Budget Debate – Social Development (Vote 13)
By Roman Liptak MPL
Shadow MEC for Finance

 

KZN Legislature Pietermaritzburg: 29th March 2011

Chairperson 

Over the years, the Department of Social Development has succeeded in putting more and more people on various social grants. In doing so, it has helped to cushion some of our most vulnerable citizens from the effects of poverty. But the ever expanding welfare net has also assumed alarming proportions with the number of recipients of social grants outnumbering the number of taxpayers almost threefold. Such a welfare system cannot be sustainable and the challenge for every government department, including Social Development, now is to get people off social grants by focusing on job creation, skills development and education. All of these are more sustainable solutions for eradicating poverty. 

Our solution to this challenge is establishing a formal link between the recipients of selected social grants and the Expanded Public Works Programme in order to integrate welfare with employment opportunities. Our Alternative Budget Framework explores a joint programme of the Departments of Social Development and Public Works that would integrate the need for helping the vulnerable with training and employment opportunities. Such an initiative does not aim to cut social grants for anyone who is currently receiving them, but rather supplement them with additional incentives for those recipients who opt for training and employment opportunities on the side.

Among its many functions, the Department of Social Development acts as a crucial link between the provincial government and the civil society. It should therefore be a priority of this government to support effective community-based organisations in all areas of social development work. If this department is to succeed in its goals, it needs to bring every social partner on board and, even more importantly, keep them there. The past controversies in the public funding of non-profit organisations, some of which proved to be fraudulent, has created a need for a wholesale independent audit of all NPOs contracted to the department. The MEC will be aware that past audits of NPOs have been conducted only as part of specific investigations, not as preventative measures. The past audits were not communicated to the NPOs concerned, some of which suffered greatly as a result of disruptions in the payment of subsidies.

 The wholesale audit we are proposing would not only determine which of these organisations are genuine, but which of them are providing the best quality of service to the people of this province. Our Alternative Budget Framework contends that such an audit would not only reveal discrepancies between the NPOs’ service-level agreements with the department and their actual performance, but also that some are doing priceless community work only to receive the same levels of funding for years. This plan therefore proposes to increase funding for those organisations that deliver and whose services most closely link up with the strategic objectives of the provincial government. 

The last issue I wish to raise has to do with the cabinet-approved cost cutting measures. By its own admission, the Department of Social Development has largely complied with the Treasury framework which aims to cut wasteful expenditure and redirect the bulk of public spending towards service delivery. I would like to know to what extent the MEC’s frequent helicopter travel complies with the cost-cutting measures his department is busy implementing. The MEC will recall that the two of us recently met at the Holiday Inn in Ulundi where his helicopter conveniently stopped on a Sunday morning en route to a disaster scene in Nongoma so the MEC and his entourage could have breakfast. I have asked a detailed parliamentary question about his helicopter flights – their cost, purpose and justification - but the MEC’s reply has been somewhat delayed – perhaps to prevent me from delving into too much unwelcome detail on this....ing this debate. I am nevertheless looking forward to the MEC’s response at his earliest convenience. 

I thank you.  
 

Contact:
Roman Liptak
078 302 0929