Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu revealed the extent of delays and non-payment of NPOs when she responded to parliamentary questions from DA MP Bridget Masango.
Johannesburg – The Department of Social Development has come under fire for blaming the Covid-19 pandemic for delays in payments to non-profit organisations (NPOs) in some provinces, or not making payments at all.
This happened after Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu revealed the extent of delays and non-payment of NPOs when she responded to parliamentary questions from DA MP Bridget Masango.
Masango had enquired about reports regarding non-payment, budget cuts and payment delays to old age and children’s homes over three months and during the national lockdown.
In her written response, Zulu said non-payments were experienced in the Eastern Cape and North West.
She said the Eastern Cape non-payments were due to the lockdown and other factors, including a six-monthlong strike by social work managers.
“This created a void resulting in non-payments and delays in the entire process as the finalisation of the master-lists took longer and the verification of the information was rejected by the IT payment system, causing errors,” she said.
She also said the province had also experienced office accommodation challenges as the building was not safe for occupation. “This was coupled with the closure of offices due to Covid-19 positive cases.”
The North West and Limpopo payment delays were due to the migration from one payment system to another, Zulu said, which delayed the payments as NPOs were required to register on the central supplier database.
Delays in the Free State, Gauteng and Mpumalanga payments for the second quarter were due to Covid19 positive cases resulting in office closures, delayed signings of service level agreements by the NPOs and non-compliant NPOs.
However, she said there were no budget cuts to old age and children’s homes of over three months during the lockdown as residential care facilities were prioritised for full subsidy payments.
“The budget cuts were applied to other programmes that were not fully operational during the lockdown period. The NPOs that were not funded fully were paid for personnel and operational costs.”
The budget cuts for other programmes were as a result of a call from the provincial treasuries to slash budgets in response to the Covid-19 budget adjustment, she said.
“These measures impacted on the allocations initially considered for the NPOs as the available budget had to be reviewed and re-prioritised.”
Zulu said the provinces that have outstanding payments were working towards clearing the backlog for the second quarter by the end of September 2020 and the status was improving on a weekly basis.
“Eastern Cape NPOs are being paid both the first and second tranches simultaneously during the second quarter.”
But, Masango said the department was making shameful excuses for dropping the ball on the most vulnerable in society. She said it was shocking that the government failed to meet its financial obligations with no child and youth care centres receiving funds in the second quarter in the North West.
In Limpopo, 57% of funds were transferred to old age homes while no payments were made to Eastern Cape old age homes and youth care centres in the first quarter.
Masango said it did not come as a surprise that the department – in an effort to absolve itself from accountability – blamed the Covid-19 lockdown and overburdened social workers as excuses for these non-payments.
“Such shameful behaviour is par for the course for the department,” she said.
Masango said it was beyond all reason that the department had chosen a global pandemic as the perfect time to upgrade administrative systems, leaving the most vulnerable in society without financial support for three months.