Bathabile Dlamani evasive during inquiry - Judge Ngoepe

Former Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was evasive when questions were put to her during an inquiry into her role in the 2017 social grants crisis, according to Judge Bernard Ngoepe.

Ngoepe, who chaired the inquiry, criticised the minister in a report he had compiled.

He said that she failed to answer simple questions - something which he had mentioned while the inquiry was under way.

During the inquiry, Ngoepe said that Dlamini would "unjustifiably answer 'I don't know/remember' to important questions".

"She would simply not answer some of the questions. Instead of answering the questions, she told counsel to proceed to the next one. She gave long answers, which did not speak to the question asked." Ngoepe said.

"...I simply could not understand why the minister was not properly answering such a simple question."

He said Dlamini would answer questions with questions.  

The inquiry was instituted last year to investigate whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for the costs in the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) debacle.

The inquiry probed whether Dlamini had sought the appointment of individuals to lead the various work streams, which would report directly to her.

Details of the appointments, such as when individuals were appointed, who they reported to and the dates and contents of the reports on the work streams to the minister were also investigated.  

The inquiry also looked into why the minister did not disclose this information to the court that dealt with the matter.

Ngoepe's report stated that Dlamini gave instructions for the appointment of work streams and also identified specific individuals to lead these streams.

The work streams were tasked to capacitate the agency to take over the payment of social grants itself. The deadline for the agency to do so was March 31, 2017.

Although Ngoepe did not make recommendations, he said Dlamini's explanation on why she did not disclose the appointment of the individuals to work streams was "unconvincing".  

"The appointment of work streams and their role was central to the whole exercise of meeting the deadline. Therefore, in dealing with any aspect relating to the crisis, it is difficult to understand how the minister could have justifiably leave out the issue of the appointment of work stream...."

Ngoepe found that the reason why Dlamini failed to report on the work stream was because she feared being held responsible in her personal capacity for the costs in the Sassa debacle.

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