An assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the South African Social Security Agency in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces
Joseph, Donald Edward
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The research was directed at assessing the strengths and weaknesses in the application-to-approval process of social grants up to the payment of social grants at pay-points in the South African Social Security Agency (hereafter SASSA). The general aim of the research project was to assess the application-to-approval process of grant administration in SASSA up to the payment of social grants at pay-points. The specific objectives of the study were therefore: * To describe the current application-to-approval process of grant administration; * To assess the strengths and weaknesses in the grant administration process of specified administrative procedures and structural issues as perceived by attesting officials (front-line staff responsible for taking down the grant applications), data-capturer officials (staff responsible for capturing the information on the application form onto the SOCPEN system, pay-point team members (staff responsible for rendering services at pay-points) and beneficiaries at pay-points; and * To provide a report on the strengths and weaknesses of the grant administration process from application to pay-out to the top management of SASSA. The study was conducted in two regions, namely the Northern Cape and the Western Cape. Various offices in the Northern Cape and the Western Cape were therefore part of the research. The grant administration process from application-to-approval includes various stages. The staff members include the screening official (step one) who checks the completeness of the required documentation, followed by attesting official (step two) who takes down the application and captures it on SOCPEN and then forwards it to the next level, namely quality control (step three). Thereafter a verifying official verifies the information captured on SOCPEN against documentation submitted and approves or rejects the application on SOCPEN (step four). Staff at pay-points (where beneficiaries receive their payments) and beneficiaries at pay-points were also part of the research focus. Four different data-collection instruments were therefore used during the research project. The first data-collection instrument was designed to collect data on the actual grant application process and problems and strengths in this regard (questionnaire front-line staff). The empirical investigation revealed the following with regard to the front-line staff: * The majority of front-line staff have considerable working experience (more than five years) in SASSA; * The majority of front-line staff have inadequate work space; * Training, supervision and mentoring support from supervisors and colleagues occurs haphazardly; * The majority of front-line staff receive between 11-29 applications per day and spent 30 minutes or less to take down an application; * Policy documents that regulate the implementation of new policy changes are not always available; * Grant application files get misplaced or lost after processing; * Staff carelessness is one of the main reasons why files get lost or misplaced and * Front-line staff experience technical difficulties with the computer on a regular basis and it takes one to three days to resolve technical difficulties. The second data-collection instrument was developed to collect data on the capturing of the application (questionnaire data-capturer) onto the SOCPEN system. The empirical investigation revealed the following with regard to data-capturers: * The majority of data-capturers have solid work experience as data-capturers in SASSA although some data-capturers have inadequate work space; * Training on the implementation of new policy changes occurs irregularly; * Supervision, mentoring and support from supervisors happen haphazardly; * Data-capturers receive between 20 and 29 applications per day and they capture all applications successfully; * Data-capturers receive support from colleagues on a more regular basis than from supervisors; * Documents or guidelines that regulate the implementation of policy changes are not always available in the work place; * Applications sometimes get misplaced or lost after capturing; * No proper mechanisms are in place to record the movement of files, staff carelessness and either lack of office space or filing space, are the main reasons why applications get lost or misplaced; * Data-capturers sometimes experience technical problems with computers and it takes one to less than five days to resolve technical difficulties; * Data-capturers receive sometimes incomplete applications from the attesting officials (those staff officials who are responsible for taking down the application) and they usually take such applications back to the first attesting officer; * Backlogs in the capturing and approving of normal applications exist and staff shortages and system-related problems are the main reasons why backlogs exist; * Backlogs exist with regard to the capturing and approving of review cases and * Staff shortages, a centralized review management approach, lack of office space and lack of connectivity points constitute the main reasons why review backlogs exist. The third data-collection instrument (questionnaire pay-point team member) was developed to measure services at pay-points and to determine the problems experienced at pay-points. The empirical investigation revealed the following with regard to this category as seen by pay-point team members: * Some pay-points are not disabled-friendly; * There are not always enough chairs, toilet facilities or drinking water available at pay-points; * Payment contractors and SASSA staff sometimes arrive late at pay-points; * Payments are usually delayed between 15 minutes to less than an hour, but beneficiaries are not always informed about delays; * There are sometimes broken machines at pay-points and this causes 15 to 45 minutes delay in payments; * There is not always enough money at pay-points and it takes an hour to just under two hours to get more money; * Grant recipients hardly ever receive wrong grant amounts; * Hawkers and vendors operate mainly outside the pay-point; * Security guards are available at pay-points and there is access control at pay-points (mainly driven by security guards from the payment contractor) * Not all pay-points are fenced all round and * First Aid kits are available at pay-points most of the time. The fourth data-collection instrument (questionnaire for beneficiaries) was developed to target the beneficiaries who receive grant payments at pay-points. The empirical investigation revealed the following: * Some pay-points are not disabled-friendly; * There are not always enough chairs, toilet facilities or drinking water available at pay-points; * Payment contractors and SASSA staff sometimes arrive late at pay-points; * Payments are usually delayed between 15 minutes to less than an hour, but beneficiaries are not always informed about delays; * There are sometimes broken machines at pay-points and this causes 15 to 45 minutes‟ delay in payments; * There is not always enough money at pay-points and it takes an hour to less than two hours to get more money; * Grant recipients rarely receive wrong grant amounts; * Hawkers and vendors operate mainly outside the pay-point, but there are exceptional cases where they operate inside the pay-points; * Beneficiaries do feel safe at pay-points most of the time; * Beneficiaries mostly live within walking distance from the pay-point; * Beneficiaries hardly experience problems at pay-points and if they do, their problems get resolved; * Not all pay-points provide shelter from the elements; * Beneficiaries are satisfied with the services SASSA renders and the grant has improved their quality of life. Grant administration processes in SASSA are labour-intensive and officials play a vital role in the correct administration of social grants. The study has revealed that although there is clearly some strength in the grant administration process from application-to-approval up the payment of social grants at pay-points, it is unfortunately true that the weaknesses are overwhelming.
- Humanities