ConCourt to hear Black Sash's grants application

Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court will on Wednesday hear an application by Black Sash for the court to exercise oversight over the process to find a new social grants payment provider.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has so far failed to provide details about the proposed extension of the invalid grants distribution contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

"The minister has demonstrably failed to exercise effective oversight over Sassa, which is her constitutional obligation," Black Sash says in its heads of argument filed to the court on March 10.

On March 8, the court sent Dlamini and the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) questions about the process of appointing a new service provider to pay social grants from April 1. They were given a deadline of Monday at 16:00 to provide answers.

Dlamini and Sassa failed to meet the deadline to answer the court's questions about when Sassa knew it would be unable to take over the grants payments, when its contract with CPS expires on March 31.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday issued a new directive to Sassa and Dlamini to explain why they missed the deadline to respond to its questions. Dlamini missed this deadline as well by several minutes.

"The reason for this is explained in the an affidavit deposed to by the Sassa attorney of record, Mr Timothy Mandla Sukazi, in support of an application for condonation that to the best of my knowledge was delivered this morning," she said in an affidavit filed on Tuesday.

"I respectfully state that I have made every reasonable effort to comply with this court's directions."

In 2014, the court ruled that the contract with CPS was illegal and invalid. It suspended the order of invalidity until March 31 this year to allow the department and Sassa to insource the administrative requirements to distribute grants.

A task team of Cabinet ministers has rejected proposed extension of Sassa’s contract with CPS.

On Sunday, the DA released a letter it received from the Department of Social Development confirming there was still no new contract between the department or Sassa with CPS for the distribution of social grants from April 1.

New papers before the Constitutional Court reportedly show that Sassa and CPS had agreed to a two-year, fixed-price contract earlier this month.

According to the Mail & Guardian, a committee headed by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe decided the negotiations with CPS should be terminated and fresh negotiations start. This could however only happen if Treasury approved the deal's violations of procurement rules, then acting Sassa CEO Wiseman Magasela says in an affidavit filed with the Constitutional Court.

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