Dlamini slammed over grants 'crisis'

Johannesburg - Civil society organisations are demanding answers as uncertainty reigns over the future payment of 17 million grant beneficiaries when the grants agency SASSA's contract with Cash Pay Master Services ends in March.

The South African Social Security Agency and the Social Development Department were expected to file papers with the Constitutional Court this week to ask the highest court of the land to extend the CPS contract but they have yet to do so.

Despite attempts by the department and SASSA to reassure the beneficiaries that they will be paid, lobby group Black Sash’s advocacy manager Elroy Paulushas has labelled the uncertainty a “crisis” and is demanding that Minister Bathabile Dlamini be held accountable.

“The real issue for us is who is holding SASSA accountable, who is holding minister accountable?  Is it the portfolio committee on Social Development? Is it others?” Paulus told News 24.

The Democratic Alliance has called on President Jacob Zuma to fire Dlamini, accusing her of manufacturing the crisis to enable the invalid contract with CPS to be extended.

READ: Dlamini is blackmailing the ConCourt

ConCourt judgment

DA shadow minister of Social Development Bridget Masango said Dlamini was more interested in campaigning for the African National Congress than ensuring that millions of South Africans continue to receive social grants.

“Their failure to approach the court after repeated assurances that they would be doing so confirms what the DA believes, that there is a massive conflict within SASSA between hard working officials trying desperately to do their work and the Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini,'' Masango said in a statement.

According to the 2014 Constitutional Court judgment, SASSA is expected to report to the Constitutional Court on plans to take over the distribution of grants worth R120bn per annum after the court found the contract with CPS was unlawful.

Paulus said they are concerned that SASSA is yet to report back to the court. They also want to know if the extension of the contract would force tax payers to cough up more for the distribution of the grants.

They are demanding SASSA to provide timelines that will give clarity to the courts and be transparent on the re negotiated contract with CPS.

"Between February 2012 and end of March 2017 the amount that will be paid to CPS to distribute the grant is R10.5bn. On average it is R2.1bn a year and that was the price calculated in 2012. We are not expecting they will charge that for 2017 if contract is extended. We expect they will charge much more," Paulus said.

Meanwhile the ANC Women’s League has also entered the fray, supporting Dlamini in rejecting a proposal by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for the banks and the Post Office to distribute the grants.

The league’s Secretary-General Meokgo Matuba said the investigation by the Competition Commission against the banks has “proven their untrustworthiness and greediness through various unethical behaviour”.

“It is the ANCWL's view that transformation of the financial sector cannot be postponed any further. Outsourcing the payments for SASSA grants to any of the major commercial banks in South Africa will be against the call for radical transformation of the financial sector,” Matuba said.