MPs 'alarmed' as Sassa mum on readiness to take over grant scheme

2016-11-30 19:55
Bathabile Dlamini. (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

Bathabile Dlamini. (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

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Cape Town – The SA Social Security Agency has still not decided on a system to oversee the distribution of grants to 22 million people, despite facing a deadline of April 1 next year, MPs heard on Wednesday.

Members of the social development portfolio committee were alarmed when Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Sassa officials were reluctant to discuss the finer details of the two system "options" they were considering.

The contract with current service provider, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), expires in four months.

Once a system had been decided on, Sassa would need to sign contracts with a chosen bank, create and design new Sassa cards, install a new IT system, and finalise the logistics of registering beneficiaries, transporting cash, and informing the public.

The process to register beneficiary fingerprints would only be finalised by October 2017, Sassa project lead Zodwa Mvulane said.

'No timelines or anything'

Dlamini and her director general, Zane Dangor, were reluctant to discuss finer details of those logistics. Dlamini said it would "put the department's work thus far at risk".

ANC MP Patrick Mabilo said it was an insult for the department to insist the project was a work in progress, when it had failed to meet five deadlines set by the Constitutional Court.

DA MP Evelyn Wilson said the department’s presentation was "guff".

"All we've heard about is a work in progress. The whole point of this meeting was to show us exactly where we are and what needs to be done," she said.

"We have seen nothing in that regard, with no timelines or anything."

In November, 2015, the Constitutional Court finalized seven goals for Sassa to meet to successfully take over the scheme from CPS. Its contract with the department would become invalid from April 1, 2017, due to irregular tender processes.

'Wish list'

The department had yet to report back to the Constitutional Court on missing five of the deadlines. Project lead Mvulane said they had been "overly ambitious" in their targets.

Wilson's colleague, Bridget Masango, called the department's presentation a wish list, with no concrete facts.

Mabilo said the festive season would hamper continued work, effectively leaving the department with two working months.

ANC MP Sibongile Tsoleli wanted to know if the department was ready.

"If we are called upon to give a full account on our contingency plan, that has implications," Dlamini replied.

"It will put some at an advantage, but also put the work we are doing at risk. With due respect, we don't want to risk the work we are doing."

She did not elaborate.

'Answers not good enough'

Dlamini dismissed concerns that grant recipients would want to know the details of the new grant system. All they wanted to know is if they would get paid on April 1, she said.

She blamed some of the delays on the exit of former Sassa CEO Virginia Petersen. New CEO Thokozani Magwaza assured MPs that they would be ready.

Dangor tried to assure the committee that, as director general, he would pressure Sassa to deliver on the deadline and choose one of the options.

He however said he was uncomfortable discussing service providers and contracts in such a "public forum".

The ANC’s Tsoleli said the answers were not good enough, as MPs were responsible for approving Sassa's budget.

Committee chairperson Rose Capa instructed the department to prepare a document setting out its plan to take over on April 1, with clear timelines.

Read more on:    sassa  |  bathabile dlamini

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