Tag: Budget Vote

ACDP notes tight Parliament budget will offer little relief for Parliamentary support services

Parliament’s budget is expected to provide the support services required by Parliament to fulfil its constitutional functions, assist political parties represented in Parliament to secure administrative support, service constituents, and provide members of Parliament with the necessary facilities.

The ACDP welcomes the speakers’ recognition of the needs with regard to crucial support services that are under tremendous strain. The tight budget is sadly going to offer no real relief. Legal Services is a good example. This office provides an ongoing range of specialised services that includes oral and written advice to committees; advice to the Joint Tagging Mechanism on the classification of Bills, drafting Bills of exceptionally high quality, as well as drafting contracts and policies; amongst other ad hoc services.  Not to mention legal support when committees are conducting constitutionally mandated oversight of the Executive.

I have only realised recently, that this small team in legal services also manages all the litigation against Parliament and I can only imagine what a huge task this is. I was shocked to find out that all these services, which each one of the team always delivers in a professional and competent manner, are provided by only 8 legal advisers and 3 senior legal advisers under the stewardship of the Chief Legal Adviser.

Considering that there are approximately 54 portfolio committees and a single legal adviser can have up to ten Bills at any given time, the broad range of functions that this office provides with absolute proficiency is unthinkable and frankly unfair.  The unwanted thought is just how much longer this small team can survive the pressure let alone be expected to sustain the excellence that we have come to expect of them.

The ACDP urges management to support this office by increasing their capacity or we will all have to face the consequences. These men and women are at high risk of burnout. Our legal human resources are a scarce commodity. Not many want this stressful job and those that do probably won’t cut it as the demands and broad skills that have to be developed in a short space of time are almost too much to ask and we should not take this for granted.

The ACDP has been a source of additional stress in their lives in terms of the assistance I have had with drafting of private members bills over the years and yet I have always received the most professional and excellent service.  As my colleagues and I tend to participate on many committees apart from those we are a member of   when they are dealing with legislation which the ACDP has a special interest in, we are conscious of the never ending pressure on our law advisors.  The ACDP highly commends and respects these ‘super heros’ in our midst serving their country with humility, sacrifice and excellence.

We also want to thank all staff at Parliament and take a moment to commend our parliamentary researchers and content specialists – our experience through committee participation and working on detailed presentations has left us grateful for their talents and dedication.  Then there is our IT department that also appears to be stretched but doing a great job. I don’t envy them having to deal with MP’s anxiety and impatience when technology challenges occur.

Again, the ACDP appeals to management to support these offices and take care of our scarce resources.  We also call on Treasury to recognise the damage done to the country if the work of parliament is undermined by overly constrained budgets that lead to us ‘wearing out’ and losing valuable people.

Lastly the ACDP welcomes the speaker’s reference to constituency work and the less than adequate support due to budget constraints. This is unfortunate as the value of constituency involvement can be measured in people’s greater awareness of the importance of their participation in the processes of Parliament plus a growing respect for the institution of Parliament and the work members are doing.

The ACDP supports this budget which is not adequate to the job before us but we are committed to doing our part in:

– Strengthening oversight and accountability

– Enhancing public involvement

– Strengthening co-operative government and inter-governmental relations

– Deepening engagement in international participation

– and Improving the quality and impact of legislation.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 2: Parliament
22 May 2018

ACDP supports inadequate Social Development Budget

The ACDP is aware of the critical role the Social Development department is expected to play in developing and implementing programmes for the eradication of poverty and social protection. While the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society must be our immediate priority, we appreciate that the longer term vision and goal is to facilitate a caring and self-reliant society.

The anxiety caused by a leadership at odds with each other in our Social Security Agency has been a costly exercise but on the upside it has resulted in a vastly improved combined oversight of SASSA and positive, far reaching initiatives to ensure that the provision of social security services not only operate strictly within the constitutional and legislative framework but are more user-friendly and not as vulnerable to abuse.

The ACDP has often asked the department to ‘up their game’ in terms of communication especially important messages easily conveyed via social media and we would like to congratulate them on doing just that. The messages relating to SASSA cards have been timely and relevant and have elicited a good response. Well done on a really good job!

The problem, however, is the reality on the ground expressed in responses to these messages. For example, the person who said: “Sitting at a local Pensions office is NO fun and I was quite frustrated and angry when I went there recently. Nothing appeared to be happening. Staff were half asleep, busy chewing apples and talking – not all but quite a few. They moved me from one queue (when I was already next in line) to another and sat waiting again. When this was questioned, I was told to just sit there. Nobody tells anybody  what is happening with any of the 3/4/5 different queues. I spoke to a few Gogos in the queue. They had been there from 5am and were very tired. Same place on the bench, same queue. This was now nearly midday. I really felt for them. Tiny babes and children – there for hours. Is this REALLY necessary, please tell me? Are the staff trained?”

And in response to telling people they can call the SASSA Call Centre on 0800 60 10 11, I got responses like this one: “Unfortunately that number and another number for KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) that I was given from the recording are not answered. After waiting and waiting the phone goes dead on both numbers.”

I know the committee raised concerns over long queues at local offices and the attitude of SASSA staff and that officials have alluded to the fact that the system has been offline and is causing the problems. This may be so but surely it is unacceptable that the problem has not been solved. Urgent attention must be given to ensuring systems are online and staff are trained to serve the public in a friendly, professional manner.

In 2017, Statistics South Africa released findings showing that the prevalence of stunting (the chronic malnutrition among children under five) was 27 percent, and that there has been no change in the risk of a child being malnourished since 1993.

Professor Julian May of the UWC Institute of Social Development points out that research internationally and in South Africa has shown that being stunted as a child affects physical and cognitive development, increasing the risk of illness as a child and in later life.

The most important cause of stunting is of course poverty. Poverty here means insufficient income to purchase nutritious food. The cost of securing a basic but nutritionally complete diet for a child between the ages of 3 to 9 years is estimated to be about R540 per month, raising concerns that the Child Support Grant is insufficient for a basic but nutritionally complete diet for a child.

The ACDP is of the opinion that the department should be putting up a stronger case for not only child grants but VAT exemptions. As Professor May points out the department did not do enough to ensure a zero rating for more food items known to be nutritious and bought by poor families; for example, shelf-stable products that use sorghum and are used to make healthy foods that have long been part of our South African cuisine such as mabhele and ting.

Early Childhood Development is another concern. The ACDP would like to remind the Minister that many ECD centres find it difficult to meet norms and standards due to infrastructural, health and safety problems such as  poor sanitation facilities – not enough or unsafe toilets, leaking roofs, unfenced or partially fenced centres, ventilation and lighting problems, food preparation accessible for children, space inadequacy, no provision for a sick bay, etc. Not being able to meet these norms and standards means that centres cannot be registered.  Not being able to register means that the ECD centre is unknown to the Department and not part of the ‘system.’

The existing ECD Maintenance Grant is a great blessing but it still leaves all unregistered centres out in the cold and all too often these are the only centres in a village or area. The grant is also inadequate for the maintenance needs of conditionally registered centres.

The ACDP calls on the Minister to call on government to support Municipalities in taking up their role as per the National Integrated ECD Policy and to provide additional ring fenced MIG funding to Municipalities for ECD Centre improvements to meet norms and standards required for registration.

If we are to attain the national goal of all children from 0-5 years having access to good quality ECD services by 2030, all ECDs must be registered and benefitting from departmental oversight, training and subsidies.

The ACDP would like to wish you honourable Minister, every success in this new and challenging task ahead.  We will support this budget which must eradicate poverty and provide protection for society’s most vulnerable under difficult circumstances.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 17: Social Development
9 May 2018 

ACDP withholds support for Basic Education Budget and strongly objects to cost-cutting measures

Like so many others, the ACDP is horrified that the budget allocation for Basic Education for 2018/19 is 2.9 percent less than last year and that grants are around R7 billion less than before. It seems that the desperately needed investment in higher education has been at the expense of basic education – a very dangerous trade-off in the opinion of the ACDP.  While fees are seen to be a major barrier to higher education (they are not the greatest barrier); poor quality primary schooling is.

President Ramaphosa stated during his State of the Nation Address: “If we are to break the cycle of poverty, we need to educate the children of the poor”.  Surely a decline in grants which benefit poor learners in predominantly rural areas flagrantly contradicts this statement. The ACDP strongly objects to cost cutting measures affecting basic education.

The ACDP does however note the improvement in monitoring and evaluation that has assisted with more effectively targeting challenges related to performance, gaps and inefficiencies in the education system.  Signs of improved learner performance, for example, as seen in the Bachelor pass trends of the National Senior Certificate, are encouraging but we clearly have a long way to go to be where we need to be.

What does not appear to have been taken seriously are practices like irregular appointments taking place at far too many schools, Hon Minister. For the sake of quality education can we afford not to investigate the allegations of mismanagement and irregular appointments? The ACDP is appealing to you and your department to give this matter your urgent attention, starting with appointments made under the ex-Director of the Umlazi District.

The ACDP notes the committee’s concern that there is a steady increase in learner enrolement while there is a decline in the number of educator posts in schools.  Learner/teacher ratios, especially in schools with the greatest challenges, are very worrying as this will seriously negatively impact on the quality of teaching and learner outcomes. The decreased budget will only worsen this situation and undermine all other efforts. The ACDP calls on Parliament, government and especially the Treasury to ensure budgets are adjusted to provide for adequate training and more teachers where they are most needed.

Challenges in the sector with regard to inclusive education and the needs of severely disabled children are also cause for concern. Budget cuts will seriously hamper progress in this area which needs ring fenced grant allocation.  In the face of budget cuts the dire need for infrastructure, maintenance of infrastructure, and an environment conducive to learning could become far worse and not better as we would have hoped.

Early Childhood Development, thankfully, is a national priority. While it is partly in the hands and budget of Social Development, the foundation phase has a significant impact on children and their ability to cope and succeed at the level of basic education.

The ACDP is concerned that the existing ECD Maintenance Grant is not able to deal with current realities. Unregistered centres are unable to access it and it is inadequate for the maintenance needs of conditionally registered centres.

The many years when poor and under-serviced communities had to provide their own ECD services with very little help from the state have left these centres unable to meet the norms and standards required to be registered.  Not being able to register means that ECD Centre’s are unknown to the department and not part of the ‘system.’ Therefore, there can be no oversight, no child protection services, no training for the governing body and staff, no access to state subsidies, no proper nutrition, nor no money for maintenance.

The ACDP calls on the Minister to take up the issue of municipalities taking up their role as per the National Integrated ECD Policy and to call on Treasury to provide additional ring fenced MIG funding to Municipalities for ECD Centre improvements.  Unless all ECD’s are registered and benefitting from departmental oversight, training and subsidies we will fail to meet our 2030 goals.

Lastly, the ACDP calls on the department to engage with the Department of Higher Education and Training more effectively in order to better understand and address the need for learners to be better prepared for University.

The ACDP cannot support this budget; NOT because of the many challenges, but because it is simply inadequate and the decreased budget will render the department unable to improve on the delivery of this critically important service.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 14: Basic Education
9 May 2018