Dlamini says grants will be paid, but Sassa doesn’t know how

Bathabile Dlamini’s absence from the Scopa hearing left critical questions unanswered. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Bathabile Dlamini’s absence from the Scopa hearing left critical questions unanswered. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

While the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) rebuked Sassa for being unable to answer questions on its plan to deliver grant payments, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini told the social cluster in Parliament that grants will be paid on time.

The Scopa chair closed Sassa’s hearing on its irregular expenditure of R1.1-billion on Tuesday, saying that Dlamini and Sassa are on a “suicide mission” to pay grants by the April 1 deadline. Dlamini did not attend the hearing, but failed to notify chair of the committee Themba Godi that she would be absent.

In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that Sassa’s contract with its current grant payment service provider, Cash Paymaster Services, was unlawful and invalid. That contract expires on March 31 and Sassa currently has no other way to deliver payments on April 1.

Godi described the Sassa crisis as a “political problem” where leaders have failed to account for the disarray.

“When you see the minister is not here, the CEO is not here; what message does it send?” he said.

He revealed that his mother receives her pension grant from Sassa, but he has not yet told her that her pension is in jeopardy.

On Tuesday morning, Sassa appointed an acting chief executive, Thamo Mzobe, to stand before Parliament after current chief executive Thokozani Magwaza was granted 12 days’ sick leave for hypertension.

The absence of Dlamini and Magwaza meant that Zodwa Mvulane, Sassa’s project manager for an internal grant payment service, would be left to field questions from Scopa.

Mvulane was unable to provide any answers as to how Sassa had incurred R1.1-billion in wasteful expenditure or provide details of Sassa’s plans to deliver grant payments within the next 31 days.

As Mvulane stammered through the Scopa hearing, Dlamini was addressing the social cluster inside Parliament, where she said that grant payments would be delivered.

“We would like to take this opportunity and reassure South Africans, in particular grant beneficiaries, that government will through Sassa continue on its constitutional mandate to administer and pay social grants after March 2017,” Dlamini said.

When she was questioned on how Sassa would pay the grants, Dlamini said she would hold a press conference on Wednesday.

Dlamini’s absence from the Scopa hearing left critical questions unanswered.
Should Sassa fail in its negotiations with CPS for a new contract, then 17 million South Africans will not receive their grants.

What is certain is that Sassa is relying solely on negotiations with CPS to make the payments. Sassa is working with Treasury on the issue, but Scopa member Tim Brauteseth doubted whether the Treasury would approve the CPS contract.

Mvulane said that Sassa would not get permission from the Constitutional Court for a contract with CPS. In order for a contract with CPS to be lawful, then Sassa would have to obtain a deviation order from the court allowing the contract.

Godi said that the social agency had years to resolve the matter and their failure to do so has not been fair on Parliament or the public.

“We all went to school, we know this has been engineered. The question is: why? Who benefits?,” Godi said.

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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