Social grants meeting cancelled, Sassa admits no feasible plan for cash payments

2018-03-14 00:39

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) has cancelled a meeting scheduled to discuss the payment of social grants.

The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday evening, was meant to be attended by the inter-ministerial committee on comprehensive social security.

In a statement on Tuesday, Scopa said it had made three attempts to invite the inter-ministerial committee to brief it on payments of social grants.

However, the committee failed to confirm its attendance and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) also said it was unaware of the meeting.

Scopa has expressed some worry regarding the readiness of Sassa and the South African Post Office (Sapo) to pay grant beneficiaries on time.

“Scopa remains concerned about the many conflicting reports about the ability of Sassa and Sapo to meet the deadline of April 1 2018, which might negatively affect grant recipients,” it said.

Last week Sassa announced that the post office was ready to pay social grants.

Newly appointed Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu promised that all social grant beneficiaries would be paid on April 1.

Last April, the Constitutional Court suspended the order of invalidity of the contract between Sassa and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) until March 31 this year, to allow the social development department and Sassa time to find a new service provider to distribute social grants.

This came after the ConCourt ruled in 2014 that Sassa’s contract with CPS, which distributed South Africa’s social grants since 2012, was illegal and invalid.

In December 2017, Sassa and Sapo signed an agreement that enabled the post office to partner with Sassa in the payment of social grants.

Last Thursday, the agency released a joint statement with Sapo to announce a “significant state of readiness” for Sapo to take over the payments of social grants and promised to meet the April 1 deadline.

However, there are 2.8 million social grant beneficiaries who are paid in cash and Sapo will not be able to accommodate them.

Sassa applied to the Constitutional Court to ask the court to suspend the invalidity declaration of its contract with CPS for six months to enable cash payments to be made through the CPS infrastructure for approximately 26% of beneficiaries.

Acting Sassa CEO Pearl Bhengu told journalists last Thursday of a potential plan to assist with cash payments, were the court to rule against extending the contract of CPS.

The plan however, would be “very inconvenient”, she admitted.

The court was unhappy that Sassa had told it days earlier that there was no contingency plan on paper.

In court papers filed on Monday, Bhengu clarified her response to the media, saying there was still no “feasible” contingency plan that will guarantee cash payments on April 1.

The purpose of the press briefing was to show that Sassa was ready to pay the grants of roughly 70% of beneficiaries, but needed assistance with cash payments for the rest.

“As at Tuesday, March 6, there were no formal contingency plans which could have been put into operation in the event that the extension is not granted.

“I reaffirm ... that Sassa has no alternative remedy for the cash payment services and requires the input and intervention of this honourable court.”

- Additional reporting by News24

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December 9 2018