Beneficiaries need details about new Sassa process, accounts – Black Sash

Cape Town – NGO Black Sash has pleaded with the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) responsible for handling the social grants crisis to release more details about banking requirements under the new scheme.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) released its fourth report to the Constitutional Court on January 8 on the proposed hybrid model to pay grants from April.

This after the IMC announced in December that the South African Post Office (SAPO) would handle core functions of the new system, while commercial banks would play an increased role.

READ: Dlamini 'was running Sassa like her own shop' - Magwaza

However, with just two months to go, the report raises more questions than answers, Black Sash contends.

"The Sassa-SAPO agreement provides for the creation of a special disbursement account into which social grants will be paid," the NGO said on Monday.

"It is crucial that the SAPO agreement contains the terms and conditions of this account, including the functionalities and the recourse mechanism.

'Beneficiary bank accounts must be protected'

"Grant beneficiaries must receive upfront a copy of these terms and conditions, and SAPO and Sassa must roll out an educational process."

Black Sash was happy that Banking Association South Africa had indicated a willingness to offer low-cost banking accounts, and also called on the South African Reserve Bank to play an oversight role.

The suite of services though need to be agreed to upfront, and thus beneficiaries need the information urgently.

"Social grants are meagre, and beneficiary bank accounts must be protected from unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful deductions and debit orders.

"Child support grants and temporary grants need special protection."

The NGO also had an issue with the instruction some beneficiaries received to transfer to an EasyPayEverywhere (EPE) account, saying the accounts were subject to "suspicious deductions".

"We have observed that it's almost impossible for beneficiaries to close their EPE accounts and revert to the 'Sassa-branded' bank account."

Concern over bank fees

Black Sash was the initial complainant to the Constitutional Court in 2014, contesting the validity of government's contract with current service provider Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

They would also like to see a deal in place to ensure private and confidential data of beneficiaries is secured, to avoid "a repeat of the CPS/Net1 fiasco".

"Grant beneficiaries have expressed concern about having to pay bank banking fees, particularly exorbitant cash withdrawal fees.

"We urge Sassa and GCIS (Government Communication and Information System) to modify the communication and marketing plan to help beneficiaries better understand the implications of the payment options and transition processes."

SAPO CEO Mark Barnes on Thursday fired a veiled attack at Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, accusing Sassa of being "non-responsive and causing delays" in his entity's ability to take over the scheme.

Barnes sent a hard-hitting letter to Mpumi Mpofu, the director-general at the department of planning, monitoring and evaluation, asking her to intervene.

READ: Post Office fumes at Sassa