NC Social Development budget must translate into caring, self-reliant society

By: Isak Fritz, MPL DA Northern Cape Spokesperson on Social Development As different political parties, we are likely to have very different views on how best to use the budget. Yet we can all agree that we must support the department in achieving a caring, self-reliant society. The department has to be congratulated with the quality of the budget presentation. The DA notes that the department listened to the plea from the MEC for Finance that costs should be cut. If you look at Early Childhood Development, for example, you see that internal arrangements have been made to use savings for shortfalls. The Democratic Alliance knows that the department suffers from capacity constraints and so we welcome the fact that 28 social work professionals will be absorbed into the department in 2015/16. The department of Social Development plays a developmental role in our communities. In so doing, it transfers funds to Non-Profit Organisations. In the 2015/16 financial year, R202 million will be transferred to Non-Profit Organisations. This amounts to a third of the department’s total budget. As in previous years, neither the Annual Performance Plan nor the Strategic Plan indicates who the recipients are or what the money will be spent on. The provincial budget book is also silent on this issue. The Democratic Alliance does not seek to cast any aspersions on the work done by Non-Profit Organisations. Far from it. We know that Non-Profit Organisations are a valuable stakeholder in establishing a caring, self-reliant society. We believe that the outsourcing of government services to well-run, well-managed Non-Profit Organisations will ensure that communities get the full benefit. Let me use the example of the only Non-Profit Organisation mentioned by name in the department’s documents, namely Families South Africa. FAMSA plays a crucial role in the development of human capital and healthy human relationships, especially within families. As stated in the Freedom Charter – all people shall have the right to bring up their families in comfort and security. It is part of the DA’s social protection policy that families should be protected, especially where the protection of our youth is concerned. Of course we fully support the work done by FAMSA! We do not seek to suppress the work being done by Non-Public Organisations. We are simply seeking the accountability that the law requires when dealing with public funds. For example, section 38(1)(j) of the Public Finance Management Act requires that the head of the department must obtain a written assurance from any entity, including those organisations outside government, before transferring funds. This written assurance must state that the entity implements effective, efficient and transparent financial management and internal control systems. We are not getting a sense from the department that this requirement is being upheld – or that they are aware of this obligation. The budget presentation does not even provide us with the names of all Non-Profit Organisations who are set to benefit from public funds. The crux of the matter is that we cannot transfer public funds if we do not know who receives it and what will be done with the money. Section 215(1) of the Constitution is very clear that provincial budgetary processes must promote transparency and accountability. We have raised this issue before and we will continue to raise it until we receive satisfactory answers to our queries. Perhaps part of the answer will lie in the amount of R8 million, which was allocated from the national department of Social Development for the capacity building of Non-Profit Organisations. The DA believes we must use this funding to ensure that Non-Profit Organisations know what’s expected of them when it comes to accounting. It is welcome to note the increased funding made available to the Substance Abuse, Prevention and Rehabilitation program. The increase is partially attributed to the Substance Abuse Treatment Grant, which will inject R22 million this year into the construction of a substance abuse treatment facility. The construction of the facility, said to be operational in 2017, will definitely assist with delivering treatment and aftercare services to those who suffer from substance abuse. Yet the department’s targets for providing treatment and aftercare services remains very low. While the department reports that it had 82 871 clients accessing substance abuse services in 2013/14, it only targets 1 406 in 2015/16. Why are we reaching 80 000 fewer clients than before? It is alarming that the target of 1 406 is the joint number of clients to be reached by the department as well as Non-Profit Organisations. Given the levels of abuse and addiction in the province, this is simply not good enough. The Foundation for Alcohol Related Research, for example, was commissioned by the department of Social Development to do a study into Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. It found a prevalence rate ranging from 6% to 11% in Kimberley. We cannot make prevention of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome the responsibility of one entity or one department alone. It is the responsibility of us all. We welcome the joint initiatives from the departments of Social Development, Agriculture and Health to tackle this social ill. We need initiatives to be holistic in their approach. While undertaking research into Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, for example, the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research also worked to educate and inform communities about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy. It worked with the takeAWAY theatre group on performances that highlights the role of men in supporting their partners and sisters. We need this type of community projects. We need projects with a lasting impact and worth. Honourable Speaker, social problems like poverty, hunger, teenage pregnancies, alcohol abuse and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in our communities is not only the department’s problem, but affects us all. As parents, community leaders, church leaders and members of this honourable house, we are all responsible for addressing the problems. The DA looks forward to working with the department to make a lasting difference for the most vulnerable people in our society. [END] ##################################################################################### Scanned by MailMarshal – M86 Security’s comprehensive email content security solution. Download a free evaluation of MailMarshal at www.m86security.com #####################################################################################