Department of Social Development & SA Social Security Agency 2008/9 Strategic Plans; Films and Publications Amendment Bill: Deliberations.

NCOP Health and Social Services

13 May 2008
Chairperson: Ms J Masilo (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development and the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) made presentations on their Strategic Plans for 2008 to 2011. The Agency was now in its third year and continued to pay grants to 12 million beneficiaries. There was regular monitoring between head office and regions. Priorities included improving service delivery, improving organisational capacity, improving financial management capacity, and minimizing fraud. Challenges included detection of fraud and error and the inadequate interface with other key strategic partners.

Members asked questions on whether the State was indeed succeed in fighting poverty, what the Department was doing to assist, the need to increase capacity, and problems in rural areas in the accessing of grants. Concerns were expressed about the position of the elderly and disabled who were having problems in accessing the grants and in completing the required procedures at the Department of Home Affairs. Further questions related to the existence of and budget for loveLife, bursaries for training of social workers, recruitment of social workers, child issues, what improvements the new legislation on Older Persons had achieved, the recruitment processes and the budget. The Department was asked what it was doing about AIDS prevention. It was suggested that it would be useful to have a workshop around the several issues raised. Other questions were on foster care, noting that the process was usually delayed and prolonged, difficulties at pay points, what protection was given to whistle-blowers, the over expenditure, and sufficiency of resources

The Department made a presentation on the Films and Media Publications Amendment Bill, going through that Bill clause by clause and identifying the proposed amendments.

Meeting report

Department of Social Development (DSD) Strategic Plan and budget 2008-2011
Mr Vusi Madonsela (Director General) introduced the presentation and Mr Zane Dangor (COO), assisted by Mr Coceko Pakade (CFO), briefed the Committee on the strategic plan (see document). The briefing outlined the strategic themes and objectives over the MTEF, the budget allocations and the challenges.

Mr T Setona (ANC, Free State) thanked the Department. He noted that the core mandate was to fight poverty and that instead of doing that, the State was perpetuating poverty. He then stated that basic income grants did not fight poverty and that the crisis in South Africa was worsened because of the escalating food prices. He stated that this was a major problem for the families who depended solely on these social grants. He asked what the Department was doing to help.

The problem of the escalating food prices was being dealt with by the task team.

Mr Setona cross referenced this to the presentation by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), pointing out that certain concepts in that presentation were not clearly set out, and suggesting that wording easily understandable by everyone should be used. He complained about the skewed funding of the Department and stated that this could be the reason why there was a congestion of community-based organisations (CBOs). He advised that the Department should increase its capacity.

Ms J Vilakazi (IFP, Kwazulu Natal) stated that there was a problem in the process of allocating social grants, and that children who should be the  beneficiaries of those grants faced major problems. She elaborated that people who were living in the rural areas were suffering because the procedures at the respective Departments of Home Affairs and Social Development were time consuming. She then asked what the Department was doing to ease this frustration.

Ms Vilikazi’s other concern related to old people who received their social grants electronically, as she stated that they had experienced delays in receiving their money prior to the public holidays in the last month. She stated that most of the old people then had to go and take loans from loan sharks. She said that most of these elderly people felt discriminated against.

The Chairperson stated that the Department had a choice to respond to Ms Vilakazi’s concern, but that this issue was really not in the hands of the Department. She stated that this was an issue that needed to be directed to the respective banks.

Mr B Tolo (ANC, Mpumalanga) felt that the disabled people were also being discriminated against, because of the long bureaucratic process of applying to Home Affairs.  He asked what was being done by this Department to ease the frustrations.

The Department assured the members that there was no intention of discriminating against the elderly people and that people received their social grants on different dates. He stated that the Department embarked on campaigns through SASSA, reaching out to those rural areas that had experienced troubles in registering for social grants, and also had a campaign for those applicants who did not have the required documentation to register for social grants, so that they could be assisted by DHA.. He mentioned that the Department implemented mobile units together with the Department of Home Affairs, and that SASSA was readjusting so allow those without the necessary documentation to be added in to the system. There were thus measures for social relief of distress while people were awaiting evaluation.

A North West ANC delegate said that the North West Province used to have a loveLife facility, which was now no longer in existence. She enquired why there was still a budget for loveLife when it no longer seemed to exist. She believed that the Department was not doing enough to educate people about HIV and AIDS. She pointed out that the Department should educate young people in preference because most, not being married, were more susceptible to contracting the disease.

The Chairperson stated that the issue was relevant and that it needed to be directed to the Department of Health as it was their mandate to educate the masses about the necessary precautionary measures that needed to be taken for the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS.

Mr Tolo asked about bursaries that were offered by the department, and he asked how the department was working with the
National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and whether it was transferring the money to the NSFAS or asking for assistance by forwarding lists of people who were seeking aid to study Social Work. He then asked how many social workers were recruited by the Department in the last financial year and urged for greater recruitment.

In regard to social workers, the Department had identified that it did not need social workers to assist in this process, but that it needed to train anyone who was not a professional social worker. It was mentioned that the Department aimed at expanding the Social Services profession. The budget allocated worked in synergy with the money that was received, as opposed to funds that were simply requested and would be used for a specific purpose

The Department clarified that it would transfer money to the NSFAS for the purposes of aiding students that were following a career towards Social Work. It was pointed out that although there were a few challenges, the project was nevertheless a success.

The Chairperson stated that she was impressed on the explanation given with regard to the amount of R9 per child per day, commenting that the initial amounts of about R3 per day were not sufficient even to buy basic food.

In so far as children were concerned, it was explained that there were provinces that still allocated less than R9 per child per day, and that this was because of the shortage of funds that was experienced by those Provinces. Child justice was being prioritised to assist the children that were in conflict with the law. The Department was working at identifying more orphans that needed assistance and was also looking at implementing mechanisms that simplified the registration process and access to social funding. She said that the Department was also working closely with Home Affairs to assist in this regard. She mentioned that the Department was making sure that orphans receive integrated services.

The Chairperson asked if there was an improvement after implementation of the new legislation in tackling adult and older person’s poverty.

In respect of the questions around older people, the Act dealing with tackling older person’s poverty had been finalised and issues were now working in synergy. Care givers had been trained across the country in line with the Public Works Programme.

Mr Tolo asked how long it took for the Department to employ people. Mr Tolo asked whether the Department was able to dictate to the provinces regarding the recruitment processes. He said that he had heard concerns expressed that the Department’s recruitment process was very lengthy and took about a period of eight months to complete.

Ms Vuyelwa Nhlapo, DDG: Welfare Services, stated that the Department was not able to dictate to provinces. The figure of eight months was something of an exaggeration with regard to the recruitment process. Four months was a more realistic figure. He elaborated that it took 21 days to advertise a post, after which a week was given to advertising and applications. A team was then set up to attend to the short listing of candidates, and this could easily take two weeks. A period of two months could be set aside for the interviews and for the appointee to serve out one month’s notice at their previous place of work.

Mr Setona stated that the recruitment process was unnecessarily long because some posts do not require the MEC to oversee them.

The Department said that it was evident that the Committee had many concerns. It was suggested that it might be useful for the Department and Committee to organise a workshop for full interaction.

Three questions related to early childhood development. There was an integrated plan that redefined the roles of certain departments such as the Department of Education, Health and Social Development. A campaign that looked at accelerating access of social grants by beneficiaries had been launched.

In regard to youth, the Department was committed to training unemployed youth to assist in the process of distributing social grants and the registration process.

In relation to questions asked around the means test, the means test level rose every year as the funding increased annually, and that the spending pattern had not always been up to standard. The funding of social grants for chronic illnesses needed special attention.

In relation to questions asked around the budget, it was clarified that there had been a healthy increase in the budget for Provinces, especially the Free-State and the Eastern Cape. However, there were some instances where the Department did not get what it had requested from National Treasury. Funds had not been allocated for the Masupa-Tsela programme which was very critical in addressing the issue of unemployed youth, and the Department was still engaging with National Treasury to begin to fund that programme. He then said that the budget increase was expressed in nominal figures, and that it was not known at the time that the inflation was going to hit so hard.

HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan (NSP) had a pillar that talked to prevention and that the Department of Social Development had identified two target groups - the youth and women - as the most affected groups in the AIDS pandemic. She stated that she did not have specific details about the closing down of the loveLife centre in the North West, and that loveLife was still running in other provinces, which was the reason why a budget was still provided for it.

Ms H Lamoela (DA, Western Cape) asked if overtime workers were being paid extra by the Department and, if not, what was the cause of such action.

The Chairperson commented that, in light of the number of questions, it seemed that was a clear need for a workshop.

The DDG concluded by saying that there really was a need for a workshop because it would be seen as a festival of ideas between the Department and the Committee. Each would be able to bring some new ideas and there was no suggestion that the Department had more knowledge than the Committee. He stated that the issue of foster care had two aspects to it, one being the availability of social workers, particularly because the Children’s Court required a social worker to assess whether the child needed foster care. There were challenges due to the shortage of social workers. There needed to be a transformation within the Department of Justice, so as to simplify the process of adoption and foster care.

Mr Fezile Makiwane, Chief Executive Officer, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) stated that he was in full support of the workshop and that the issue of poverty should be addressed together with the issue of social protection.

The Chairperson said that the Members and the Department would address the issue of social security if Members had enough time.

SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) presentation
Mr Fezile Makiwane, CEO: SASSA, tabled and briefed the Committee on the strategic plan for 2008 – 2011 for the Social Security Agency.

He noted that SASSA was entering its third year of existence, and that Social Grants were continuing to be paid to around 12 million beneficiaries. Service delivery improvement was ongoing and regular monitoring took place between head office and regions.

The priorities of SASSA included improving service delivery quality, improving organisational capacity, improving financial management capacity, and minimizing fraud.

Amongst their key challenges were the issues of timeous detection and prevention of fraud and errors in the grants administration process. A further challenge was the inadequate system interface with key strategic partners such as the Department of Home Affairs, SARS, Department of Health and the Department of Education.

Mr Setona stated that the issues around foster care for a child were of major importance and were wide-ranging, including the courts and the Department of Justice (DOJ). He stated that there were complaints that the process was usually delayed and prolonged. He mentioned that it was evident that there was no clear intention to dedicate special staff to assist in the administrative process of granting foster care to children. He then asked if there was a collaborative effort between the two organisations to try pin down the real problem.

The Chairperson said that applications for foster care were dealt with by the social workers designated by the Children’s Court, and that there was a possibility that the backlog was caused by the DOJ, and not necessarily by DSD.

Ms Vilakazi reinforced the matter regarding delayed payments of Social Grants for the elderly people, and suggested that the Department and SASSA must look at how they could negotiate around the various problems so as to improve this system.

 Mr M Thetjeng (DA, Limpopo) asked how far was SASSA linked with SOCPEN and PERSAL administrative systems, regarding the pay point facilities that were designated for the use of receiving social grants.

Mr Thetjeng noted that there had been several complaints from beneficiaries that most of the pay points did not have sufficient change to give to the beneficiaries, and that this resulted in instances where the beneficiaries were receiving less than what was anticipated.

Mr Thetjeng asked SASSA to elaborate on the meaning of Social Distress, and asked also for clarity on parts of the presentation under page 29.

Mr Makiwane stated that Social Relief of Distress was a mechanism that aimed at temporarily assisting unemployed citizens who were waiting for the outcome of their application for social grants and the evaluation process of documentation regarding the social grants.

 Mr Thetjeng asked how SASSA protected their staff members who blew their whistle on fraudulent activities that took place within the organisation.

Mr Makiwane explained that the pay point machines were being monitored and that they could only be accessed through the use of fingerprints, so as to minimise fraud. He then stated that SASSA would send a copy to the Committee of the way in which the organisation protected its staff members who blew whistles against fraudulent activities.

The Chairperson, referring to page three of the presentation, asked what the anticipated turnaround time was for the strategies that were implemented with the view to improving service delivery quality and improving organisational capacity. She asked if there were any linkages between the provinces to achieve their goals.

Ms Lamoela asked if there were sufficient workers and resources, based on the fact that the DSD and SASSA were still sharing offices and facilities in Worcester.

The Chairperson asked for clarity as to why SASSA had an over expenditure of 35 million Rand.

Mr Makiwane stated that the R35 million over-expenditure was due to administrative costs such as paying legal costs and other fees. He then pointed out that the National Treasury did not allocate enough funding and so SASSA was partially self capitalised. He also clarified that these figures were not yet audited and that they were preliminary results that were yet to be sent through for auditing. He said that the reasons why the DSD and SASSA shared facilities was because there was a shortage of land and office blocks in Worcester. He elaborated that the two organisations were yet to purchase land for local offices, and that SASSA had set aside funds to purchase computers and other resources so as to minimise backlogs.

Films and Media Publications Amendment Bill: Proposed Amendments
The Department explained that the proposed amendments before the Committee were based on consultations and discussions between the parliamentary legal advisor, the Department of Home Affairs and the
Film and Publication Board (FPB). Thereafter, the Department guided the Committee through the changes, which were mainly technical in nature. The most radical changes were found in clause 19, where the exemption provision was rephrased, and also in clause 19 the words “sexual or domestic” were substituted with "extreme”. The former change was deemed necessary because the current formulation was considered too wide. In respect of the latter amendment, it was proposed that because the Bill did not define the terms sexual violence and domestic violence, reference to this should be deleted from the clause.

Presentation by the Parliamentary Legal Advisor

Advocate Mukesh Vassen (Parliamentary Law Advisor) summarised the divergent issues and made recommendations. To begin with, he recalled that there had been a debate (in previous deliberations) about which newspapers belonged to which organisation and that there had been no clarity regarding this matter. He also reiterated the point made in a previous discussion that magazines should not be excluded from the exemption. As a result, he reasoned that the words "Newspaper Association of South Africa" be replaced with "Print Media South Africa", since the latter organisation was regulated by the Press Ombudsman. In addition, he highlighted that the offences in the proposed clause 24B were problematic and should be deleted. He contended that the current provision was too broad, did not take into account the element of intention, was already covered by the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) and would affect minimum sentence in the SOA. Lastly, he proposed the deletion of vague terminology used in clause 16(4).


Mr Setona stated that the Department, the FPB and the legal experts were given sufficient time to synchronise their views and to sort out their disagreements regarding the Bill.

Advocate Mukesh Vassen (Parliamentary Law Advisor) clarified that there had been consensus regarding the proposed amendments outlined by the Department. However, he mentioned that there had been disagreements (on certain issues) outlined in the document that he had presented to the Committee.

Mr Thetjeng advised all parties to continue working together and to always remember the real purpose of the Bill.

The Bill was not adopted

The meeting was adjourned.


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