Cape Town – Black Sash has welcomed Cabinet's intervention in delivering a preliminary agreement between the South African Post Office and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), but says the report back on the arrangement still lacks crucial details.
The inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on social security announced in Parliament on Tuesday that an overarching implementation protocol between the two entities was agreed to over the last 10 days.
The protocol finally gives the Post Office the chance to prove its capacity in providing core banking functions and producing new Sassa cards, previously denied to it by Sassa's bid adjudicating committee.
However Black Sash, the NGO that has led the charge in keeping Sassa accountable to the Constitutional Court, believes the protocol still leaves too many doors open for outside influence.
"Although an implementation protocol has been signed between the Post Office and Sassa, a service level agreement will be 'subject to cost effectiveness'," the NGO said on Tuesday evening.
"The card body production and distribution function will be further subjected to 'price competitiveness'.
"This leaves the door wide open for new tenders and may prolong the implementation time frame beyond 31 March 2018."
The feedback also identified implementation stages but without clear milestones and time frames, or a handover date from current invalid service provider Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).
There was also no detail on who would manage Sassa's 10 000 pay points, and crucially no mention of how the private data of 17 million grant beneficiaries would be protected during the handover.
Black Sash 'cautiously optimistic'
"While we look forward to the creation of a special protected and affordable bank account for social grant beneficiaries, further clarity is needed about the concept for a 'hybrid model' involving the banks.
"Commercial banks should not see this as an opportunity to fleece beneficiaries of their meagre social grants by targeting financial products at them."
The special account should therefore prohibit unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful deductions.
They also called for the announced communication strategy to be implemented with urgency, to protect beneficiaries from misinformation and scams.
"Until Sassa, with the support of the IMC, files a detailed implementation plan on December 8 with the Constitutional Court, the Black Sash remains cautiously optimistic."
IMC chairperson Jeff Radebe said on Tuesday that Cabinet was committed to finalising both the Post Office deal and setting up the 'hybrid model'.
The committee met with the Banking Association of South Africa over the last 10 days with a view to bringing all commercial banks on board.
Radebe assured MPs that Cabinet was determined to ensure the plan works, as there was "no plan B".