The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has effectively told the Constitutional Court that it has no obligation to it.
In an affidavit filed to the court on Thursday morning, signed by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and the welfare agency’s acting CEO, Thamo Mzobe, Sassa said the court no longer has any supervisory jurisdiction over it.
It argued that the court had discharged Sassa from its supervision after the agency filed a progress report on November 25 2015 in compliance with an earlier order from the court.
Sassa concluded that, because it is no longer under the court’s supervisory jurisdiction, it is not obliged to report it.
“Sassa has been advised that, because it has been discharged from this court’s supervisory jurisdiction, it is no longer obliged to report to this court,” Sassa said.
The social security agency did, however, file another progress report to the court on Thursday. In the 2015 report, Sassa said it would take over grant payments as opposed to using the services of a third party such as Cash Paymaster Service (CPS), its current service provider tasked with disbursing social grants.
But in the affidavit filed yesterday, Sassa admits this would be impossible to achieve by April 1. The agency has found itself at the centre of chaos because it has been unable to deliver a system to pay grants before the CPS contract expires on March 31. On April 1, 17-million South Africans will be waiting for their grants to be paid.
Concourt approval ‘not necessary’ for CPS contract
Sassa has told the court it would no longer seek its authority on its negotiations with CPS.
The agency filed an application for the court to authorise its engagements with CPS on Tuesday, but withdrew that application in less than 24 hours. In its affidavit, Sassa attempts to explain that the court’s approval is not necessary for a contract to be signed with CPS. This decision was made under Dlamini’s direction.
“Rather, the Minister [Dlamini] decided to act on the advice that the court cannot authorise an extension of the CPS contract and any new interim arrangement with CPS will constitute a new procurement decision that is subject to section 217 of the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act 1 of 1999,” Sassa said.
In 2014, however, it was the Constitutional Court that ruled Sassa’s contract with CPS was unlawful because the tender awarded to the service provider was invalid.
Sassa, the national treasury and misinformation
In its affidavit on Thursday, Sassa said Dlamini and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan have yet to come to an agreement on how grants should be paid. Sassa said however that there “had been various communications” between Dlamini and Gordhan in recent weeks and that Dlamini “intends to continue to work co-operatively” with Gordhan.
However, on Friday, the national treasury released a statement wishing to clarify its position in the negotiations between Sassa and CPS.
“Following several media enquiries about the national treasury’s participation in the negotiations with CPS for the payments of grants, the national treasury wishes to clairfy that is is NOT (sic) part of this process,” the national treasury said.
It added that the social development department had requested the treasury’s participation, but the request “cannot be considered favourably”.
Dlamini, however, sent a contradictory press statement on Friday saying the national treasury had been involved in negotiations.
The web of misinformation has led to further scrutiny of Dlamini’s trustworthiness. The national treasury has reiterated that it will not support a renewed contract with CPS, unless it receives the Constitutional Court’s stamp of approval.
But on Friday, Sassa said in its affidavit it “does not seek any relief from this court”.
The court has, however, summoned Sassa to appear on March 15 to reach an agreement with all parties on grant payments. The court was responding to an urgent application made by human rights organisation Black Sash, requesting the court to intervene and allow CPS to continue disbursing grants.
Without CPS, the Black Sash argued, grants would not be paid.
In the meantime, what remains clear is that Sassa has yet to secure a delivery system to pay grants come April 1.