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New Sassa crisis looms as it goes back to drawing board on grants

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has announced that it will now restart its process to secure the payment of social grants after it found that the South African Post Office (Sapo) could not fulfil its requirements.

Mark Barnes, the chief executive of Sapo, has called Sassa’s latest comments “incorrect and inaccurate”. Barnes said he will appear in Parliament on Tuesday, where he will set the record straight on Sapo’s capabilities.

After being absent for numerous meetings in Parliament, social development minister Bathabile Dlamini held a press briefing in the Eastern Cape on Monday – just two days before she is set to answer oral questions in the National Assembly.

Dlamini said that during the procurement process to strike a deal with Sapo, a realisation was made that the Post Office could only provide one of four services.

In order to provide the other three services, Sassa would have to reopen the process and award a contract to another party.

The four services Dlamini says Sassa requires are:

  • provision of integrated payment system
  • banking services
  • card body production
  • provision of cash payment services

Sapo, according to Dlamini, is only able to satisfy the first service.

What Sassa is now proposing is that the bidding process be reopened on November 3 2017. She says it will conclude in the “last week of February 2018”. That leaves less than a month for Sassa to adhere to the Constitutional Court’s deadline for it to secure a grants payment service provider.

The Sassa cards, on which beneficiaries receive their grant payments, are scheduled to expire in December 2017. Sassa has no way to renew the cards and deliver them to beneficiaries, but Dlamini has said there should be calm.

I wish to stress that no card will expire come December 2017,” Dlamini said.

In the meantime, Sassa has just four months to find a new service provider to pay grants. In March 2018, the agency’s extended contract with its current service provider Cash Paymaster Services will expire as per the Concourt’s deadline. The contract was earlier declared invalid, but has remained due to Sassa’s inability to find an alternative service provider or insource the required services. 

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