Presidency summons social development director general over social grants crisis

Sassa has begun negotiations with Cash Paymaster Services for the distribution of 17-million social grants. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Sassa has begun negotiations with Cash Paymaster Services for the distribution of 17-million social grants. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The director general of the department of social development excused himself from the portfolio committee meeting on the payment of social grants crisis because the presidency had summoned him.

Dangor told journalists that he did not have details of the presidency’s request, and knew only that he had to speak to the presidency immediately.

This followed the news, brought up in the committee by Democratic Alliance MP Evelyn Wilson, that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) had just withdrawn its application to the Constitutional Court to give it guidance on the Cash Paymaster Service (CPS) contract issue.

Presidency spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said the president does not meet director generals of departments, and that Minister Bathabile Dlamini was briefing Jacob Zuma on the ability of Sassa to pay 17-million social security grants beneficiaries on April 1, when the current (illegal and already extended) contract expires.

Dangor said there had been a misunderstanding and that he was summoned to speak to the president’s spokesperson.“You know when the presidency calls you’ve got to answer.”

He said the hurried way in which he asked to leave the meeting was misunderstood. The department always intended to file a supplementary report with a statement of intent to the Constitutional Court and that Dlamini supported it, he said.

Dangor added he did not know the details of why the application to the Constitutional Court was withdrawn but would discuss this with the department when he returns to Pretoria.

He said the absence of chief executive Thokozani Magwaza has nothing to do with the withdrawal of the application and as far as he knews, Magwaza is ill and not suspended from work.

CPS negotiations have begun
Meanwhile MPs heard that Sassa has begun new contract negotiations with CPS for the distribution of the 17-million social grants.

Sassa executive manager for grant payments Dianne Dunkerley told the portfolio committee that negotiations began in Pretoria on Wednesday and will conclude on Friday.

The negotiation will include terms on the ownership of beneficiary data and transaction charges, among others.

“I’m not able to say anything more at this stage, but do commit to give a fuller report to the committee next week.”

Dunkerley said the department had committed to submitting a report to the Constitutional Court.

The portfolio committee expressed its dismay that information was revealed on Tuesday during a standing committee on public accounts meeting but was not revealed to the portfolio committee.

Dangor said CPS, although not the most desired option, is the most practical option at the moment to ensure social grants were disbursed.

He said, if all else fails, 90% of the beneficiaries have bank accounts with Grindrod. For the other 10%, they will have to deal with Post Bank and physical pay points to distribute cash. — News24