Sassa: Two more months to go, more than a million beneficiaries to migrate

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) is stepping up its plan to migrate the remaining 1.1 million beneficiaries still dependent on cash grants to the new system by the end of September.

In papers filed in the Constitutional Court this week, Sassa said the various system glitches that caused major problems at the beginning of July have been addressed and the continued migration of beneficiaries was increasing.

Sassa had until September 30 to transfer more than three million beneficiaries still dependent on the old Cash Paymaster Services infrastructure, to the South Africa Post Office's (SAPO) new system since April.

It also needed to swap out their old Sassa-Grindrod cards for new Sassa-SAPO cards.

After making slow progress in April, the agency has posted better numbers, successfully transferring roughly 1.5 million beneficiaries in May and June, and a further 300 000 in July.

This leaves it with the target of moving the remaining 1.098 million beneficiaries in deep-lying areas to the new Post Office system, with more than eight weeks left to go to the deadline.

"Card swap continued during this period and an additional 116 707 beneficiaries from the cash payment file were swapped from July 20-26," the court papers read.

"This leaves the number of cash beneficiaries to be swapped at 981 962. However, this net effect will only be reflected in... September."

Challenges - glitches

Sassa and SAPO were impacted by a number of glitches at the beginning of July, where 700 000 grant beneficiaries were affected and couldn't get their grants on time.

The new SAPO banking system came under heavy strain and could not process the transactions due to communication, technical and processing constraints, the constitutionally-appointed panel of experts told the court earlier this month.

However, the agency claimed this week that those system challenges have been addressed.

In a media statement on Wednesday, Sassa said the payments for the August 1 cycle went off without any major incidents at all their pilot sites.

ALSO READ: CPS pleads for ConCourt's intervention in grants cash crunch

Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu said on Wednesday that the system had been optimised to handle the sheer number of transactions required and was the "single most reason why there were no glitches" this month.

"Additional staff [have] been deployed to cash pay points to supplement the card swap capacity," the court papers added. "This will ensure that beneficiaries do not leave the pay point without their card being swapped."

Challenges - CPS needs money

Cash Paymaster Services this past week lobbied the Constitutional Court to once again intervene in an impasse with payment between itself and Sassa.

It requested the court to give directions on a new fee recommended by National Treasury in April, and also wanted access to a "floor fee" to help supplement its growing losses.

In court papers filed last week, CPS said it was owed nearly R99m for the months of April, May and June, and had not received payment from Sassa, who was waiting on the court's direction.

The company claimed it was also operating at a loss of R114m per month, as it was still bound to service 90% of the old pay points, but with more and more beneficiaries leaving their system for the new system.

Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi told News24 it would only act on the instruction of the court because anything to the contrary "is tantamount to contempt".

The relationship has also been made tense, with the department and members of Parliament raising issue with the new Easy Pay Everywhere accounts being offered to beneficiaries as alternatives to the SAPO card.

SA should not sleep on Sassa 'capture'

Sassa seems on its way to stumbling over the finishing line as it looks to get the remaining 1.1 million beneficiaries off the old CPS system, while having to fine-tune its new system with the Post Office.

A new study released last week, however, has warned South Africans not to become complacent as Sassa moves away from CPS.

Two Stellenbosch University researchers released a report saying the issues surrounding grant payments over the last few years was not because of incompetence, but rather part of a strategic agenda to capture Sassa.

Authored by academics Professor Mark Swilling and Robyn Foley, the report, How one word can change the Game, sheds light on how the shadow state operated at Sassa.

A part of the attraction was not just for financial gain, but also the manipulation of poor voters, the report claims.

"Critically, it demonstrates that South Africa's shadow state consists of more than just the Guptas, and that the state capture project extends far beyond just state-owned enterprises, infecting some of the most crucial functions of government," its summary says.

"The report illustrates that state capture is not just a form of 'grand corruption' resulting in a financial loss to the state and taxpayer, but it is a political project that has had a direct negative impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in society."

Read the report here.

Sassa's next submission to the Constitutional Court is expected in the last week of August.