Hon Ncamisile Nkwanyana, IFP MPL
We are in dire need of transforming our approach to social development, and more importantly, the way we extend social assistance to the most needy in society. The eradication of poverty remains one of our biggest challenges in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.
Therefore, although the Inkatha Freedom Party welcomes the 2015/2016 Social Development budget of just over R2.6billion, we are of the view that this is not sufficient to address the challenges that face our people. In view of this tight budget, it is important that every cent is utilised to benefit those in need. I therefore want to urge all officials to be diligent and honest in the conduct of their duties. Officials, especially those involved in the procurement of goods and services, must be beyond reproach and not allow themselves to be drawn into corrupt and fraudulent activities.
We are aware that wherever there are elections this department suddenly becomes very generous in hosting social outreach programmes where all sorts of items such as spades, wheelbarrows, seeds, spectacles, walking sticks, etc are dished out. I am not saying that needy people should not receive social assistance, but it would be good if such programmes are ongoing in a structured manner throughout the year.
Madame Speaker, this government is very boastful of the increasing number of people who are dependent on social grants and this is very worrying for the IFP.
We are not saying that people should not receive grants, but what is worrying is that the ranks of the unemployed are growing and thus the tax base is dwindling.
I want to warn this government here today that you are creating a very dangerous climate; a climate where you will soon not be able to sustain the social grant system and those who are grant-dependent will not be pleased. A hungry nation will become an angry nation. What we need is the political will to take bold decisions that would see the economy grow, to create new and sustainable jobs, so that people across KwaZulu-Natal can live productive and successful lives.
Government has a responsibility to create an environment that would be conducive to economic growth.
The IFP unconditionally supports the principle of a social safety net that seeks, in part, through the extension of social grants, to benefit those in desperate need. We want the MEC to fast track the implementation of the increase in foster care grants to 21 years as per the announcement made by the National Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini.
What we would like to see is that individuals and their families that are dependent on social grants are capacitated towards economic empowerment, independent from State support, to live dignified lives and pursue their dreams and aspirations. Sustainable jobs can only be created through stimulating the economy and encouraging entrepreneurship. With economic growth more companies and individuals will invest in KZN and generate job opportunities.
Madam Speaker, the IFP is concerned about the high levels of corruption that are still occurring in the social grant system. Even though there was the recent re-registration of all social grant recipients that cost the tax payers millions of Rands, fraudulent activities continue to cost the state huge losses.
Fool-proof measures must be implemented that would prevent fraud and corruption much of which occurs with the assistance of officials.
However we will continue to put pressure on SASSA, to get its house in order so that our older persons, indeed ALL grant recipients, can be treated with the respect, dignity and the care they deserve, when it comes to accessing their social security grants. The blatant disregard for their human rights is insulting and unacceptable. We are very often told about SASSA pay points that do not have shelter for grant recipients on payment days. These pay points also do not have toilets, seating or clean drinking water. One such example is to be found at kwaMaphumulo. This is unacceptable and needs to be rectified.
We need to know, MEC what steps are being taken to ensure that the incidents where public servants are receiving social grants fraudulently are not repeated in the future. We need to know about those public servants who have admitted guilt and signed acknowledgement of debts, whether the money is paid with interest and, if not, why not? How many of these cases are still outstanding and how much is still owed?
We need to know what plans the MEC has to attract competent and suitably qualified people who are fit for the purpose to do the job. We must be sure that there is no place for 'cadre deployment' which is costing this government dearly across the board in terms of poor service delivery to our people, huge levels of maladministration and incompetence.
The issue of loan sharks is a major area of concern. We often heard the MEC saying that her department would be clamping down on loan sharks preying on social assistance beneficiaries when they come to collect their grants, describing them as "predatory, immoral and exploitative in nature". The Hon MEC must tell this House what she has done to solve this issue because loan sharks are still operating at pension pay points.
The Hon. MEC also runs a department which is taking direct steps to fill vacancies that exist in the labour market. The provincial Department of Social Development is granting bursaries to students from disadvantaged communities and poor families to study social work which is a scarce skill in the department.
The idea is that students would be provided with job opportunities once they completed their degrees. It is therefore worrying that on page 552 regarding the Outlook for the 2015/16 financial year it is stated that "Due to budget constraints, the department will not be absorbing further social work graduates".
What then becomes of those who have been awarded bursaries by the department?
What is confusing here is that the national Department of Social Development has a social work scholarship programme which probably more than covers the number of social work students that our universities can accommodate at present. The national department has urged provinces not to run separate programmes for this since a single national programme allows for better coordination with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which administers the programme. The national department argues that such a national programme could accommodate provincial needs at heads of the provincial departments' meeting and agreeing on issues such as provincial quotas. We would like to know how many students have been offered bursaries and have been provided employment by this department?
Which regions do they came from?
Madame Speaker, the department must seriously consider increasing its subsidy and support given to NGOs. In these difficult economic times NGOs are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain their activities. Should these NGOs be forced to shut down, this department will have to take over those services or our people will be left to suffer. As the IFP we commend all those volunteers who give of their time and personal resources to manage NGOs for the benefit of their respective communities.
I thank you.
Mrs Ncamisile Nkwanyana
IFP Spokesperson on Social Development, 078 302 3991