Social Development in talks with Treasury to address looming shortfall

Dozens of people spent Tuesday night outside the Sassa offices in Mdantsane, East London. (Johnnie Isaac: GroundUp)
Dozens of people spent Tuesday night outside the Sassa offices in Mdantsane, East London. (Johnnie Isaac: GroundUp)
  • DSD is in talks with Treasury to stave off a looming shortfall as it dispenses grants and relief during the coronavirus crisis. 
  • Millions of people have already applied for a R350 grant meant to give support to unemployed South Africans who receive no other assistance. 
  • The department is having further discussions with stakeholders through Nedlac about programs it wants to implement, including a mandatory retirement contribution fund. 

The Department of Social Development told Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Social Development on Thursday that it was in discussions with Treasury to stave off an expected shortfall in funds as it continues to dispense grants and relief.

The Department of Social Development's role in government’s response to the Covid-19 novel coronavirus as its flagship entity, the South African Social Security Agency, is responsible for distributing 17 million social grants to needy South Africans every month.

In May President Cyril Ramaphosa told South Africa that over 3 million people had applied for a R350 grant intended to provide money to unemployed South Africans who receive no other form of assistance from government.

Projections rocked

However, the pandemic had rocked government’s revenue collection projections so much that Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni announced that he would table a revised budget in Parliament which takes the health crisis into account.

Acting director general of Social Development Linton Mchunu said told the committee that the department was engaging National Treasury about the shortfall in funding that was expected as a result of reprioritised budget and other fiscal constraints.

Mchunu said the department's fourth quarter coincided with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the department lost a month and a half on the implementation of its strategic targets. He said the department only achieved an average of 60% of targets.

"Some of the reasons are related to dependencies on other departments, provincial departments and institutions. We are one of the departments with concurrent responsibilities and we rely heavily on other departments to realise these," said Mchunu.

The department's work streams received a donation of R23.5 million from the Solidarity Fund. The department told parliamentarians that an additional R20 million was allocated from Disaster Fund to augment the Solidarity Fund shortfall in the food parcel price of R400 to make it R700 each parcel.

For psychological support programs, the department said it recruited 1 809 social workers for three months starting from June, with a total of R33 million allocated. Expanded recruitment of social workers included unemployed social workers, the department said.

Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu said the department would continue making inputs into the structural responses by government to Covid-19.

"I think that we need to focus on behavioural change and individual behaviours and we should be at the forefront of making sure that programs we develop and redirection of the budget should have a greater impact in addressing Covid," said Zulu.

Deputy director general for social security policy administration Brenda Sibeko said the department was talking to stakeholders through the National Economic Development and Labour Council about programs the department wanted to implement.

These included a mandatory contribution fund where South Africans save for retirement, which the department was conducting a cost assessment for.

The department was also looking into linking child support grant beneficiaries to other government services such as no fee schools and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. This too was entering the cost assessment phase.

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