JOHANNESBURG, March 15 (ANA) – The South African Post Office (SAPO) was on Wednesday interrogated by the Constitutional Court about its submission that it was capable of taking over the payment of 17-million welfare grants within one month.
This comes after SAPO informed the chief executive of South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) on March 1, that it could carry out grant payments within one month.
The Post Office, in its heads of argument, repeated the claim in the Constitutional Court that it was ready and capable to take over the payment of grants.
The Constitutional Court was hearing an application for direct access by non-governmental organisation Black Sash seeking the reinstatement of the court’s oversight role over how grants reach some 17 million beneficiaries.
Sassa declared that it would not be able to in-source the function by April 1, as it does not have the capacity, and thus sought to extend the contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) for a further two years.
Advocate Aslam Bava SC, representing the Post Office, argued that the state-owned agency could carry out the payment of grants via its financial service provider, the Post Bank which has six million accounts, through handing out of vouchers.
“The Post Office has been paying over millions of beneficiaries in the Eastern Cape, so it can deliver,” Bava said.
“The Post Office is standing in the wings. That’s all we are saying.”
Bava said CPS also did not have the capacity to carry out its own functions as it also does subcontracting work, saying the Post Office could do the same but cheaper. Bava also said most of the money made by the Post Office would go back to state coffers.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng questioned Bava on whether the Post Office had “an admirable track record in service delivery”, saying that it seemed “overly ambitious” to suggest it could take over the payment of grants in one month.
“How do we take the Post Office seriously if it says it needs just one month when there is not even a contract in place?,” asked Mogoeng.
“To put systems in place and reach out to people in rural areas, we need a realistic proposal that takes more than one month.”
In the end, Justice Edwin Cameron told Bava to take Mogoeng’s offer that the court would keep the Post Office in mind for future when it is ready to render the service.
Advocate Andrew Breitenbach SC representing Sassa and Minister of Social Development was next to argue for a 12 to 18 months period extension of the contract.
– African News Agency (ANA)