Dlamini explains why there was no wilful intent to disregard Sassa order

2017-03-31 21:17
Bathabile Dlamini (File, Leon Sadiki, City Press)

Bathabile Dlamini (File, Leon Sadiki, City Press)

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Cape Town – Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini did not wilfully intend to disregard a Constitutional Court order in 2014 on the payment of social grants, she said on Friday.

She also did not wilfully intend to undermine the realisation of the guaranteed constitutional rights of social grant beneficiaries.

These were the explanations she gave in an affidavit she filed on Friday, a deadline given by the court.

The court had ordered Dlamini to explain why she should not be joined to the case in her personal capacity, and why she should not pay the costs of the parties who brought the case out of her own pocket.

In 2014 the Constitutional Court ruled that the contract the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) signed with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) in 2012 was illegal and invalid.

It suspended the order of invalidity until March 31, 2017, to allow the department and Sassa to insource the administrative requirements to distribute grants.

It then emerged that Sassa would not be able to pay grants on its own. 

Hindsight

Earlier in March the court handed down a judgment extending CPS's unlawful contract with Sassa for 12 more months. It suspended its declaration of the invalidity for that period.

Dlamini said she had believed that all the goals that had been set would be met before March 31, 2017, except for one relating to a query system, which would be established thereafter and was not a core aspect of the system.

"There was therefore no reason to believe that Sassa would not be in a position to comply by 31 March 2017."

With hindsight, she believes she should have exercised caution and approached the court for directions earlier in light of the looming deadline.

"I accept the concern by the court that the interests of the beneficiaries of social grants stood a real risk of being compromised. This I say with the benefit of hindsight."

In retrospect, she said she should have demanded greater accountability from Sassa officials and more frequent communication and updates on the progress of implementing their plan.

The turnover of leadership at Sassa between 2012 and 2016 partly explained the disconnect in communication, she said.

Regrets

She said she felt she should not be joined in the proceedings personally because she was only discharging her responsibilities as a minister.

Her belief, later proved erroneous, was that Sassa would be able to procure another service provider.

"As it turned out‚ this could not be achieved as there were no compliant bidders."

Dlamini said she believed at the time that the application by Sassa to deviate from a competitive procurement process would be approved by Treasury.

"At that point, hindsight shows that there would have been no legally valid platform to provide those social services without the approval of this court. This I regret."

Dlamini retained her position after President Jacob Zuma made major changes to his Cabinet in the early hours of Friday morning.

Read more on:    sassa  |  constitutional court  |  bathabile dlamini

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