- Difficult operating context. The project was implemented during a very turbulent time in SASSA’s history. The ConCourt case in which the Black Sash made an urgent application for direct access, to seek the re-instatement of the oversight role of the Constitutional Court for the payment of social grants temporarily strained the relationship between BS and SASSA national officials but has improved despite the indefinite suspension of the MTT in February 2017. Many SASSA officials initially feared involvement with BS. BS managed this and SASSA officials attended dialogues and continued to work with BS and CPs as indicated above.
- Change of personnel at the national executive level of SASSA: The situation at SASSA national executive has been quite fluid over the length of this project. The SASSA CEO has changed several times. BS’s management note that its relationship at the national executive level of SASSA is fluid given the litigation and changing personnel. This indicates an increasing importance of maintaining the CBM sharing and learning relationship with DPME. Further, despite the litigation Black Sash continued to maintain good working relationships with SASSA officials in the provincial, district and local spheres of the agency.
- Targets: The survey targets for the rural, smaller communities were not met. In one of these sites three pay points were combined to produce one SASSA report. BS management note that the lesson is to do more preparatory work with the CP prior to finalising the selecting of the facility to be monitored. In the case of the urban based established CP in Khayelitsha, it was determined that while it is good to have established, well known organisations partnering with Black Sash to do this CBM project, these organisations have their own programmes and it was not always easy to get them to fully participate in the project. As a result, the target of 300 surveys for each SASSA facility was not reached.
- Performance of the CPs: The new CPs needed substantial support and guidance from BS. However, the CPs more experienced in this CBM work offered peer support and learning to the new CPs.
- Funding: The funding for this project arrived later than expected. Although some preparation work continued while waiting for the funding, items such as the computer tablets could only be purchased once the funds reflected in the BS bank account. As a result, there was a scramble to be ready for the training with CPs in mid-September. The administrative work of registering SIM cards, loading airtime for each tablet, charging of the batteries, etc. was still ongoing after training had begun. BS managed to catch up during support and mentoring visits to CPs.
- Funding for CPs: Monthly Stipends to CPs should be for the full duration of the project as work continues throughout. Travel and other expenses were incurred and CPs had to carry these costs. For two months of the project (December and January) CPs did not receive the stipend. It was once again clear that the lack of resource mobilisation for community-based organisations is a huge barrier. It is essential that these organisations remain part of any CBM exercise to ensure that service users in poorer communities have the voice and resources to undertake the necessary advocacy actions needed to effect change.
We agreed with our partners that the CBM would take place on an annual basis to give the facility more space to effect implementation. We are exploring how we can improve the Dialogues (content and facilitation) and the functioning of the monitoring /Improvement Committees between the cycles.