Older Persons Amendment Bill: proposed amendments; DSD 2023/24 Quarter 2 & 3; with Minister

Social Development

20 March 2024
Chairperson: Ms N Mvana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu delivered opening remarks, expressing gratitude to the Committee for their dedication to the Department's work, particularly in safeguarding the rights of the elderly. Minister Zulu underscored the importance of initiatives such as the Active Aging Programme in Mpumalanga and reflected on the significance of Human Rights Day. Department of Social Development

The Committee considered and adopted its proposed amendments (A-List) of the Older Persons Amendment Bill after discussion on the definitions, implementation strategies, and penalties for infringements under the Act.

Subsequently, the Department of Social Development (DSD) presented the second and third quarter reports for 2023/24 on its performance against predefined objectives, highlighting achievements and challenges across various programmes. It elaborated on expenditure patterns, programme performance indicators, and notable improvements in social grant transfers and policy development initiatives.

During the discussion, Committee members asked about the NDA strategy approval; projected timeline for the implementation of social security policies; slow uptake of social relief grants; discrepancies in grant administration; irregular expenditure; support for children ageing out of grants; and the absence of anti-gangsterism programmes in the Western Cape.

In response, DSD spoke about policy formulation processes, financial management practices, and challenges encountered in programme implementation. Mr Brenton Van Verde from SASSA addressed concerns regarding grant uptake and payment processing, outlining ongoing efforts to enhance efficiency and combat fraudulent activities.

In her closing remarks, Minister Zulu reiterated the Department's commitment to addressing challenges in grant disbursement and service delivery.

Meeting report

In her opening remarks, the Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu expressed gratitude to the Committee for their dedication to the Department's work, particularly in safeguarding the rights of the elderly. She noted the commencement of the Active Aging Programme in Mpumalanga and the importance of reflecting on Human Rights Day.

The Minister referred to the Department's timely reporting on financial and non-financial performance for the second and third quarters, acknowledging its achievements and addressing areas where targets were not met.

Minister Zulu noted the unavoidable absence of the Director-General due to personal reasons. She stressed the importance of transparency in explaining such absences to the Committee.

Looking ahead to the 2024/25 financial year, Minister Zulu underscored the importance of reflecting on past performance to inform future planning. She highlighted the significance of the Department's 30-year review, which documents its journey since 1994. The five-year review of the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030 had been completed and she emphasised the ongoing efforts to address poverty, gender-based violence, youth employment, corruption, and social grant expansion.

In conclusion, Minister Zulu reiterated the progress made over the past 30 years of democracy, acknowledging both successes and challenges. She was optimistic about the journey towards a better South Africa, stressing the collective effort required to achieve the envisioned future.

Older Persons Amendment Bill: briefing on A-List
Ms Sueanne Isaac, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, presented the drafting of the Committee proposed amendments (A-List) of the Older Persons Amendment Bill [B11 – 2022]. She began by providing context, reminding members of the Department's presentation on its responses to public submissions and the subsequent request by the Committee to compile proposed amendments into an A-List.

In Clause 1, amendments were proposed to the definition of 'care’, which is now defined as "'care' means physical, psychological, social, or material assistance to an older person, and includes services aimed at promoting and maintaining the comfort, quality of life and general well-being of an older person."

Other definitional amendments include 'caregiver' which means "(a) a family member who provides family care; or (b) any other person who provides care and support services at a community-based care facility, residential facility or similar facility and who possesses a qualification accredited in terms of the National Qualifications Framework, appropriate for the care of older persons”.

Other amended definitions include "family care".

Clause 3: In paragraph 4, after line 20, to insert the following subsection: "(4) To achieve the implementation of this Act in the manner contemplated in subsections (1) (2) and (3), all public service facilities and service points providing services must prioritise older persons."

Clause 5: On page 4, in line 43, to omit "harmful”.

Clause 6: On page 5, from line 1, to omit "Protection of rights to property, inheritance and physical abuse of older person" and to substitute "Protection of rights against abuse, to property, inheritances and bodily integrity of older person."

Clause 7: On page 4, in line 12, omit "non-communicable chronic" and to substitute "all".

Clause 8: On page 5, after line 41, to insert the following paragraph: "(d) by the addition of the following subsection: "(5) Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of this section is guilty of an offence."

Clause 10: On page 6, in line 8, to omit "may" and to substitute "must”.

Clause 13: On page 7, after line 23 to insert the following paragraph: "(4) Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of this section is guilty of an offence."

Clause 14: On page 7, after line 25, to insert the following paragraph: "(a) by the substitution for paragraph (a) of subsection (5) for the following paragraph: "(a) has his or her income, assets or older person's grant taken against his or her wishes or who suffers any other economic abuse."

Clause 15: On page 8, from line 24, omit "as contemplated in section 27 (1) (b) of the Social Service Professions Act, 1978 (Act No. 110 of 1978)."

Clause 16: On page 9 in line 17, to omit "modifications" and to substitute "changes”.

New clause: The following new clause to follow clause 21: Transitional provision "Any person operating a community-based care and support service, home-based care or residential facility as a sole proprietor immediately before this Act took effect, must within 12 months from the date on which this Act took effect, convert the sole proprietorship to a juristic person."

Ms L Arries (EFF) referred to Clause 3 and asked about the role of the Office of the Premier in each province in supporting and coordinating the integration of provincial plans for implementing the Act. She questioned how the plans formulated by the Premier's Office would be carried out and she sought clarity on the role of local government in the Act.

Secondly, Ms Arries raised concern about Clause 20, which specifies penalties for offences. It stated that offenders could face imprisonment for a period not exceeding a year. This was such a short duration it might result in inadequate consequences for serious offences. She suggested considering a longer duration, such as two years, to ensure more significant repercussions for offenders. The current wording might lead to sentences that are effectively shorter than expected due to legal mechanisms related to imprisonment and fines.

On Clause 20, Ms Isaac replied that the current wording of the Act stipulates a maximum period of imprisonment of no more than one year for offences. She noted that the seriousness of the offence would determine if direct imprisonment is applied and emphasised that courts might not impose direct imprisonment in all instances. However, she acknowledged that if Committee members deemed it necessary to increase the maximum penalty to two years, it would be within their discretion to make such an amendment.

Adv Luyanda Mtshotshisa, DSD Legislative Drafting and Review Specialist, replied about the role of local government. He clarified that the responsibilities of local government are outlined in the Principal Act, which covers various functions related to compliance with bylaws and regulations on buildings housing older persons. The involvement of municipalities extends beyond provincial jurisdiction, ensuring that all organs of state, regardless of their governmental sphere, play a role in regulating facilities for older persons.

Ms Civil Legodu, DSD Chief Director: Professional Support and Older Persons, elaborated on the roles of different organs of state in implementing the Act. The development of regulations would further define the specific responsibilities of each organ of state. The Office of the Premier collaborates with other organs of state within the province to ensure effective service delivery for older persons. The roles of municipalities would be detailed in forthcoming regulations.

Older Persons Amendment Bill: adoption of A-List
The Committee went through and adopted each clause and then the overall A-List.

DSD 2023/24 Quarter 2 performance (Jul-Sep 2023)
Mr Peter Netshipale, DSD Deputy Director General: Community Development, contextualised the Department's performance against the predetermined objectives in the Annual Performance Plan (APP) noting a significant improvement as DSD achieved 82% of its set targets, compared to 80% in the previous year. However, performance slightly declined from 84% in Quarter 1 to 82% in Quarter 2.

Mr Netshipale highlighted achievements such as the continuation of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) R350 grant payment and policy work on comprehensive social security; enhanced coordination between DSD and South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the South African Post Office (SAPO). Certain targets were not achieved due to challenges such as delays in responses from its agencies. The reasons for underperformance, along with corrective actions, were provided (see document).

Mr Fanie Esterhuizen, DSD Chief Financial Officer, provided an overview of the Department's expenditure in Quarter 2.

In Programme 1: Administration, spending accounted for 50% of the allocated budget. This expenditure primarily covered essential services such as security and cleaning contracts, audit fees, fleet management, and IT services.

Programme 3: Social Security Policy and Administration, spending stood at 28% of the allocated budget. The lower spending was attributed to the slow start of projects due to dependencies on other institutions. However, outreach activities had commenced, and payments were expected to reflect in the subsequent quarters. Projects such as Zero rating of the SRD website had begun with payments scheduled for future quarters.

In Programme 4: Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation Support, expenditure accounted for 44% of the allocated budget. The lower spending was primarily due to historical spending patterns, with community outreach programmes typically taking place later in the financial year. Delays in finalising contracts for the gender-based violence (GBV) command centre and subsequent invoicing also contributed to the lower spend.

Programme 5: Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery saw expenditure at 43% of the allocated budget. The lower spending here was attributed to outreach programmes and training on the New NPO system rollout, which were planned for the remaining quarters of 2023/24. Additionally, 60% of the transfer payment was made to the National Development Agency (NDA), amounting to R132 million.

DSD 2023/24 Quarter 3 performance (Oct-Dec 2023)
Mr Netshipale highlighted areas of achievement and challenges. With Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), delays were encountered in training and rolling out the Electronic M&E System, primarily due to system enhancements. Similarly, integration efforts in Information Management Systems and Technology were hampered by delays in signing MOUs and initiating data-sharing discussions with other departments.

Human Capital Management faced challenges in meeting employment projections for Social Service Professionals across government departments, despite successful consultations with stakeholders. Legal Services experienced delays in finalising the NDA Turnaround Strategy, which impacted the progress of policy consultations and submissions.

Comprehensive Social Security initiatives were also delayed due to difficulties in obtaining necessary certificates and finalising Cabinet memos for policy drafts. In Children Legislation and Families, partial achievements were made in capacitating stakeholders on the Teenage Parent Programme and conducting consultations on the National Strategy on Ageing in some provinces.

Efforts in Social Crime Prevention and Anti-Substance Abuse included conducting educational sessions on the DSD Anti-Gangsterism Strategy, albeit not in all targeted districts, and providing capacitation on HIV services in various regions. Services to Persons with Disabilities faced delays in capacitating Respite Care Services and validating the Policy on Social Development Services to Persons with Disabilities.

Achievements were reported on successful transfers to SASSA for social grants administration, progress in developing and advancing social security policies, and efforts to strengthen the NPO sector through capacity-building sessions and the development of an electronic system.

Ms A Abrahams (DA) expressed concern about the repetition of presentation slides between Quarter 2 and Quarter 3, particularly on the social security policies, which remain in draft format without clear timelines for implementation. She questioned if there would be any real change in Quarter 4 and when these policies would be rolled out, especially given the change of ministers and potential shifts in priorities with a new administration.

Ms Abrahams asked about the reasons for National Treasury's request for DSD to revisit the community development practitioners proposal; the nature of sustainable livelihood opportunities for beneficiaries and if this includes food hampers or other forms of support; if DSD has improved its identification of beneficiaries receiving social support and examples of sustainable livelihood opportunities; and if DSD continues to link beneficiaries to opportunities in Quarter 3 and Quarter 4.

Ms L Arries (EFF) was concerned about the slow uptake of social relief of distress (SRD) grants and highlighted discrepancies between public perceptions and DSD's administration of these grants. She emphasised the need for DSD to address this promptly and effectively.

Ms Arries pointed out instances where individuals reported waiting for years to receive SRD grants, while others claimed to be first-time applicants yet were informed that they had already been approved for the grant. These discrepancies suggest systemic failures and potential corruption within the administration of SRD grants. She called on DSD to provide a detailed plan for increasing the uptake of the SRD grant and ensuring the integrity of the systems managing it. She emphasised the importance of addressing any corruption within the process to ensure that the grants reach those who are truly in need.

Ms Arries raised concern about the failure of Programme 3: Social Security Policy and Administration to meet its targets, stressing the significant impact this has on the lives of South Africans. She called for DSD to outline its turnaround strategy to address these challenges and improve performance in Programme 3.

Ms P Marais (EFF) sought an explanation on the irregular expenditure linked to Red Cherry Media Holding, particularly non-compliance with procurement thresholds and what these thresholds entail. On the irregular expenditure attributed to Rainbow Technologies, she questioned the procurement of laptops not at market price and the purpose for which these laptops were procured.

Ms Marais expressed concern about the 10 reported car damages categorised as fruitless and wasteful expenditure. She asked if these damages involved hired vehicles and the circumstances of these incidents. On recovery from the travel agency, she asked if excessive spending occurred during the travel of officials.

On the Anti-Gangsterism Strategy, Ms Marais questioned why its implementation did not extend to the Western Cape, known for its high rates of gang-related violence. She sought insight into the decision-making process on this matter.

Addressing delays in the poverty alleviation strategy's procurement process, she emphasised the urgent need to resolve these delays due to their significant impact on impoverished families nationwide.

Ms Marais recommended extending HIV training and awareness efforts to primary and high schools, considering the high pregnancy rate among students.

Lastly, she sought information on the status of non-approved NPOs and NGOs mentioned in the presentation, as well as clarification on the funding status of registered organisations which was not addressed in the presentation.

DSD response
The DSD officials responded to the inquiries, providing insights into their operations.

In addressing concerns about policy development processes, they emphasised the extensive consultation, research, and multi-step procedures involved, highlighting the need for thoroughness and inclusivity in policy formulation. They clarified that the apparent repetition in presentations stems from the iterative nature of policy development rather than a mere copy-and-paste exercise. They again underscored the complexity and time-intensive nature of the policy development process.

On financial matters, the officials committed to furnishing the Committee with updates on budget shifts and expenditure estimates, acknowledging the oversight in omitting certain slides. They explained the decision to revise the Terms of Reference for the Loss Control Committee to ensure impartiality and objectivity in evaluating cases of irregular expenditure, aiming to enhance accountability and transparency within the department.

On the irregular expenditure, such as those related to Red Cherry Media Holding and Rainbow Technologies, DSD officials provided explanations for each case, the specific reasons for the irregularities and the corrective actions being taken. Accountability measures were in place to address damage to rental cars during official trips.

On the delay in achieving targets for social security policies, DSD officials attributed it to external factors such as certification processes and engagements with National Treasury. However, they reassured the Committee of progress in presenting draft policies for approval in Quarter 4 underscoring DSD's commitment to meeting its objectives despite challenges.

On HIV awareness programmes in schools, existing initiatives such as ChommY and YOLO were implemented in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, aimed at raising awareness among students. However, these programmes have not reached all communities due to resource limitations. To address this gap, DSD is actively collaborating with stakeholders, including Departments of Health and Basic Education, to expand integrated school programmes. These efforts prioritise sexual and reproductive health education as a key component, reflecting DSD's commitment to comprehensive HIV awareness and prevention strategies tailored to different educational settings.

On the registration and compliance monitoring of non profit organizations (NPOs), registration is required for all NPOs, irrespective of funding, as mandated by the Non Profit Organisations Act of 1997, as amended. DSD monitors compliance with financial reporting requirements. While the department does not directly fund all registered NPOs, it coordinates funding for approximately 19 000 to 21 000 NPOs across all provinces, amounting to a budget of around R6 billion per annum. This funding is integral to supporting the diverse range of social welfare initiatives implemented by NPOs nationwide. Additionally, efforts are made to ensure effective coordination and supervision of provincial funds in alignment with departmental policies and priorities.

Mr Brenton Van Vrede, SASSA Executive Manager of Grant Operations, said that a comprehensive breakdown of numbers would be presented during SASSA's forthcoming report on Quarters 2 and 3. He emphasised that there had been no discernible slowdown in grant uptake during this period, with targets largely met or exceeded, notably the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grants, which have seen rapid dissemination, reaching over 8 million recipients within a year—a milestone unparalleled in government grant history.

Despite this success, there are challenges in the payment process, particularly with clients who, despite grant approval, faced issues with providing or verifying banking details. Additionally, some grant applicants were flagged for potential fraud after database cross-referencing, necessitating further identity verification and potentially delaying payments. Notably, investigations were ongoing into cases where fraud has been detected - a matter being rigorously addressed with enhanced identification systems. While significant strides have been made in grant distribution, particularly with SRD grants, Mr Van Vrede assured the Committee of SASSA's commitment to addressing challenges in payment processing and fraud prevention to uphold the integrity and efficiency of the social grant system.

Follow-up questions
Ms Marais asked about the foster care grant and SASSA grant for children, particularly their discontinuation when recipients reach 18 years of age. Many children when they turn 18, are still in school, often in grades 10 or 11, and lack income support after losing eligibility for these grants. Had DSD or SASSA made progress on this matter or is it still under consideration?

Ms Abrahams sought clarity on the status of the turnaround strategy for the National Development Agency (NDA) and its approval by the board. Were there any holdups and what was the current status of the approval process?

Secondly, Ms Abrahams raised concern about the estimated timeline for the implementation of social security policies. While acknowledging the complexity of the development process, she emphasised the importance of having estimated completion dates. She requested that SASSA provide answers to her questions during their upcoming presentation.

Ms Abrahams also highlighted the gap in support for children who age out of the child support grant while still in school. She emphasised the importance of government assistance for these vulnerable individuals, noting that some may not have the parental support needed to navigate financial matters like opening bank accounts. She urged SASSA to address this and provide support to ensure that these individuals can continue their education.

DSD response
DSD officials indicated that the NDA turnaround strategy has been approved by the NDA board. This approval signifies progress, and now the strategy needs to be presented to the clusters for further consideration.

On the Child Support Grant (CSG) top-up, as of the end of the third quarter, there were 60 000 beneficiaries. On the alignment between the foster child grant and the child support grant, DSD is currently developing a policy on children's grants. This policy development process involved reviews of various grants, including the child support grant, to inform its creation. Once finalised, the policy will be opened for consultation to address concerns raised, including the transition of beneficiaries who turn 18. In the meantime, beneficiaries who reach the age of 18 may be eligible to apply for the COVID-19 SRD grant if they meet the eligibility criteria and have no other income exceeding the Means Test threshold of R624.

In her closing remarks, Minister Zulu expressed gratitude to the Committee for their contributions and comments during the meeting. She acknowledged that there are still upcoming meetings, particularly about the NDA and SASSA. The Minister invited Members to raise any further issues, particularly those related to SASSA, emphasising the importance of addressing challenges with grants and payments.

On the query about the absence of DSD anti-gangsterism programmes in the Western Cape, Minister Zulu highlighted the need to strengthen structures at provincial and local levels for effective service delivery. She emphasised the reliance on provinces for service delivery and suggested that the government should focus on enhancing service delivery mechanisms at these levels in the future.

The Chairperson thanked the DSD delegation.

The Committee adopted the meeting minutes of 21 and 28 February; 6 and 8 March 2024 and the meeting was adjourned.

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