Put grants tender on ice

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) was set up to reduce inefficiency, fraud and corruption in the government’s immense programme of cash transfers to poor people.

It was meant to streamline delivery, beef up security and eliminate ­controversy over competing tenders for the lucrative business of disbursing money to pensioners and the recipients of child and disability grants.

Right now, however, Sassa itself is at the centre of a growing controversy over its own procurement processes. The tender to distribute more than R100-billion of grants annually — from the remote valleys of the Eastern Cape to the townships of Gauteng — is itself worth about R10billion, which puts it among the biggest government contracts.

It also places it among the most bitterly contested. Disappointed bidder Allpay, which is controlled by Absa, is fighting in court against the ­awarding of the tender to its rival, Cash Paymaster Services, citing numerous irregularities.

Meanwhile, the Mail & Guardian has revealed over the past month a series of governance failures, conflicts of interest and the offer of an “open-chequebook bribe” at various stages of a fraught, on-and-off process.

This week we show how the shadow of Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale hangs over Cash Paymaster Services, albeit through a company linked to men who are his proxies in other ventures. Added to what we have already reported about the roles of President Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, Michael Hulley, sports administrator Gideon Sam and National Development Agency chief executive Vuyelwa Nhlapo and the procedural concerns raised by Allpay in its court papers, these details make it impossible to have any faith at all in the process.

The department of social development should immediately halt further implementation of the contract until the murk can be cleared and confidence in the decision-making process rebuilt.

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