Hon L Govender, MPL
Inkatha Freedom Party
KZN Legislature, 19 April 2023
Hon. Chairperson, the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition and Hon. Members of this House.
It is a honour for me to be representing the Inkatha Freedom Party in this Budget Debate today. As the IFP, we are mindful of the vital role that the Department of Social Development has in the lives of our people and the future of our province. Being mindful of the numerous social ills that face the citizens of our province and seeing that these challenges are ever increasing, the IFP is of the view that the budget of R3.3 billion allocated to this Department is not sufficient for it to fulfil its mandate.
I am sure that the Hon. MEC and officials of the Department will agree with me that more funding and more personnel – including social workers – are required if this Department is to play a meaningful role in improving the lives of our people. As we are aware in these difficult economic times, all of us, including government departments and households, need to manage their budgets in a prudent way in order to make ends meet. Unfortunately, I cannot say that this Department has been successful in managing its budget effectively. I say this for many reasons which I shall explain in due course.
Hon. Chairperson, this Department has a history of not paying its suppliers within 30 days of having an invoice. At a recent Portfolio Committee meeting, the Department reported that it has “approached IT to assist with developing a proper invoice tracking system”. I find this difficult to accept, since the 30 day payment principle has been in place for a long time now, yet this Department still does not have a system in place, while most other departments have such procedures in place.
On a number of occasions, I have questioned why the incumbent in the CFO position has been acting for a long time but have not received a suitable explanation. I hope this position will be filled by a suitably qualified and honest individual, like the present incumbent.
When we look at the Social Relief of Distress allocation in Programme 2, we find that the target for 2023/2024 has been reduced by almost 10 000 beneficiaries because of budget constraints.
Then in Programme 5, we see that the number of households accessing food has been reduced by 28 007, also due to the reduction in the SRD budget.
This is of serious concern to the IFP, since a large sector of the KZN community will be without any form of relief in terms of having the basics to get by. City Press and various media outlets have reported that government’s attempts to feed the poor and vulnerable through the provision of food parcels are being hampered by opportunists – mainly local Councillors – who allegedly divert the aid to themselves and their supporters and, in some instances, sell them. This is unacceptable. We therefore encourage the Department to replace the food parcels with vouchers that are redeemable at supermarkets closest to needy families.
While on the issue of Grants, I am deeply concerned that many Grant recipients are experiencing great difficulties in accessing their Grant payments. SASSA really needs to get its house in order and ensure that payments are on time so as not to inconvenience our people, especially our senior citizens and those who are disabled. We are of the strong view that the R350 Grant, which is not enough for a household to buy a loaf of bread for each day of the month – let alone anything else – needs to be increased, or the Basic Income Grant needs to be implemented as soon as possible. The ever-increasing living costs will drive our citizens to a point of desperation, the outcome of which will be too devastating to contemplate.
Hon. Chairperson, a long time ago we were told that the Department will be transitioning from Social Welfare to Social Development. To date, this has not happened. In the SWOT Analysis of the Department’s APP, we were informed that there is “slow progress in moving from Social Welfare to Social Development partly due to under resourcing in Programme 5”.
This Programme deals with Development and Research and has a Budget of over R274 million, which is an increase of 0.8%. When we were interrogating the APP, we were informed “Focus will be on developing a strategy for accelerating the transition from Social Welfare to Social Development”. In order for the transition to take place any time soon, this Department needs creative minds and progressive thinkers who will utilise available resources effectively to speed up the process.
It is pleasing to note that the Office of the Premier has approved the filling of 61 social work professional posts. Will the MEC tell this House if these posts will be filled and give us a timeframe? In addition, the Department has been allocated R28.8 million via the EPWP Incentive Grant and, according to the Finance MEC’s Budget Speech, this fund is for job creation and I am hopeful that this Grant will be used for that purpose and not used for the Department’s running costs, such as security contracts.
Hon. Chairperson, with the cuts in the Compensation of Employees Budget, the Department will be faced with staff shortages due to the non-filling of posts, and this will certainly have a negative impact on service delivery. I note that there is a 2.5% cut in the COE budget but at the same time, there is an increase of R50 million in the Goods and Services Budget. The question that the MEC needs to answer, is how does the Department plan to spend this increased allocation on Goods and Services without having a staff compliment of social workers on the ground to carry out the work?
I am aware that there are qualified social workers – many of whom received bursaries from the Department with the promise of being employed after qualifying – that are still sitting at home without a job. Again, I want to urge senior officials to look at the Departments’ spending pressures and see how best the R28.8million EPWP Incentive Grant for Provinces can be used to create jobs that will assist our citizens.
As the IFP, we acknowledge when good work is done and we recognise the hard work-ethic of the Hon. MEC, but unfortunately some of her officials are letting her down.
Hon. Chairperson, the Department prides itself in following the Batho Pele Transformation Principles and Priorities.
However, as we speak, the Department has, for many months, been erratic in making subsidy payments to non-profit organisations (NPOs), such as child welfare societies, old age homes, childcare centres, centres that provide services to persons with disabilities, and places of safety.
Allow me to read what MEC Nkonyeni said on page 18 of her 2023/2024 Budget Speech : “The Department of Social Development receives R3.3 billion. The Department will continue to provide social welfare services to the people of this province, with focus being on the vulnerable citizens of this province. The work will be done jointly with non-profit organisations.”
Hon. Chairperson, this Department is known for being in violation of its obligations towards NPOs in this regard, which goes against what its Budget is meant to do.
I have been receiving messages of concern from NPOs complaining about not receiving their monthly subsidies on time. We must keep in mind that these NPOs rely on funding from the Department to take care of their monthly financial commitments, such as utility bills, staff salaries, building maintenance, payment to suppliers, etc. One might think that this is not a serious matter. Allow me to read some correspondence that NPOs have been receiving from the HOD recently:
Letters dated: 02/2/2023; 24/2/2023; 16/3/2023; 24/3/2023.
Apart from the NPOs having their own commitments, Hon. Chairperson, their staff have families to feed and other financial commitments, like bond repayments or rental payments, children’s’ school fees, transport costs, etc.
We need to ask ourselves how we would feel if Treasury wrote such letters to us, saying that they are waiting for funds, and we should receive our salaries when funds are available.
In one of those letters I read, the HOD says that the Department has requested Treasury to put more money in the bank account and IF that request succeeds, the money will be deposited in clients’ accounts.
Subsidies to NPOs are budgeted for, and therefore there should be no need for the Department to be requesting for more funding from Treasury each month. I had discussions with an official from Treasury and was told that funds are indeed transferred timeously to the Department, so it would appear that this Department is using funds meant for NPOs to take care of other running costs.
Is this because the NOPs are seen as soft targets that can be abused just because they are dependent on government subsidies?
In February, about 200 NPOs had not received their subsidies on time. Such inconstancies really cannot be tolerated going into the new financial year.
The Hon. MEC must tell this House why funds are not transferred to NPOs, in line with Treasury Regulations. Let me remind the Department that these NPOs are doing some sterling work in our communities, a workload that will fall upon the Department, should the NPO sector collapse because of incompetence and/or a lack of diligence on the part of officials.
Hon. Chairperson, the Inkatha Freedom Party supports the Budget of R3.3bil allocated to the Department of Social Development.
I thank you.