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ConCourt to rule if Bathabile must pay for Sassa-CPS case

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini will find out on Thursday if she is personally liable for legal costs incurred in the social grants matter the Constitutional Court heard in March.

On March 17, the Constitutional Court ordered Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to continue paying social grants for 12 months from April 1.

It ordered that the contract with the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) be based on the same terms and conditions as the one that expired on March 31.

At the time, Justice Johan Froneman ordered Dlamini to submit an affidavit by March 31, explaining why she should not be joined to the case in her personal capacity, and why she should not be made to pay the costs of the parties who brought the case.

When asked how she felt about the order, Dlamini said she was shocked by the news and said no one individual could be singled out for the situation in which Sassa had found itself.

“This is the work of a collective, but if a court says at the end of the day: ‘Take responsibility’, we are going to ask: ‘How should we take responsibility for the whole thing that has happened?’

“I personally think this time is not a time to say: ‘No, I would not have agreed to this, I would have agreed to this [instead].’

“I think this time is more precious and important because it’s giving us an opportunity to apologise and to recommit ourselves and understand that if you are given an instruction by courts, you must take it very seriously,” she told News24 at the time.

Illegal, invalid contract
In February, human rights organisation Black Sash filed an application to the court asking it to exercise oversight over the process of finding a new social grants payment provider.

They argued that Dlamini had failed to provide details about the proposed extension of the invalid grants distribution contract with CPS.

“The Black Sash Trust, therefore, is asking the court to ensure that the continued relationship with CPS is based on terms not harmful to, exploitative of, the grant system, its beneficiaries; the personal data of beneficiaries owned by Sassa; and such data is kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes targeting grant beneficiaries,” it said at the time.

In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the contract Sassa signed with CPS in 2012 was illegal and invalid.

In April 2014, the court suspended the order of invalidity until March 31, 2017, to allow the department and Sassa to insource the administrative requirements to distribute grants.

Earlier this year, Sassa told Parliament it was in talks with CPS to form a new agreement. However, due to the invalid nature of the contract, it would have to deviate from normal bidding processes.

This was something Treasury was not prepared to do unless the Constitutional Court approved it.

An inter-ministerial task team subsequently rejected the two-year deal, saying negotiations should start afresh only if and when Treasury gave its prior written approval for the deal’s violations of procurement rules. – News24

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