A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
Meeting reportSELECT COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL SERVICES
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT & SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIAL SECURITY AGENCY 2006/7 ANNUAL REPORT BRIEFINGS
Chairperson: Ms J M Masilo (ANC, North West)
Documents handed out:
Department of Social Development Annual Report 2006/07 [available shortly at www.socdev.gov.za]
Department of Social Development Annual Report 2006/07 Presentation
South African Social Security Agency Annual Report 2006/07 Presentation
Analysis of 2006/07 Social Development Annual Report
Summary and Analysis of the South African Social Security Agency Annual Report 2006/07
Audio recording of meeting
The Department of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) presented their Annual Reports for 2006/07, each focusing on their strategic programmes, achievements and key challenges.
Both institutions highlighted the smooth transfer of functions and assets to SASSA, and integration of the existing service structures in all nine provinces as a key achievement. The Department and Agency also emphasised the successful prosecution of grant fraud, which led to a recovering of R 5 million from 2 300 public servants, and the process of uncovering and prosecuting fraud would continue. The increasing number of beneficiaries of social services and grants was a sign for successful improvements in this sector. Key challenges were highlighted by both institutions as the slow recruitment process for vacant posts, which had led, in both, to problems of under-spending. Improvement of the service infrastructure, especially in remote rural areas, the need to extend the communication strategy and the internal and external monitoring processes were further challenges.
Members asked questions on the reach of the programmes across all provinces, the definition of “chronic illness”, social assistance to indigent refugees, the slow process of filling vacant posts, the Child Protection Registers, placement of probation officers, and Victim Empowerment Centres. Further questions addressed to the Department concerned registration and monitoring of non governmental organizations, baseline poverty measurements, early childhood development, centres dealing with drug and substance abuse, community development projects, and the amount of the child subsidies.
Questions were addressed to the Social Security Agency on its strategic plan and time frames, the fraudulent claims, slow recruitment processes, the need to increase numbers and accessibility of mobile facilities, linking of national and provincial call centres and the relationship between the national office of the Agency and the provincial departments.
Department of Social Development (DSD) Annual Report 2006/07 Report
Mr Zane Dangor, Chief Operations Officer, DSD, gave an overview of the Department’s main strategies, achievements and challenges. The strategic plan emphasized sector priorities such as expansion and consolidation of services, capacity building for civil society organizations, expansion of the Public Works Programme and intensifying human capital development. He presented an overview of each programme’s performances, focusing on the areas of establishing a comprehensive social security system and community development.
In respect of the social security system, the main achievements included smooth transfer of functions to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). This included social security administration staff, assets and liabilities, to enable the Agency to commence operations effectively. About 12 million South Africans (25% of the population) now accessed the social grants system.
In terms of Community Development Mr Dangor emphasized the Department’s support to civil society organizations (CSOs): The Department awarded funds to 18 national organisations, and National Development Agency (NDA) approved funding of R110.9 million to 95 projects. It had disbursed R49.5 million, especially to pro-poor projects, and committed R25.7 million to strengthen the capacity of the CSOs.
Further achievements included the expanded portfolio in international relations, leading to bilateral and multilateral interaction with almost all regions of the world. Mr Dangor said that despite recent allegations by the media, the Minister, in line with international relations priorities and the Department’s objectives, undertook only 12 official visits, spending less than 60 days outside the country.
Key challenges included high levels of non- compliance with the Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) Act, and he stated that the Department was in the process of further appointments to enhance its capacity to administer and monitor the 40 000 NPOs currently registered. Slow processes in filling of staff vacancies, lack of effective management information systems for social welfare and community development programmes, limited capacity to monitor and evaluate, and problems of financial administration of the social assistance function, arising from dual responsibilities of SASSA and the Department, were identified as further challenges.
Ms Dorothee Snyman, Acting CFO, DSD, presented the financial report, highlighting the relative low rate of under spending, and stating that 98, 9 % of the allocated budget was spent. However, despite the relatively low figure, the reasons for the underspending – being the slow and complicated recruiting process for filling of vacant posts – remained of concern.
The Auditor-General’s (AG) report emphasised problems such as the strategy not providing for regular routine feedback and monitoring of grant beneficiaries, and inconsistencies in provinces concerning monthly reconciliations of actual grant payments. The Department would correct this through establishment of a Strategic Top Management Financial Oversight Forum, with representatives from SASSA and DSD, supported by Operational Task Teams with representatives from the provincial Departments of Social Development, SASSA, DSD and the provincial and National Treasuries.
Ms A Qikani (UDM, Eastern Cape) asked in which provinces the Management Information System (MIS) project had not been completed.
Ms P Maloka, Executive Programme Manager, DSD, replied that the Management Information System (MIS) was in place in all provinces. However it was established in three provinces prior to this financial year, and in the remaining six only in this financial year.
Mr O Thetjeng (DA, Limpopo) wanted to know how exactly the Department defined the term “chronic illness“, especially noting that epilepsy seemed not to be included in this definition.
Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director General, DSD, answered that the support for chronic illnesses was created in line with the new definition of “disability“, which had resulted in exclusion of people with chronic illnesses from disability support. He agreed that it was often very difficult to define and medically prove chronic illnesses. He would be pleased to engage with the Committee on this matter on a future date.
Mr Thetjeng wanted to get a more detailed explanation on the issue of social assistance to indigent refugees who were disabled.
Mr Madonsela replied this was a matter that was settled in by way of a court Order. It dealt with what kind of assistance refugees who had been granted refugee status should get from the State. Since South Africa generally had a policy of attempting to integrate refugees as much as possible, it was decided that refugees who were unable to work and had disabilities should generally have a right to the same state assistance as South African citizens. This not only concerned social grants but also support for housing or health care, and it was discussed not only in the DSD but with other Department such as Home Affairs.
Mr Thetjeng questioned the reasons for the slow process of filling vacant posts and wanted to know what skills the Department was seeking. He also wanted to know what the Department had done in the past year to change this situation.
The Chairperson added that it would be important to know if the Department had established a recruitment plan.
Mr Madonsela replied that the main reason for such a slow recruitment process was the regulatory framework of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), as it required that all the steps of advertising a post, short listing the applicants, interviewing candidates, checking and verifying their qualifications, and final approval and appointment must be conducted in a specific manner. This legislated regulatory framework, which was intended to secure quality, meant that it took about five months to fill a vacant post. In this context the Department could not do proper succession planning as was applied in the private sector. However, the Department had made improvements by shortening the response time from 21 to 14 days, and by employing agencies to do the first screening of applicants.
Ms F Mazibuko (ANC, Gauteng) asked in which provinces the Child Protection Registers were established.
Ms Vuyelwa Nhlapo, Deputy Director General; Social Development, DSD, replied that all provinces had a Child Protection Register but not all were linked to the new national web-based system. The provinces not yet linked were Limpopo, Gauteng and North-West Province.
Ms Mazibuko wanted to know where the probation officers that had been trained were placed.
Mr Madonsela replied that the probation officers were not employed at the national level but by the provinces, since that was where the services were offered.
Ms Mazibuko asked what kind of services, such as Victim Empowerment Centres, were established in Mpumalanga.
Ms H Lamoela (DA, Western Cape) asked who monitored the performance of the Empowerment Centre in Mpumalanga, and if it would be possible to get some information about its performance over the last year.
Ms N Madlala-Magubane (ANC, Gauteng) also wanted to know why only one of the centres for victims of domestic violence had been established even though there were two planned.
Ms Nhlapo responded that the Victim Empowerment Centre in Mpumalanga was one of two that were originally planned, but was established not only to provide shelter to victims but also to provide as many services as possible to empower those victims. The second centre was not established because the under-spending of the province made it impossible to allocate more money for establishment of the centre.
Ms Mazibuko asked what kind of support the DSD gave to LoveLife.
Ms Nhlapo replied that the DSD, within the national strategic plan on HIV and Aids, had a mandate to support prevention programmes. It would support LoveLife within this mandate, as it was a prevention programme geared to the youth and it aimed at extending the program to farm schools and informal settlements.
Ms Mazibuko asked how long it would take to register a non-governmental organization (NGO) and whether delays could be attributed to overstretching of social workers.
Ms Nhlapo indicated that the DSD was working on reducing the time taken to register a NGO down to three months. Most of the delays were attributable to NGOs not meeting the requirements of the NGO Act. In this case, the Department would need to take those NGOs through appropriate training until they met those requirements. This kind of capacity building took time. The registration process had nothing to do with social workers, and therefore the delays could not be connected to overstretching of social workers. To facilitate the registration process it would also be necessary to improve the links between the districts and the provinces up to the national level.
Ms Mazibuko enquired as to whether the international poverty measurement of $1 per day could be used in South Africa, or whether the DSD had any independent local information on how much “the poorest of the poor“ had to survive on..
Mr Madonsela replied that the $1 per day standard was not being used in South Africa. The United Nations (UN) operated on a measure of $2 per day. National Treasury was working together with StatisticsSA to establish a poverty baseline especially for South Africa.
Ms Lamoela asked for a breakdown of the Early Childhood Development sites, questioning whether the rural areas were sufficiently covered.
Ms Nhlapo replied that the DSD was the only player in the Integrated Programme for Early Child Development. The DSD was responsible for the age-group zero to four years. Within this mandate its responsibility was not only to register and monitor sites for that age group, but to ensure that there were trained practitioners and facilities for those sites. Currently there were still disparities between the sites, so that some children received benefits of R5 per day while others received up to R9 per day. The Department was working on trying to ensure equal provision of R9 per day per child. She agreed that there was still a great need for more sites, especially in rural areas.
Mr Dangor added that 37 106 jobs had been created in the process of establishing those ECD sites.
Ms Lamoela asked who was monitoring the programme providing relief to victims of violence.
Ms Mazibuko mentioned that it would be necessary to define the term “victim“ with reference to the Victims’ Charter finalised by the DSD.
Ms Nhlapo responded that while the Victims’ Charter applied to all Departments the DSD was especially responsible for its implementation and therefore was in charge of the programmes under it.
Ms Lamoela requested a breakdown by province of the centres dealing with drug and substance abuse, and wanted to know who ran and monitored those programmes.
Ms Nhlapo replied that there was a Central Drug Authority and each Department had its own responsibilities to monitor the drug and substance abuse programmes. There were in addition various institutional mechanisms that had been put in place to ensure that there was monitoring across all levels, like provincial and local drug authorities. She could provide the information on location of these centres, and figures in relation to the Victims’ Charter, if required.
Mr T Setona (ANC, Free State) asked what was the nature of the community development projects, with particular reference to South Africa’s shift from a welfare to a developmental approach.
Mr Madonsela responded that the DSD would draw experiences from Latin America, India and China to establish a new anti-poverty strategy. In the meantime, pending approval of the final strategy by Cabinet (expected within the next year) there would be practical problems implementing an anti-poverty strategy. In general this matter was too wide to fully address in the time available at this meeting.
Mr Setona asked if the differences within the country were considered when allocating funding to NGOs, to avoid an overprovision of NGOs, especially in urban areas.
Mr Setona believed that the DSD must provide explanations on the underspending, linked to slow recruitment. He doubted that it would be possible to find adequately skilled people in areas such as research.
Ms Lamoela added that it would be important to hear more about the challenges the Department is facing in general.
Mr Dangor responded that the problem of under-spending did not arise mostly in the research area, but in a programme called “Development and Research“. The research capacity of the DSD had been extensively increased and finding people was not a problem, especially since there were several partnerships with various universities.
Ms Madlala-Magubane said it would be important to know the amount of the subsidy per child that was given in respect of approximately 314 912 children.
A Member wanted to know what “reverse incentives” meant.
Mr Madonsela replied that this term described the negative effect that provisioning of social assistance could have on the behaviour of people, who would tend simply to rely on State support. However, this was not a common trend.
South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) Annual Report 2006/07 Briefing
Mr Fezile Makiwane, CEO, SASSA, presented the key achievements and future challenges of the recently established Agency. SASSA managed the complex integration of Service Level Agreements with the nine Provinces, and had migrated staff and assets across from the Department, while ensuring that services were continued. Key achievements included the review of the Service Delivery Model to standardise the delivery of services across regions, the transformation of the social assistance, administration and payment services, the development and approval of human resource and transport policies, the implementation of a communication strategy and the prosecution of 2 300 public servants for grant fraud, and recovery of about R5 million that had been defrauded. Service delivery grew in all grant programmes: The Temporary Disability Grant grew by 32.2 %, and the Foster Care Grants by 26.7 %. There was implementation of an Improved Grants Administration Process (IGAP) in selected regions, and improved access to services in rural areas through outreach programmes.
On the financial side, Mr Makiwane noted that the key achievements included the establishment of a single budget, through the integration and consolidation of provincial budgets, and the development and implementation of finance policies and procedures.
Ms Dianne Dunkerley, Acting CFO, SASSA, presented the financial statements, noting an actual expenditure of 91 % of the allocated budget of R4.19 million. She emphasised that most of the under spending occurred in the area of capital assets and was due to the slow recruitment process for staff. The budget for contract payments was exceeded by 11%, which was explained by the extensive increase of beneficiaries (10.7 %) during the 2006/07 year.
Major challenges facing SASSA were given as the completion of the establishment process, rooting out fraud and corruption, and increasing the accessibility of SASSA services, especially in rural areas.
Ms Lamoela asked if SASSA´s strategic plan might not be too vague and broad. She thought that many of the programmes, especially those aimed at improving development in remote rural areas, required concrete time frames, since the issues had been discussed for a long time.
Mr Makiwane replied that it was always necessary to revise the strategic plan, but it was a difficult balancing act in deciding what to leave out, even though SASSA obviously only had restricted resources.
Ms Lamoela requested a copy of the Customer Charter and asked if it was really the right procedure to give the opportunity to public servants who had been charged with fraud a chance to pay the money back. Any other citizen facing a similar charge would be jailed.
Mr Thetjeng noted that SASSA would have to provide more information about what people had to do to continuously receive their grants. In some cases, the funding would be stopped if the money had not been cleared for one month.
Mr Makiwane responded that it was necessary for beneficiaries to prove their existence every five years, to make sure that grants were being correctly paid to people who were part of the system. There might be some problems of communication in this matter and the point would be taken for further consideration.
Mr Thetjeng also expressed his concern that SASSA had problems with slow recruitment processes. He asked if the Agency was affected by the same regulations as the Department.
Mr Makiwane responded that SASSA was affected by the same policies concerning recruitment as the Department itself.
Mr Thetjeng emphasised that SASSA needed to make mobile facilities more accessible and asked how the agency planned to deal with those problems in remote areas.
Mr Makiwane replied that mobile facilities were not allocated by provinces but by certain areas that had been defined as having a special need. In terms of access, mobile offices provided all the services necessary, so that rural outreach could not be accused of poor service. The development of such infrastructure could not happen overnight but was a process. It was important that there would be not only a SASSA office in those areas, but that the whole infrastructure of the Department was established there as well.
Ms Madlala – Magubane asked if the objective to link the national to the provincial call centers had been met.
Mr Makiwane replied that this link had been successfully established in the sense of integrating the provincial centers in the national centers. Currently the technical system was being updated.
The Chairperson requested to information concerning the relationship between the national office of SASSA and the provincial departments, and asked what challenges the provinces faced in terms of cross border interactions.
The meeting was adjourned.