Budget Debate On Social Development
Hon Mrs NJ Nkwanyana MPL, KZN Legislature
At the core of the mandate of the Department of Social Development is the provision of support and upliftment of the most vulnerable groups in our society.
I believe that a caring government must put the well-being of its citizens first and not the promotion of the political party in charge of government, nor individual’s self-interest. Caring government must create a conducive environment for economic growth and job opportunities for all not just for a few political well-connected cronies. It must fight hunger and extreme poverty; it must also fight corruption within government and outside government, especially within this department.
Most people don’t think they deserve to have a life of abundance, they tend to accept their fate of poverty; they over-estimate what they can achieve in a year and under-estimate what they can achieve in a decade through the little opportunities that present themselves.
The point that I want to bring across is that our social programmes must equip people of our province to identify and appreciate the little opportunities close to them. People must be developed to sustain themselves and their families through more basic self-help programmes such as food gardens, home bake kitchens, fruit tree plots and local maintenance and repair service. These programmes must also seek to equip people with a broader understanding of entrepreneurship in order for them to take advantage of bigger opportunities later in life. The IFP has always encouraged the concept of “self-help and self-reliance”. This is a concept that will help people overcome the difficult economic challenges that we are facing now.
The economic downturn challenges us to think more creatively to address the plight of our people. We must guard against creating a grant-dependent society that we might not be able to sustain in the future.
Regarding this point Hon Chairperson, I am however concerned that social service delivery in the province might be compromised as annual reporting targets are not based on qualitative and quantitative evidence. The reason for my concern derives from the fact that many of the social programmes and sub-programmes are underachieving. This is an indication that something is wrong. I do concede that targets are just one means of managing performance but they need to be realistic and measurable. They are very helpful, powerful and important, but one cannot and must not blindly set a target for the sake of having a target. The IFP calls on the MEC to ensure that officials are trained in proper target setting methodology as there are a number of stages to go through in setting well researched, accurate and reliable targets.
Hon Chairperson, the provincial department of Social Development appears to be confused about the role of social workers in KwaZulu-Natal. I say because across the province, graduates who received bursaries from the department of social development are being left stranded as the department continuously fails to employ them after they have completed their studies.
The IFP is concerned that at a time when social ills are on the rise and society faces an assault as a result of rising crime rates, increase in substance abuse, increased incidents of abuse against women and children and the economic challenges that come with a weak economy, it is unfortunate and short-sighted for this Department not to be employing more qualified social workers. These many social ills pose challenges that demand that we have more qualified social workers in the field and not more inexperienced and unqualified volunteers. This department must address these social ills head on before they become worse.
The Department’s failure to find work for these graduates is indicative of a lack of forward planning by the Department of Social Development. While much responsibility falls with the Department of Community Safety to implement specialised drug units to combat the scourge, it is vital that we provide addicts who are willing to overcome their addiction with appropriate facilities and resources such as trained social workers and counsellors to assist. The province is in desperate need of more treatment centres particularly for people who are not able to afford proper medical care for their loved ones who are drug addicts. An opportunity exists for the government to ensure the implementation of the municipal based substance abuse councils which are taken down to the ward based committees for direct community access.
The department must immediately take steps to ensure that the absorption of social work graduates is fast tracked as this province runs the risk of losing these individuals to the private sector or to another province or even another country.
Hon Chairperson, people with disabilities also deserve to have economic freedom to restore their dignity: opportunities exist for them to be better integrated into the economy of KZN.
On the ground one is concerned that there are long lists for people waiting to get into old age homes. While this is indicative of the shortage that exists, it also creates a problem in that the side effect is shown by the mushrooming of non-compliant homes for the aged. A responsible government will ensure that there are programmes in place to assist these homes to become compliant and provide a safe haven for the elderly. The IFP welcome the additional funding allocated in the budget for the Inkululeko Programme that will assist in the establishment of an Elderly Day Care Centre. While we appreciate the funding given to 311 community based care and support service centres, we believe that this is not enough and a lot more needs to be done to care for our aged. We are encouraged to learn that all social workers have been trained in the implementation of the Victim Empowerment Programme Older Persons Electronic Register (VEPOPER). This register needs to be populated and updated on a regular basis in order for it to serve its intended purpose.
Hon Chairperson, the IFP is deeply concerned about the number of highly potent and dangerous drugs that are finding their way onto our streets. These new drugs such as the Ecstacy-based pill, which is white in colour and has a piece of metal wire lodged at its core, goes by many names on the street, including “Mercedes,” Mitsubishi” and “Lacoste”, has resulted in 26 people being admitted to Edendale Hospital after consuming the pill over a weekend three weeks ago. Other two men died and 32 were admitted in hospital after a school break-up party in KwaMashu at the end of March. Furthermore, there is the drug called ‘Purple Drink’ or ‘Dirty Sprite’ which is a mixture of a codeine-based cough syrup, a soft drink and any sleeping tablet which is highly addictive. The abuse of the mixture is rapidly growing in popularity with the youth in Ngwelezane and Empangeni. As can be seen from the media and police reports, these drugs are not just an urban problem but they have found their way into the rural communities as well. Drastic action is required to save our children.
Hon Chairperson, As the IFP we are eager to hear from the MEC on what progress has been made in the issue of the fraud involving the processing of 1376 foster care grants for people who did not exist, defrauding the government of R19m, at the department’s Lower Umfolozi office. The IFP demands that all implicated officials and social workers at the department’s Lower Umfolozi offices be arrested and criminally charged in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12/2004 and Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121/1998.
This is a priority crime which must be referred to ‘The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation’ that was specifically established to prevent and combat theft from the public purse.
The IFP and like-minded civil society organizations in KZN demand that the MEC for Social Development hand over the ‘Ministerial Committee’s Report’ to the Hawks without any delay. With the high prevalence of corrupt activities and low conviction rates in our country, the IFP does not believe that a specialist task team or committee is empowered by the rule of law to act as prosecutors or judges. Serious priority crimes involving the theft of millions of rand are the responsibility of SAPS and National Prosecuting Authority. Stealing public funds specifically allocated to alleviate child poverty must be condemned and discouraged in the strongest terms possible.
The IFP propose to the MEC that all officials including social workers be trained and skilled in applying the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act in the work place (i.e. anti-corruption training). All officials including social workers must be subjected to ‘life style audits’ by SARS and the Auditor General of South Africa. All officials including social workers must be subjected to ethics training. Let the courts determine the fate of the implicated officials and social workers. The R19million must be recovered and returned to National Treasury.
The IFP supports the cost-cutting measures that were announced by the MEC for Finance. While these measures appear good on paper, it is the sustained implementation and monitoring thereof that is important. There is a great need for fiscal discipline in order to overcome the ill effects of the economic downturn that we are facing.
The role of the NGO sector must be acknowledged and supported. This sector plays a vital role in complimenting the work that government is attempting to do. The partnership between government and the NGO sector is essential and the IFP welcomes the 6% increase in funding that will be sustained over the MTEF.
There is a need for infrastructure maintenance and renovations to department offices especially in the rural areas. Many of our social work and administrative staff work under very trying conditions and this must be allowed to go on. Social workers need working conditions that are conducive to the professional work that they are expected to do. Therefore it is important that budget allocation for the improvement of working conditions at the various offices is increased and work that is carried out is of an acceptable standard.
Hon Chairperson, the IFP welcome the budget allocation of R2.778billion for the 2016/2017 financial year and will continue its oversight of KZN’s Social Development Department to ensure that this budget is spent for the benefit of the people of the province.
I thank you,