Sassa and Dlamini yet to answer the ConCourt’s questions

2017-03-13 23:45
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Lulama Zenzile, Netwerk24)

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Lulama Zenzile, Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) have failed to meet the Constitutional Court's deadline to answer the court's questions about when Sassa knew it would not be able to take over the grants payments, when its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) expires on March 31. The court also wanted to know which officials were aware of this.

The department instead filed heads of arguments and a proposed draft order but did not file affidavits expected to indicate who should be liable for the crisis.

The court had sent Dlamini and the grants agency a set of stern questions on March 8. They were given a deadline of Monday 16:00 to make the submission.

The questions asked by the court included one about when Dlamini knew that Sassa would not meet its own set deadline to take over the payments and which officials within Sassa were responsible for determining that the agency would not be able to pay the 17 million beneficiaries.

Response to NGOs

A government official said while an affidavit by the agency with all the answers was ready, CEO Magwaza had refused to sign off on it as it was prepared while he was away.

He returned from sick leave on Monday.

Dlamini and Sassa instead filed papers responding largely to applications by Black Sash, which wanted the court to resume its oversight role in the grants contract and protect beneficiaries' private information, and Freedom Under Law, which wanted to be admitted as friends of the court.

Both Dlamini and the grants agency are not opposing the two non-governmental organisation's applications.

Dlamini however wants the Auditor General and the Public Protector to oversee the details of the interim contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and its implementation.  

Sassa and Dlamini argued in the heads of argument that it was not within the court's ambit to determine the value and duration of the contract.

"Doing that would fall outside the parameters of judicial authority contemplated by the separation of powers," the papers said.

Unlawful contract

The department and the agency said a copy of the contract would be filed with the court within 20 days of it being signed.

The draft order also commits CPS to informing the court of its expenses and profits in the duration of the interim agreement.

"Within 60 days of the completion of the period of any such 'interim' contract, CPS must file with the court an audited statement of the expenses incurred, the income it received and the net profit earned under the completed interim contract," the documents said.

Sassa has also not ruled out taking over the payments in the future, but if it does the process would also be overseen by the two chapter nine institutions.

In court papers filed earlier, Sassa officials said it was only in late August or early September 2016 that they fully appreciated that they would not be able to take over the system. Dlamini submitted to the court that she knew last year in October.

Sassa decided in October 2015 to take over the payments of grants after receiving non-compliant bids for the tender. In April 2014 the court found that the contract with CPS was unlawful but set aside the invalidity until Sassa appointed a new service provider.

Read more on:    sassa  |  bathabile dlamini  |  social grants

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