LIFELINE CUT FOR MANY AT RISK
LI S A Ve t t e n , a researcher at the Wits City Institute, works closely with non-profit org anisations ( NPOs) funded by the Department of Social Development.
The department is moving toward partnerships with expensive, private sector companies, in addition to funding NPOs.
Vett e n cites t he example of LifeLine, which runs the Stop Gender Violence Helpline to help victims of abuse.
But t he national department decided to fund a second hotline, the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre.
Li f e Li ne r e c e ive s R1.2 million a year from the department, while the command centre’s budget allocation was R20m, according to the Department of Social Development’s budget and the National Treasury, respectively, for 2014/15.
Although LifeLine did not respond to requests for comment, Vetten’s research shows how the Stop Gender Violence Helpline previously fielded up to 13 000 calls a year.
The command centre received only about 3 500 calls in 2014, its first year of operation, and while that number has risen, it’s unclear how many of their calls relate to gender-based violence.
Alan Tait, the chief executive of Advance Call, the firm contracted to run the department’s command centre, says it employs state-of-the-art geolocation technology and offers additional ser- vices such as social workers who can immediately be deployed.
“I would say there are 20 to 25 really qualified counselling calls (a day),” he says, adding the centre easily receives more than 200 calls a day as it deals with other issues too.
Vetten acknowledges the command centre’s use of new technology, but questions the reasoning behind creating an entirely new hotline.
“Why, when there was a previously existing service, which appears to be well used, have they set up a duplicate at considerable cost?” she asks.
The Department of Social Development did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the funding of its command centre.
Incongruities in its payouts exist among NPOs as well, says Vetten.
“Organisations in the same province providing the same work get different subsidies.
“It’s having a very bad effect on the quality of services.”
The department often disperses this funding t hrough service- l evel agreements (SLAs), which do not require the level of transparency involved with the tender process.
In some cases, the use of SLAs can effectively hide the funding destination, say experts.
In Gauteng, the provincial department of social development has a R4.2bn budget this year, 52% of which is allocated to NPOs.
SLAs in the 2014/15 f i nancial cycle, f or example, included a Road Safety Programme worth R10m, Greening for Crime Prevention worth R1.5m and “1st aid kits” worth R3 409 800.
Gauteng Department of Social Development spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba, addressing the purpose of the payments, says, for example, the R10m was used “to promote road safety among children at early childhood centres and to set up junior traffic centres”.
SLA funding is monitored quarterly, he adds.