Gauteng’s aged, disabled suffer while millions remain unspent

Nomazima Nkosi Senior reporter
Morakane Mosupyoe MEC for Economic Development, Agriculture & Environment at Alexandra Hostel.
Morakane Mosupyoe MEC for Economic Development, Agriculture & Environment at Alexandra Hostel.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Old age homes in Gauteng are being closed, the frail sent packing while disabled people do not have caregivers to bathe them.

This as the provincial department of social development continues underspending on its budget, says Les Sanabria, chair of the Gauteng Welfare Social Services Development Forum.

The department of social development underspent its budget by R438.1m, according to a report tabled on Tuesday before the portfolio committee on social development. The period under review is from April 1 last year to March 31.

While acknowledging that underspending was a problem, social development MEC Morakane Mosupyoe attributed some of the under expenditure to a reclassification of certain items from transfer payments to goods and services.

Sanabria, who the non-profit organisations (NPOs) offering social services to communities across the province, said he was horrified by the department's failure to spend its budget.

“Old age homes are being closed. On the East Rand, the Thembisa Old Age Home was closed in May and people in that old age home were sent home. How do you send frail people home when they need assistance? If you look at programmes you find that money is being sent back to National Treasury. How do you do that when you have so many vulnerable people out there?” Sanabria asked.

“The West Rand Association for the Physically Disabled says 89 people were not paid on time. These people are doing programmes that are the responsibility of the state. When asked why they haven't been paid the department says it's because of a glitch in the system.

“Why are NPOs made beggars when doing the department’s work? Looking at quadriplegic and paraplegic sector, these guys need their caregivers to wash and push them. If they don’t get their money, they don’t go to the homes. The very dignity of the disabled is always hindered.”

According to the report, the department underspent in the following programmes - administration R38.3m, social welfare services R17.8m, children and families R305m, restorative services R13.1m and development and research R63.8m.

One of the other areas the department had failed in was the distribution of school uniforms. The department had set a target of 169,500 but only delivered 11,498.

Speaking to Sowetan on Thursday, Mosupyoe said she had raised the matter of underspending in her department and requested an implementable turnaround plan.

“The reclassification by the AG [auditor-general], which we call circular 21, sent everything into a tailspin in terms of expenditure. They reclassified some items as goods and services instead of payment transfers. We did not agree with the AG in terms of the reclassification.

“The second matter was the AG insisted that we go to tender in terms of providing schoolchildren with uniforms. This move sidelines black female run co-operatives. There were multiple court cases we were waiting the outcomes on. We've got contingency measures in place,” Mosupyoe said.

Speaking on behalf on an organisation working with quadriplegics and paraplegics, a representative who did not want to be named said what the department failed to understand was that late payments could mean life and death in certain situations.

“We deal with individuals who are dependent on personal assistance to bathe them and also help them with everyday life. If we receive money late, it doesn't only impact [us] but the individuals who are laying in bed unable to help themselves,” said the employee.

“It's actually a life-threatening situation because when these guys are alone they develop pressure sores from laying too long on one side. No-one gives them water so they become dehydrated. In the first quarter of this financial year we received our money late and the same happened in the second quarter.

“Three of our biggest donors have pulled funding due to Covid-19 and we couldn't even hold fundraisers because of Covid-19. We're reliant on the money from social development, so to hear they underspent is horrible.”

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