The Chairperson said the reports were a problem. The provinces were not complying with the law. He felt that all of them should be placed in intensive care.
Dr Bletcher said that a consolidated report had been sent.
Mr Malan, National Department of Health (DoH) spokesman, said that DoH received reports from the provinces and consolidated them. It was difficult to send the report without all the required information, and sections had to be left out.
The Chairperson asked who the culprits were, but Mr Malan did not have the answers. Mr Ralane then instructed him to contact his office for the information. The Committee had been attacked for sending people back. The report must be provided for a successful discussion. He wanted to avoid blaming all provinces when it might be only one or two that were in default.
Presentations by Provincial Departments of Health on Spending of Conditional Grants
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health
Ms N Phillips (General Manager, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) DoH) said that the information for the Treasury report was only due at the end of May. There was a high precedence of tuberculosis in the province as well as drug-resistant tuberculosis. A number of patients were receiving Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART). This was putting a lot of pressure on the province’s budget. There was underspending on the conditional grant for forensic pathology. The hospital revitalisation grant spending was reliant on the capacity of the Public Works Department (PWD). Construction companies had objected to the tender process, and this had stopped the expansion of the King George Hospital. There were a number of challenges, including a scarcity of personnel. This was also a cause of under-expenditure.
North West Department of Social Development
Mr Sello Lerumo (Chief Financial Officer (CFO), North West (NW) Social Development) said that his province’s presentation covered a lot of information. A weakness was in spending on conditional grants. The worst area was that set aside for forensic pathology. The Department had only started spending relatively late in the financial year (FY). Their spending on the hospital revitalisation grant needed to be improved. A project had been launched to improve on this. There had also been a delay with funding of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In all, the underspending of conditional grants was 9%, but he hoped that there would be a difference in the coming FY.
The Chairpersons remarked that there had been an improvement in the last quarter. There had been a similar trend in housing and agriculture. The province must sustain its performance, and this would be a key challenge.
Limpopo Department of Health
The CFO of the Limpopo DoH said that there had been a 24% overspend on Capex. There had been a cut in funding which affected the hospital revitalisation grant. The situation was very stressed, and there had been an overspend on this grant by R 54 million. Funds had been promised to address the shortfall. Underspending in other areas had led to a R 7 million rollover. Twelve mortuaries were under construction.
The Chairperson said that this was not a big problem. As Dr Bletcher said, it was the bottom line that counted. Part of the challenge was the huge overspend reported. In the North West, social development funded every department, and there were pockets of money for each department.
Western Cape Department of Health
The spokesperson for the Western Cape (WC) DoH apologised for the small font used in the handout, and for the small number of copies available. The WC had spent 98% of its conditional grant funding, although the figure for forensic pathology was just 58%. Part of the cause of this was the global funding principle. Fluctuation in the Rand – US Dollar exchange rate was one of the causes of underspending. Financial statements were still being done, and the balance of the statements was of a technical nature. Underspending had largely been in connection with infrastructure. Different projects were involved, but all were now under construction, and would probably go over budget as construction costs were escalating. There would be a rollover of R 28 million. All monthly and quarterly reports, as well as business plans, had been submitted.
Mr Malan reported back to the meeting. He said that the national DoH had submitted a report in the third quarter. The report for the fourth quarter was only due on 14 May 2007. Some of the provinces had not reported on some of the conditional grants, which hampered the compilation of a comprehensive report. Mpumalanga had not reported on the hospital revitalisation grant. Eastern Cape (EC), NW and Limpopo had not reported on the HIV/AIDS grant and Free State (FS), Mpumalanga, KZN and NW had not reported on the health professionals grant.
The Chairperson said that provincial departments must do as much as humanly possible to submit all the required information.
Ms A Mchunu (IFP, KZN) asked for elaboration on what was happening with the PWD in KZN. The spending patterns in Limpopo were shocking.
Mr M Robertson (ANC, EC) remarked on the small font of the Western Cape (WC) presentation. KZN was following the same trend as in 2006 but their spending was R 4 million higher. He had seen the excuses, and asked what the province would do to rectify the situation. In NW, only 86% of the hospital revitalisation grant and just 42% of the forensic pathology grant had been spent. He asked why they did not start spending at the beginning of the FY. He asked why there was no plan, and a manager was needed to ensure service delivery.
Ms S Nokuthula (ANC, Gauteng) observed that the figures for the HIV grant did not seem to be up do date.
The Chairperson said that it was a fact that more funding was needed. However, provinces were placed within the constraints of the available resources. Money was being set aside for the forensic pathology grant. He discouraged members of the Committee from talking as if they were on an Executive Committee. The Select Committee was there to play an oversight role.
Ms Nokuthula commented on the monetary statistics presented, and asked if the money being given to the provinces was producing results.
The Chairperson replied that the information was there on the provincial budgets. They had to cover mortuaries, hospital visits and primary health cover visits.
Mr M Hogg (Program Manager KZN Hospital Revitalisation) said that the contribution of PWD was not good. However, the situation had improved since the end of 2006. Joint meetings were being held and a task team had been appointed. Certain issues had been discussed the previous week, and there would be quarterly reporting. The KZN DoH was revising the current agreement to ensure that its terms were met. A project management team had been appointed to manage the hospital revitalisation grant. This team would monitor performance on the grant. They were working on approval of a private/public partnership. In terms of forensic pathology, it was a problem to get staff. There was a shortage of technical expertise. A submission was needed from PWD about the mortuaries. The DoH was trying to get land, but there were delays in the process. In terms of ARV treatment, they had set a target of 60 000 patients, but in fact treated 76 000 by the end of the FY. There was still a certain protocol around positive HIV tests.
The NW MEC for health said that the reasons for the late start to the spending were before the Committee. Contractor capacity was a reason for the lagging of the hospital revitalisation programme. They would have to intervene with PWD. This had not really been a planning problem, but more lax management. Problems had not been dealt with early. In terms of the forensic pathology grant, the root cause of the underspending had been poor management. Personal issues had resulted in delays. Money for recruitment had not been spent. The causes had been discovered, and proper administration was now in place.
The Chairperson said this was not an unusual situation. He hoped that NW would soon have the capacity to use its allocations. More funding would now be available. People or groups could be called to appear before the Committee at any time. The focus needed to be in municipalities. The Provincial Infrastructure Grant (PIG) had now been renamed the Infrastructure Grant for Provinces (IGP). This grant contained a huge allocation. However, under-performing sectors would be punished. Each province had its own PWD. He added that a province may allocate an amount not exceeding 4% of its budget to acquire capacity. This had been 1%.
Mr Robertson said that the monitoring team in KZN was experiencing the same problem as in Gauteng. He asked why the departments did not monitor themselves. The structure was top heavy. Contracts in Limpopo had failed, and he asked if there had been credibility checks on the contractors. Personal issues had to be put aside to ensure service delivery. Heads of Department and MECs had to face the Committee, but PWD was not making itself available. He requested that they should attend the Committee as well
Ms Mchunu suggested that funds not spent should be used for the training of community workers.
The Chairperson said that all delegations owed the municipalities in their provinces some money. This should be resolved as soon as possible.
Health And Social Services, Mpumalanga
The MEC for Health and Social Services in Mpumalanga said that spending had been at about 91%. The Department had had to deal with a number of challenges, such as infrastructure development and capital work. They had introduced a three year plan, and an operational support team had been put in place. The Social Services Cluster was finalising a plan. They were concentrating on infrastructure. Teams were deployed at district level. Technical assistants were being appointed. There was a challenge in the capital budget due to the late appointment of contractors. With the forensic services, there were infrastructure problems. Planning was poor, and there were service problems. The equipment was old, as were the vehicles. He estimated a roll over of R 18 million. There would be better control by June 2007. In terms of the Health Professionals grant, this still had to be discussed with Limpopo, as there were some transfer funds owing.
The Chairperson asked Limpopo to resolve this matter.
The Limpopo MEC said that there was an arrangement to claim the money back. Mpumalanga had spent Limpopo’s funds.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would mediate.
Eastern Cape Department Of Health
Mr Phumla Vazi (CFO, Eastern Cape DoH) said that there had been a late approval for a budget adjustment. This had only happened in March when it should have been approved in October 2006. This was a reason for their underspending. The overall figure here was R 38.9 million. There had been an upsurge in HIV/AIDS treatment. More staff were needed and more tests needed to be done. There were related costs. Tests were done on the PCR. The forensic pathology program had got off to a slow start, and there were internal management problems. These had now been sorted out. Coega had been appointed to assist with project management. Some equipment had also not been delivered. There were insufficient funds for the hospital revitalisation grant. Monitoring and evaluation were needed.
Gauteng Department of Health
Ms Tabisa Majaja (CFO, Gauteng DoH) said that 94% of the conditional grant budget had been spent. The biggest challenge was in the hospital revitalisation grant. Senior people had been appointed as project managers.
Northern Cape Department of Health
Mr D Gaberone (CFO, Northern Cape DoH) said that the Northern Cape (NC) had spent 84% if its conditional grant funding to date. They had spent 100% of their allocation of the PIG. A new hospital had been opened in Garies the previous day. Of the grant for forensic pathology, 55% had been spent and 75% of the grant for hospital revitalisation. There had been a problem with contractors. One official was handling man projects. He would be getting some technical assistants. There had been a delay in the provision of equipment and vehicles. Permission for the purchase of these had been granted late. Some of the contractors had been late with their invoicing. There was a challenge in maintaining staff levels. Of the CAPEX budget, 76% had been spent. Other commitments had been made.
The Chairperson asked about the 60 clinics that were built in the EC. There were no roads leading up to them. He asked if these were part of the plan to build outstanding facilities through Integrated Development Plans (IDPs).
Ms Majaja said that funds had been transferred through the PIG. Contractors would be on site on 1 June to renovate the Cecilia Matiwane Hospital. PIG Funds should be transferred for this. Results should be felt immediately.
Ms Nokuthula said that there was a problem with the spending on forensic pathology services in the EC. The progress in Northern Cape was slow. Two projects had been suspended. She asked where the problems lay.
Mr E Sogoni (ANC, Gauteng) commented on the new hospital being built in Natalspruit. He asked what had been done to rectify underspending. There seemed to be a planning problem. The EC had overspent by 19.8% on its AIDS programme, and he asked what the problem was. While the whole country was talking about expansion, the health sector was excluded. Hospitals were an essential service. All the projects listed in the EC’s presentation were old. Monitoring of projects was a challenge generally. In the Northern Cape, the PWD should be present at this meeting. He asked if they were performing well. The national DoH should address the problems with the general underspending on forensic pathology grants. There had to be a move towards service delivery.
Ms Mchunu said that Mpumalanga was procuring vehicles for its mortuary services. The EC was not doing enough with its hospital revitalisation program. She asked if the budget was sufficient.
The Chairperson read an extract from the Auditor General’s report. Some of the funds indicated on the national DoH business plan were not approved. There were no service level agreements with national treasury. Payments were made to suppliers without VAT registration numbers. Incorrect cleaning procedures were being applied. Various problems had also been reported on hospital inspections. He requested a written response in regards of the irregularities.
Mr Vazi replied that his department was managing its problems. The person responsible for some of the blockages had been moved to another job, but there had been a lapse in running some of their projects. Replacement of staff was slow, and their retention process was lacking. However, the EC DoH was making a dramatic recovery.
The Chairperson asked how credible the information was.
Mr Vazi said that the format of the reporting was quite strict. Information was verified against the business plan. There was a challenge in dealing with services.
Mr Sogoni asked at what stage they found themselves. Gauteng seemed to be using the PIG well.
Mr Vazi said that they could not successfully resolve all their issues, and the outcome of the resolution process slowed expenditure. They needed to be able to anticipate problems and plan for this. A unit had been set up for monitoring and evaluation, and it was partly populated already. Everyone needed to know about this process. EC was tapping into the PIG for the first time, and health’s portion was R 150 million.
Ms Majaja said that underspending was a challenge. It was more a question of having tighter monitoring of projects than poor planning. Early warning reports should alert management to underspending. Audits should be carried out on provincial departments.
The Mpumalanga MEC said that there had been delays with their appointment of service providers. This was especially the case with the ambulance service in Secunda. The other delays were occurring in the procurement of equipment. Some had to be sourced outside the country. The supply chain management process was not always monitored thoroughly. Many of the quotes received were unrealistic. It was essential that proper vehicles were available for the transport of bodies. PWD should be looking for local solution, and various role players should be involved. The pace of delivery was increasing. Problems were being addressed which were intrinsic to the department, but service delivery was suffering.
The Chairperson said that PWD would have to be called to the Committee. Provinces had to ensure that their processes would lead to service delivery. Issues of capacity building should be addressed within each department, and inter-governmental channels could be used to resolve problems.
Mr Gaberone commented on the slowness of projects. People were concerned as his province was one of the practice sites for the 2010 World Cup. Progress was being made at various hospitals, but there were still problems. There had been agreement on future allocations, but nothing had appeared. Earthworks had been done for new hospitals at De Aar and Upington. However, by the time these projects were picked up again all the wiring and piping might have to be redone. They had access to their provincial PWD, who were involved in discussions.
Mr Sogoni remarked that there had been no adjustments had been made with the project at Upington.
Mr Gaberone said that there was no person to monitor progress.
Mr Robertson commented on the reasons for overspending. He asked if hospital equipment had arrived and been installed. His information was that machinery was in place, but no operators were available. There were no roads leading up to new clinics, and he asked if these were functional or standing empty. A totally new Cecilia Matiwane hospital was being built, and he asked what would happen with the old one.
Mr Vazi said that the new equipment had not yet been installed, but was being kept in storage until construction was finished. There were no radiologists at Ukahlmaba, and he would follow up on that.
The Chairperson advised him to submit a written reply to this question within the next two weeks.
Mr Vazi said that the Cecilia Matiwane hospital was being rebuilt as from 1 June 2007. It was a beautiful new design. Initially the two facilities would operate on a dual basis, with the new building eventually replacing the old.
Mr Malan said that the present position was that if a province overspent, then the money would be taken out of the equitable share allocation. The national DoH could approach National Treasury. Grants were made progressively towards the end of the year. It was not true that the DoH was stagnating. It could occur that overspending and underspending happened in the same province.
Dr Bletcher said that the infrastructure program had expanded. Spending had trebled. The Rand value of infrastructure problems had also trebled to R 2.6 billion, and another R 800 million had been added. Negotiations had started around the 2010 process, and areas of work were to be determined. Projects would scale up more rapidly than the current 20%.
The Chairperson recommended a workshop to find solutions. He said that the Committee’s business with the DoH was complete.
Social Development Provincial Departments presentations
Dr Bletcher said there had been a shift of emphasis. There had been no additional grants and little Capex. Provinces were re-establishing their social welfare functions, and there had been a small increase in funding. Generally there was a substantial year-to-year growth.
Limpopo Department of Social Development
The Limpopo CFO said that his Department was running to 100% capacity. The budget had received a good increment with the latest medium term financing review. The Social Development function was being funded, and there was a challenge to spend wisely.
Mpumalanga Department of Health and Social Services
The Mpumalanga MEC said that the social development function was not being dealt with by a dedicated team, and the human resources were inadequate. There was no strategic position on infrastructure development, but they were grappling with this problem. There was a new mode of work, and it was very difficult to adapt. The internal capacity of the department was an issue because of poor planning. The number of staff had increased from 514 to 788, but there was still a high vacancy rate. External capacity was also a problem. There was a monitoring capacity. Weekly discussions were held and the situation was reviewed on a quarterly basis. If they looked at the expenditure in the last quarter, then the situation would have to improve. Leadership was filing to carry over the enthusiasm from the last few months of the FY to the new FY.
Free State Department of Social Development
The spokesperson from the Free State Department of Social Development said that the province had spent up to 99% of its capacity, mostly on buildings. Of the budget for vehicles and office furniture, 98% had been spent. It was a good story.
Western Cape Department of Social Development
Mr J Smith (CFO, WC Department of Social Development) said that the capital budget lay with the provinces PWD. This was mainly transferred to municipalities. Other funds were spent on office furniture and computers. Most of the money had been spent by the last quarter of the FY. The Department had a small budget.
The Chairperson asked if there was any reporting from the municipalities regarding the transferred funds, especially regarding performance.
Mr Smith replied that there were service level agreements in place. Progress reports were provided as required.
Mr Sogoni said that the Committee should be alerted to something, namely the way in which money was spent in the last month of the final quarter of the FY. If money was allocated to the municipalities only at that late stage of the FY, it would not be possible for them to start work immediately, but only in the new FY. He asked why these allocations were not made earlier. He noted that Mpumalanga was trying to get out of the metaphoric intensive care unit, but others refused to do this. He asked if the linking of DoH to welfare was working. Social development as being re-established. This was not the first time he had heard of these problems, although other provinces were not as frank.
The Chairperson asked how money was disbursed to municipalities. He thought that there might be a set formula. It seemed that this was only happening in the WC.
Mr Smith replied that appropriate funding was transferred for the year, and the allocation was spread over the entire FY. There were clear indications of this. Service level agreements were in place. Most of the transfer funds were used for the establishment of multi-purpose centres. Fourth quarter reports from municipalities had to indicated how money from the first quarter had been spent in accordance with the agreement.
The Chairperson required a copy of the provincial Division of Revenue Act. The Division of Revenue Act (DORA) contained a formula for funds transfer on the basis of backlogs and similar situations. The Municipal Infrastructure Grant contained a particular formula. Approximately 70% of the MIG went to sanitation, roads and water supply. There was also money for multi-purpose centres.
Mr Robertson said that in the WC the amounts transferred were indicated. There was a lack of capacity in some municipalities. He asked what, if any, of the transferred funds was spent.
Mr Sogoni said that amounts were different from one area to another. Some of the persons visiting the Committee had been there the first time the issue was discussed. The provinces were there to be assisted by the Committee, and to be partners. Reports had to be truthful.
The Chairperson said that it seemed there was no planning. In some of the multi-purpose centre locations, there were still discussions about the venue of the site. He asked why money should be given for this purpose when the Department could rather be use it to build capacity. The issue was planning.
Mr Smith said that he would check if the money allocated had been spent, and collect reports. The amounts were not totals. Funding depended on the size of the centres. The money set aside by the province was only a portion of the total cost. Municipalities made a contribution themselves, and in some cases there was also donor funding. There were limits on capital spending, and these were substantial if there was a late transfer. Provinces first had to ensure that their capacity was in place.
The Chairperson said that Mr Smith should not generalise. He asked which municipalities he was talking about, and what they were doing. The reports spoke of symptoms in all provinces. In Mpumalanga there was a lack of a sense of urgency. He asked what the HoDs were doing. There was huge spending on salaries, but he asked if these people were doing anything more than earning salaries.
Mr Sogoni said that the WC had to present a full report.
Kwa-Zulu Natal Social Welfare
Mr Rodney Mthethhwa (CFO, Social Welfare KZN) said that the infrastructure budget was captured in the KZN presentation. The challenge lay in the rural areas. There was a lack of office accommodation.
The Chairperson interrupted, saying that there were many open buildings in the province. He did not see how office space could be lacking under the circumstances.
Mr Meshack Radebe (MEC for Social Welfare, KZN) said that many of the empty building alluded to were not usable, but others were being renovated.
The Chairperson then described the situation at pension pay-out points. There were long queues and many pensioners slept over on the night before pay-out. There were no ablutions. A proper infrastructure was needed.
Mr Radebe said that the system was working very well now. The pensioner committees which had taken charge of the payout points were nothing but trouble makers. These committees had now been disbanded, and elected councillors were now being used to control proceedings. On the last payout day, all pensions had been paid by 9.45 am. They were winning this battle. The previous Wednesday there had been a cash heist at one point at approximately 7.10 am, but payments had commenced by 11.00 am. The plan was to provide a one-stop shop concept of services, using multi-purpose centres.
Mr Roberston said that there was a shortage of social workers. There were many abuses being committed, and workers were needed. He criticised the KZN strategic plan for a lack of dates.
The Chairperson said that answers would emerge over a five year period. Overarching targets had been set. The number of social workers was an issue, while he would like to see health and ablution issues addressed at the pay points.
Mr Radebe said he had been in London recently, and had seen South Africans starving there. He had been part of a delegation which had persuaded 850 to return to South Africa, and they would be deployed in deep rural areas for a five year period. Business would sponsor the tickets for some.
The Chairperson said there were thousands of people who could be trained. He suggested that the opportunity be used to offer life skills training to people waiting in pension queues. A basic library could also be run. Social work needed to consider the unemployed and hungry.
MEC Radebe said that health workers were deployed in the rural areas, and also at pay points. Several volunteers were in place, and more were being trained.
Free State Social Development Department
The Free State spokesperson said that there was a program to determine the adequacy of social workers. They had received money for bursaries, and wanted to assist the University in increasing the output of social workers. There was a need to develop a database. Some very old cases were still not complete. There was a process underway of determining the extent of the overload. Pay points had been registered, and were proving a great success.
The Chairperson said he was developing some ideas for an oversight visit.
Mpumalanga Health and Social Services
The Mpumalanga MEC said that there was a transfer of skills taking place. People were being trained, and the complement of social workers was being increased. Auxiliary workers were also being trained, which would release qualified social workers from less urgent tasks. Students were being funded and bursaries were available.
The Chairperson said that a member of the Committee from Mpumalanga would check the issues and use a suitable occasion to verify what was happening there.
Eastern Cape Department of Social Development
Mr Sam Kwelita (MEC for Social Development, EC) welcomed the experience of being at the meeting.
Mr Denver Webb (Head of Department, EC Department of Social Development) apologised for copies of the presentation being late. The Department had a budget of R 26.3 million, of which 80% was allocated for projects. They did not transfer money to the municipalities, but instead worked with the local PWD. Exact figures were included in the presentation. Spending had been constant through the FY. Problems had been addressed. The infrastructure budget was not large, and had to be spread throughout the province. Office space was limited, and some officials were working from caravans. There was a need to prioritise infrastructure development. Up to five social workers had to share an office, with the result that the rest would have to wait outside unproductively while the other was interviewing someone. Of the budget of R 26.3 million, R 21 million had been spent. There was an improvement in the ability of the department to monitor capacity. The challenge was that as of 1 April 2006, there had been a vacancy rate of 51%. This equated to 498 posts, and there were only 24 Chief Social Workers. More posts had been advertised. Many staff had moved across to established social agencies. This resulted in capacity constraints.
The Chairperson requested Mr Robertson to follow up on the matters raised.
Mr Robertson asked if there were delays in the tender process. Something was being done wrong, and the question was how to deliver services.
Mr C van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) asked how much of the Capex was going to BEE companies. There had been a reprioritisation of funds to emergency renovations, and he asked what was happening with the projects which had originally been identified. On the EC presentation, he asked how the 51% vacancy rate related to the 495 vacancies.
Mr Robertson commented on the shops that served as pension pay points in some areas. He alleged that they put up their prices before the payment date. Money was only given to pensioners for the purchase of groceries.
Ms D Robinson (DA, Western Cape) asked if there was an internal program for social workers. She asked how many were involved, particularly in the rural areas.
The Chairperson bemoaned the loan sharks preying on pensioners. He would only allow the delegations two weeks to provide the Committee with answers. Information was needed. Provincial departments should also look at the issue of food prices. Some of the pension agents were themselves loan sharks.
MEC Kwanita agreed that some agencies were lending money.
Mr Webb said that CPS lent money to pensioners, and then deducted the repayments from their pensions. They had been taken to court, lost the case on appeal and now had to pay the money back to the pensioners.
The Chairperson said that they should all be informed by the bill of rights. There would be a horrible cost to pay in enforcing this, and unpopular decisions would have to be made, but government would be doing the right thing. The submissions would be taken into consideration.
Ms Robinson asked about the question of internships.
The Chairperson said he would be asking for a survey to be done on this matter. Hearings would be held on 23 May covering Education, PWD and Sport.
The meeting was adjourned.
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