Today, the DA’s worst fears that the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) is hopelessly unprepared to take over the mammoth task of distributing social grants to millions of South Africans from April next year were confirmed.
This is a threat to the livelihoods of millions of our people, and deserves our utmost concern.
The DA will accordingly request that the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Ms Rosemary Capa, summon the Minister of Social Development, Bhathabile Dlamini and SASSA to report back to the committee as soon as the term opens in 2017, with a proper, concise presentation, complete with deliverables and time frames on this critical takeover.
A long-awaited presentation by SASSA to the portfolio committee on Social Development today made it blatantly clear that SASSA and its plans to take over the distribution of grants inhouse are in total disarray.
In fact, the presentation was a whitewash and an attempt to cover up the irresponsible way with which the grants takeover has been handled.
Repeated requests by members of the committee for an exact response as to who would be paying the grants on 1 April 2017, remained unanswered by Minister Dlamini and the Director General, Zayn Dangor on the grounds that the matter was legally sensitive.
SASSA merely advised that two options were still being assessed and that the whole project was a “work in progress.” No indication was given as to current progress by each of the workstreams which have been appointed to implement the takeover, the current state of the development of the internal ICT system or the recruitment of relevant capacity.
SASSA is scheduled to take over the payments of grants to more than 17 million beneficiaries at the end of March 2017 when the current contract with Net1/Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) expires.
Amidst mounting concerns that SASSA will not be able to rise to the task of taking over the function inhouse, the DA has, for months, been calling on Minister Dlamini to present a detailed project plan, including timelines and costs to satisfy Parliament that they will meet the April 1 deadline.
So far, we have been met with a brick wall. Our questions relating to the takeover have either been left unanswered or have lacked clarity. Attempts to get clear answers in the committee have been met with delays and postponements of planned presentations.
In 2014, the Constitutional Court ordered SASSA to reissue the tender to distribute the grant payments by October 2015 as it said there was “irregular” conduct in awarding the contract to CPS. The tender was, however, not awarded in October last year as the court had ordered.
Instead SASSA said the tender bids received were non responsive, and it extended CPS’s contract until March 2017. The Concourt stipulated seven “deliverables” with timelines that should be achieved for SASSA to achieve its mandate.
However, today it became quite clear that – despite trying to convince the committee that they have been working flat out to deliver on these –SASSA is way behind in this and no fewer than five deliverables have not been achieved.
The DA is now quite certain that Net1/CPS will continue with payments, despite the fact that their tender was deemed irregular by the Constitutional Court, because it is the only option available to SASSA at present. We await the Minister’s announcement, that, based on the fact that grants are a national issue and that recipients are reliant on them for survival, that an emergency situation has been declared and CPS have been asked to continue their services. The DA has, all along suspected that the Department and SASSA are obfuscating the process to create just such an emergency in order to extend their contract with CPS.
Millions have already been spent on an Advisory Committee appointed by the minister to advise on the takeover plan, as well as on a number of “workstreams”, based inside SASSA, who have, to date, failed to deliver.
Playing games with the lives of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans is not acceptable.
Bridget Masango MP
DA Shadow Minister of Social Development