Dlamini, Bhengu argue they should not be held financially responsible for CPS contract extension debacle

2018-04-17 18:34
Former minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini. (Charl Devenish, Foto24)

Former minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini. (Charl Devenish, Foto24)

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Former minister of social development Bathabile Dlamini and the acting CEO of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), Pearl Bhengu, believe they should not be held personally liable for the costs of extending Cash Paymaster Service's (CPS) contract with the agency.

Dlamini and Bhengu were given until April 16 by the Constitutional Court to explain via affidavits why they should not be held financially responsible for the legal costs of extending the contract.

The Constitutional Court granted Sassa an application to allow CPS to continue distributing the grants for another six months.

Despite granting the extension, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng wanted to know why Sassa only approached the court in February and not in December 2017, when the agency was aware that an extension would be necessary.

READ: Sassa woes: Dlamini, Bhengu to explain why they should not foot social grants legal bill

Dlamini acknowledged that it was her responsibility to ensure that "all constitutional obligations" were performed diligently and without delay.

"I humbly submit that I have not acted in bad faith," she said in her affidavit.

"I have acted at all relevant times in good faith in relation to the grant beneficiaries and, therefore, I submit that I should not in law be held personally liable for costs in these proceedings."

Beneficiaries' rights not violated

Dlamini argued that she had "moved swiftly" to ensure the department complied with the orders of the court and implemented them efficiently and diligently.

She argued that she hadn't acted in bad faith, with the intent to deceive, been negligent or unreasonable.

"I did not violate any grant beneficiaries' constitutional rights either," she said.

"I have to the best of my ability and within the agreed structures within government carried out my obligations and at all times sought to discharge my responsibilities as my oath of office requires."

Dlamini "humbly" requested that she shouldn't be joined in the proceedings in her personal capacity and ordered to pay the costs herself.

Bhengu also argued she had acted reasonably and showed a willingness to improve the situation faced by Sassa.

'I acted reasonably throughout'

"It should be borne in mind, so I have been advised, that penalising individual functionaries, while it might be appropriate in a particular case, where there is recklessness or gross negligence, will not address the profound structural problems within an ill-equipped system which the functionary strives to improve," Bhengu said in her affidavit.

"The form of commitment I have maintained does not warrant that I should be [held financially responsible]."

Bhengu argued that she could only be held responsible if it could be shown that she acted in bad faith or with the intent to deceive, and with a "manifest disrespect" of her duties.

"The only possible finding that the court can make is that I acted reasonably throughout, since my assumption of office in July 2017 to the date of filing this affidavit," she said.

"The circumstances that existed and culminated [in] the launching of the application on the 6th of February 2018 have in my view, been handled by me in a reasonable objective manner."

"My conduct could not have been reprehensible such that it can warrant for personal liability for costs," Bhengu argued.

She argued that Sassa was a litigating party in the ongoing saga surrounding the social security agency and the payment of grants to millions of South Africans, and therefore there was no basis for her to be joined into the matter in her own personal capacity.

"It is submitted that everything I have done can only be attributed to the discharge of my responsibilities associated to the office I occupy," Bhengu said.

Read more on:    sassa  |  cps  |  pearl bhengu  |  bathabile dlamini  |  social grants  |  service delivery

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