Treasury review slams Sassa

A deal to ensure that poor South Africans receive their social grants is set to be signed by Friday.

This news comes amid tense wrangling this week between the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the SA Post Office (Sapo), forcing Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe to intervene.

Before Radebe told Parliament on Wednesday that the deal would be signed, Treasury accused Sassa of deliberately sabotaging Sapo to prevent it from securing the controversial multibillion-rand contract to distribute government grants.

A Treasury document suggests that Sassa had no intention of giving the contract to Sapo.

Treasury compiled the document, a review of discussions between the two parties, at the request of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts and the portfolio committee on social development.

The review, which Treasury’s director-general Dondo Mogajane sent to acting Sassa boss Pearl Bhengu this week, reveals that the agency’s bid evaluation committee and its bid adjudication committee:

- Did not give valid reasons behind allocating Sapo fewer points in critical aspects of the tender;

- Automatically disqualified Sapo for “incapacities” instead of talking to it about how to rectify them;

- Failed to recognise that there was simply no government agency that could render all services without outsourcing some of them;

- Should not have recommended that Sapo be disqualified, but should instead have sought intervention from Treasury and the interministerial committee on social security, headed by Radebe;

- Did not correctly calculate Sapo’s score; and

- Said Sassa’s tender specifications were biased.

The document says Sassa’s bid evaluation committee scored and shot down Sapo’s proposal in August – before the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) released its due diligence report.

The CSIR was commissioned to conduct due diligence on Sapo to help the evaluation committee decide if it could take over the distribution of social grants.

A senior government official close to Treasury said the fact that the bid evaluation committee scored Sapo’s proposal before the CSIR sent the report was proof that Sassa had ulterior motives and did not want Sapo to get the contract.

“This shows that Sassa wanted what it wanted, and your guess is good as mine as far as what exactly that is,” the official said.

The CSIR report found that Sapo met most of Sassa’s criteria.

However, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini last week announced that Sapo could provide only one of the four required social grant payment services – the provision of an integrated payment system.

The other three services entailed manufacturing bank cards, the provision of banking services and the option of cash payments at pay points.

In disqualifying Sapo from producing bank cards, Sassa said it had no capacity to produce them, and did not disclose how it would subcontract this component of the tender.

But Treasury said this was unfair because the current contractor, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), “does not render all the services on its own” and that many other government agencies outsourced services.

The review also took issue with Sassa for taking two months to evaluate Sapo’s proposal.

The government official said Sassa’s delays were a time-buying tactic to ensure that when CPS’ contract expired at the end of March, no one would be ready to take over, forcing CPS to enjoy another extension of its contract.

This was confirmed by Treasury, which found that as a result of the delays, neither Sapo nor Sassa would be able to take over from CPS by April 1.

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