By Hon P Govender MPL, Inkatha Freedom Party
Greetings to the Hon MEC, All Hon Members, Department Officials and Support Staff.
Hon Chairperson, I am grateful to the Inkatha Freedom Party for giving me the opportunity of representing the IFP in this debate.
The IFP welcomes the Budget of R3.7billion allocated to the Department of Social Development in the 2021/2022 Financial Year. It is unfortunate that due to fiscal consolidation, the Department is faced with a budget cut of R163million.
At the outset the IFP expresses its gratitude to the frontline social workers, Community Care Givers, officials of the Department and SASSA for braving the Covid-19 pandemic and serving the people of KwaZulu-Natal. We are aware that some have made the ultimate sacrifice and others have lost loved ones, but they still remain at their workplaces. The IFP is grateful and appreciates their dedication.
Hon Chairperson, data from the 2020 World Bank report indicated that in 2019 the bulk of KZN households i.e., 38.7% were categorised as earning less than R54000 per annum. This tells us that we need to be prudent in how this budget is spent. Therefore, it is of concern to the IFP when we learn of millions of rand that were looted from this Department’s budget when it came to the procurement of PPEs and blankets. What needs to be red-flagged, is that such unscrupulous actions must never be allowed to continue and this can only be achieved if those found guilty are made to repay money that they stole from the poorest of the poor. Nine officials are still on suspension including the CFO and they are still being paid to sit at home. It is shocking that one official has 46 charges pending. I want to urge Hon MEC Khoza to be on top of this situation and ensure that the disciplinary process is finalised as soon as possible.
While it is encouraging to note that two companies that were implicated in the procurement of blankets have agreed to repay money that they earned unlawfully, the question that needs to be answered is: How did officials allow these companies to overcharge the Department by such huge amounts?
The IFP is concerned about the decrease of 1.4% in transfer payments to NPOs which amounts to R16.7million. These NPOs will not be able to provide their full range of services and we can expect an increase in social distress that will manifest in various forms such as GBV, suicides, prostitution and substance abuse. It is ironic that as an unintended consequence this Department will be promoting the very social ills that it is charged with preventing.
Hon Chairperson, Programme 2 that deals with the core function of Social Welfare Services sees a budget cut of R59.332million effected against the Compensation of Employees. According to the Budget Speech by the Hon MEC for Finance, the Department’s budget “caters for additional funding for the employment of social workers in hotspot areas where there is a high prevalence rate of Gender Based Violence”. But in this budget, there is a decrease in funding for compensation of employees with the Department not being able to employ social workers but it plans to fill posts at higher levels. If we are serious about stemming the scourge of GBV, there is an urgent need for more social workers within communities. I must hasten to point out that there is no shortage of qualified social workers as there are many that have received bursaries from this Department who are still unemployed and the Department has an obligation to employ them. The issue of non-filling of vacant social worker posts cannot be attributed to Covid-related budget cuts since this issue goes back well before the advent of the virus.
Hon Chairperson, Irregular and Wasteful Expenditure was highlighted by the Auditor General. Irregular expenditure rose from R76.3million in 2018/19 to R100.2million in 2019/20. The AG has attributed IWF expenditure to a blatant contravention of Supply Chain Management legislation, the PFMA and Treasury Regulations. Hon Chairperson, this is unacceptable as it shines a spotlight on officials who either do not know their role functions or that they do not know what is contained in the legislation that governs their areas of work or that they are there just to loot the state purse while our people suffer. There has to be more compliance with legislation and rooting out shortcomings in the SCM process. Consequence management must not just be buzz words but must be translated into tangible repercussions for those who transgress legislation.
Hon Chairperson, in the absence of the Basic Income Grant, the IFP supports the call for the extension of the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant beyond April 2021. Citizens who have no other form of income, have become reliant on the SRD grant and stopping this will have a devastating impact on their lives. It is of concern to the IFP that the SA Post Office is closing down more than 20 outlets in KZN. This move will make it very inconvenient for people to collect their grants.
The IFP is of the view that Programme 5 that deals with Development and Research needs to be beefed up in order to identify and respond to social challenges as people move from rural areas to towns and cities. Such migration of people lead to social challenges such as provision of housing, job opportunities and many social ills.
The Socio-Economic Review and Outlook 2021/22 on page 31 states that at the end of 2020 KZN had the highest number of social grant beneficiaries at 4 025 633. Whilst the IFP supports the payment of social grants, we want to caution against moving towards a grant-dependent state. As government we need to create sustainable work opportunities so that people can become self-sufficient. IFP President Emeritus, His Excellency Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has always championed the idea of self-help and self-reliance. This model has been very successful in various parts of our country.
The IFP welcomes the online application system for Disability Grants and urge that the administrative processes be finetuned in order to make it easier and less frustrating for the disabled to access the grant.
The IFP congratulates the Aryan Benevolent Home (ABH) as it is currently celebrating its Centenary year. It is one of the largest and oldest NPOs in the country catering for over 700 residents including the elderly, children and victims of domestic violence. I work closely with the ABH in Chatsworth and am aware of the wonderful humanitarian service provided by this institution. Such NPOs are a beacon of hope in areas where government does not have the capacity to assist those who are most vulnerable.
I must thank Hon MEC Khoza for being hands-on in the campaign against GBV and being visible within communities across the province.
The IFP welcomes the planned rehab centres as these will go a long way to assist people to kick the habit and also run awareness campaigns to prevent addiction.
It is encouraging to note that the Department has converted a government garage in Durban for its use as this will save money on property rental. The Portfolio Committee will be visiting this facility to how it is functioning.
The IFP urges SASSA to take urgent steps to prevent the fraudulent duplication of SASSA cards. I have been dealing with numerous cases of beneficiaries who find their grant monies being withdrawn fraudulently often in parts of the country far from where they reside. SASSA needs to explain how these cards are being duplicated so easily. Someone must be held accountable.
Hon Chairperson, the IFP supports the Department’s planned move from Social Work to Social Development and urges that this is achieved swiftly so that its benefits can reach our people.
In this regard I want to close with a quotation from the book “THE TRUTHS WE HOLD” by US Vice President, Kamala Harris wherein she quotes James Baldwin, US novelist and social activist: “There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now”.
Hon Chairperson, let us improve the lives of our people now so that the future will be brighter.
I would urge the Department to monitor the administration of NPOs since they receive government funding. Often some of these NPOs are found to be no compliant in terms of their reporting.
The IFP supports the Budget.
I Thank You.