Dlamini must explain why she should not pay for Concourt case

2017-03-17 11:38
Bathabile Dlamini (File)

Bathabile Dlamini (File)

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Johannesburg – Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini must explain why she should not personally pay the legal costs of the Constitutional Court social grants case.

She had until March 31 to file an affidavit explaining to the court why she should not be joined to the case in her personal capacity, and why she should not pay the costs of the parties who brought the case out of her own pocket, Justice Johan Froneman read from the court's order.

Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) was ordered to continue paying social grants for 12 months from April 1. Its contract with the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) should be based on the same terms and conditions as the one that expires on March 31.

- Read more: CPS and Sassa ordered to continue paying grants

The court suspended its order of invalidity of the current CPS-Sassa contract for 12 months.

Froneman said there had to be public accountability for how the situation was allowed to develop.

Dlamini and Sassa were ordered to file affidavits every three months.

'Display of incompetence'

The court granted Freedom Under Law’s application to intervene in the matter as a second applicant, and applications by Corruption Watch and the SA Post Office to be admitted as friends of the court.

The court gallery was packed to capacity with journalists, lawyers and supporters of the Black Sash.

On Wednesday, the court heard an application by the Black Sash for an order that it exercise supervisory jurisdiction over any new contract to pay social grants and its implementation.

A frustrated Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked how Sassa and Dlamini came to display such incompetence in their handling of the social grants payment debacle.

"How do you get to the level where your clients make themselves look like they are incompetent and you can't even explain how you got to this point?" he asked Andrew Breitenbach, for Dlamini.

Mogoeng repeatedly pressed Breitenbach for answers about why Dlamini did nothing when she learnt that Sassa would not be able to pay grants on its own.

Ensuring grants got paid was one of Dlamini's core responsibilities. She should have demanded progress reports from Sassa, he insisted.

'Illegal and invalid' contract

In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the contract Sassa signed with CPS in 2012 was illegal and invalid.

In April 2014, the court suspended the order of invalidity until March 31, 2017, to allow the department and Sassa to insource the administrative requirements to distribute grants.

Earlier this year, Sassa told Parliament it was in talks with CPS to form a new agreement. However, due to the invalid nature of the contract, it would have to deviate from normal bidding processes.

This was something Treasury was not prepared to do unless the Constitutional Court had approved it.

An inter-ministerial task team subsequently rejected the two-year deal, saying negotiations should start afresh only if and when Treasury gave its prior written approval for the deal's violations of procurement rules.

To date, no new contract had been agreed upon between Sassa and CPS for the distribution of social grants from April 1.

Read more on:    sassa  |  cps  |  mogoeng mogoeng  |  bathabile dlamini  |  johannesburg  |  grants

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