ConCourt's stern questions to Sassa over grants

2017-03-08 15:16
Constitutional court. (News24)

Constitutional court. (News24)

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Cape Town – The Constitutional Court has put the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and its CEO on the spot with a sternly-worded request for details on when exactly the agency realised it would not be able to pay welfare grants by itself, and would instead renew its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

In instructions issued on Wednesday, the court said it wants to know exactly when it dawned on Sassa that it was not going to have its own grants payment system in place by the time CPS' contract expired on March 31, 2017, as promised. It also wants to know who made that call.

"Who was the person responsible for determining on behalf of Sassa whether Sassa itself would not be able to pay the grants by the end of March 2017?" the court papers issued on Wednesday asked.

The answers are required by 16:00 on Monday.

In the request signed by court registrar Kwadi Makgakga, Sassa is asked for: 
 - "The date when the responsible person on behalf of Sassa first became aware that it would not be able to pay the grants by itself by end March 2017;
 - "The exact dates when the responsible person on behalf of Sassa became aware that the respective time frames set out in paragraph 13 of its progress report to the court could not be fulfilled;
 - "The reason why this court was not immediately informed of this fact and who made the decision that it was not necessary to do so."

Competitive bidding processes

The court wants to know whether Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was informed and, if so, when.

It also wants to know whether Sassa has entered into any agreement with CPS in relation to the payment of grants from April 1. If so, full details of the agreement are to be sent.

If it is in writing, the court wants to see a copy.

The court wants a breakdown of the steps taken to make sure the agreement is in line with the Constitution and what steps are being taken to make sure it is in line with procurement laws.

The court also wants to know what steps were taken, or are going to be taken, to run a competitive bidding process. It also wants to know what the timelines on this are.

It wants to know exactly what Sassa is doing to make sure it can pay beneficiaries itself, and wants time frames for this.

Suspicions over delay

The court wants to know whether Dlamini has any objections to independent monitoring of these processes, and if so, to send the court a reason for the objections.

Civil rights organisation Black Sash has applied to the Constitutional Court over Sassa not meeting the court's deadline, and to get more information on the CPS contract.

This matter is expected to be heard in an urgent application on March 15, with the DA and Freedom Under Law hoping to be able to join the application amid inferences that there was something suspicious about Sassa not getting ready in time to take over from CPS.

The contract with CPS was found to be invalid in 2014, but the court gave Sassa and its CEO until March 31, 2017, to have a new grants payment system in place.

Sassa filed a report in November 2015 to say it was going take over grants payments and on November 29, 2015, the court withdrew from its oversight role.

Read more on:    sassa  |  cps  |  bathabile dlamini  |  cape town  |  grants

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