Sassa asks ConCourt for direction over CPS contract

2017-02-28 23:02


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Johannesburg - Following a day of grilling over its fruitless and wasteful expenditure and the status of its contract with CPS, Sassa has lodged papers requesting direction from the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.

"They did lodge papers requesting direction from the judges from the Constitutional Court. The papers were lodged after 17:00 and they are before the judges now," Constitutional Court spokesperson Nathi Mncube told News24.

Earlier on Tuesday the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) grilled Sassa project manager Zodwa Mvulane over the agency's readiness to take over the social grants scheme that distributes funds to more than 17 million South Africans.

Former forensic investigator and DA MP Timothy Brauteseth led the charge, asking Mvulane which of the two options available to Sassa the agency will take.

"Sassa faces a fork in the road: you've got the court option and you've got the contract extension option. Which one are you taking?" Brauteseth asked.

Mvulane told the committee that Sassa wouldn't be asking for an extension.

'Between a rock and a hard place'

The agency would rather file a "supplementary report" with full disclosure to the court that it would negotiate a brand new contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

Brauteseth said in that case Sassa faced a problem as Treasury had said it would not support an extended contract with CPS.

"You are between a rock and a hard place. Treasury will not support you. What is the plan?" he said.

Mvulane said that Treasury's stance was based on the impression that Sassa would be extending an illegal contract.

The new contract would have new terms, and there were provisions in the Public Finance Management Act for emergency procurement, which they were sure Treasury would support, Mvulane said.

"I hope you're right," Brauteseth said.

Increased costs

The new rate at which CPS would negotiate the terms could rise between 30% and 50%, and was therefore beyond the budget, Brauteseth said.

The current rate CPS charges is R16.44 per recipient. Their new rate, its CEO had bragged at a public meeting, could be between R22 and R25, Brauteseth said.

Sassa's 2018 budget is R2.6bn, but the new rates will put costs at between R3bn and R3.4bn.

Mvulane faced the brunt of the committee's questions directed at Sassa on Tuesday morning after both Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza failed to appear before the committee.

The committee was told that Magwaza was on sick leave and that Thamo Mzobe had been appointed to act in the position, until the CEO returned.

There were reports that Magwaza had been suspended, however, Dlamini's spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said this was not true.

"The CEO of Sassa is officially on sick leave and because the work of the agency needs to continue particularly at this crucial period, the minister has appointed Ms Thamo Mzobe to act.

"It's pure speculation that the minister has suspended the Sassa CEO. He has officially submitted a sick leave [application] to the minister as per the advice of his medical doctor and the minister has duly obliged," Oliphant said.

Concern for beneficiaries

Activist group Black Sash also indicated its intention to lodge an application with the same court in a bid to compel Sassa and Dlamini to ensure that grant beneficiaries would still be protected come March 31.

"The Black Sash Trust, therefore, is asking the court to ensure that the continued relationship with CPS is based on terms not harmful to, exploitative of, the grant system, its beneficiaries; the personal data of beneficiaries is owned by Sassa; and such data is kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes targeting grant beneficiaries," it said in a statement.

The papers would be lodged by the Centre for Applied Studies, on the trust's behalf.

Both the centre and the trust said they were deeply concerned that the payment of the grants could be compromised due to Sassa's failure to ensure that it was ready to take over payment of the grant system by April 1, 2017, or to award a lawful competitive tender timeously, it said.

"We can only hope to avoid more harm by ensuring that the contract going forward is not negotiated on terms only favourable to CPS and instead protects the constitutional rights of the people it is meant to benefit," it said.

Read more on:    sassa  |  thokozani magwaza  |  bathabile dlamini  |  grants

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