Dlamini shifts the blame, again

2017-04-02 07:19
Bathabile Dlamini (File, Leon Sadiki, City Press)

Bathabile Dlamini (File, Leon Sadiki, City Press)

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Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has appealed to the Constitutional Court to not hold her personally financially liable for the social grant crisis because she had committed genuine errors and had not acted “wilfully”.

Dlamini also said that she regretted the anxiety caused by fears that there would not be a legally valid platform for the payment of those grants yesterday to the country’s most poor and vulnerable citizens.

However, the minister said in an affidavit prepared for the Constitutional Court that she “ought not to be joined in the proceedings, nor should I be ordered to pay the costs of this litigation out of my own pocket”.

On Friday, Dlamini’s troubles deepened after she missed the court’s deadline to file the affidavit by the close of business, saying that the file was sent electronically and it bounced back because it was too large.

This means that she will have to apply for condonation, failing which the court may make a default judgment against her – which may also be exacerbated by the fact that is was the third time the minister missed the court’s deadline.

In a hard-hitting judgment a fortnight ago, the Constitutional Court was concerned that Dlamini – after the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) presented a report to the court in November 2015 stating that it would take over the payment of social grants internally – did not appear to show any interest in whether the agency was able to comply with its undertaking.

She had also not to come forward in time to declare that the plan would not be achievable.

Dlamini said that she had, until October, “relied on the accuracy of the plan that was presented to me and, ultimately, to the court on November 5 2015”.

She said it became apparent later that Sassa would not achieve the undertaking, and this “was through no wilful design on my part”.

She said she took steps to ensure that Sassa met its obligations and reasonably believed the agency was, “in fact, doing so”.

She said she had no doubt that the plan tabled before the court was able to be implemented and she could not have “assumed anything would be remiss. With hindsight, this was an unintentional error on my part,” said Dlamini.

After learning that the report would not be achievable, Sassa asked National Treasury to deviate from a competitive procurement process. The request was rejected.

Dlamini said the next option was to conclude an interim arrangement with service provider Cash Paymaster Services while the agency was being prepared to provide the service. However, the legal advice obtained by Sassa showed that would not have been tenable.

“With the benefit of hindsight, prudence would have dictated that I direct that we approach this court for directions earlier in light of the looming deadline.”

She said she ordered the withdrawal of papers that Sassa chief executive officer Thokozani Magwaza put before the court on February 28 because “the application was neither authorised by me, nor had it been considered by me, despite the fact that Magwaza had been engaging with me regularly to address how best to resolve the conundrum Sassa found itself in”.

Shifting the blame, she also said it was worth noting that, in December, she had advised Magwaza that Sassa needed to report to the court on the status of the implementation of the payment system. He asked for more time, she said.

She said that “it is not commonplace for the court to award a public official with costs of litigation where adverse findings are made against a department or a public official for work done in their official capacities”.

She said that it happened only “in exceptional circumstances where the court comes to a finding that the public official in the performance of his or her official duties was wilful in the disregard of the court order”.

“To the extent that it may be found that I was remiss, any such conduct was not in my personal capacity, but could be attributable to the discharge of my responsibilities under my office.”

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Read more on:    sassa  |  bathabile dlamini  |  social grant crisis

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