In The News South Africa

Sassa says new welfare payment regime will see data secured

PARLIAMENT, May 31 – Using the SA Post Office as an interim distributor of welfare grants would help to secure beneficiaries’ data since it would be managed within government, the Social Security Agency of SA (Sassa) stressed in a briefing to Parliament on Wednesday.

Sassa said furthermore, government would be using its own infrastructure and the post office already had sophisticated payment infrastructure and experience of paying out social assistance.

The embattled agency was reporting to the portfolio committee on social development on progress towards phasing out the services of Net1 subsidiary Cash Paymaster Services and taking over grant payment itself.

Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza said the initial talks between the agency and the post office had been concluded and a procurement process would start. He said the deadline envisioned to have a new service provider on board was November.

Magwaza said he wished to emphasise that the post office would not be “taking over” welfare payment from Sassa, which was unable to take over the payment function in April, prompting a Constitutional Court ruling obliging CPS to continue grant payment.

“SAPO is not taking over… They are helping us in the interim while we get ready. They will never take over from us. We are the ones that are responsible,” he said.

Among the functions that would be placed under Sassa’s direct control during the interim phase, would be the regulation of deductions from beneficiaries’ accounts in terms of section 26A of the Social Assistance Act.

The issue is key because of the controversy over unauthorised deductions by private companies that became rife while CPS has held the contract to pay out some 17 million welfare grants monthly.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini conceded again that “Section 26A has been abused a lot” but said her department was trying to make it easier for welfare grant recipients to challenge deductions by deploying staff that were able to take down affidavits at pay point.

“On affidavits, officials are commissioners of oath, we will bring back this status to make things easier,” she said.

Dianne Dunkerley, Sassa’s executive manager for grant payments, said the agency has received some 129,550 complaints about unauthorised deductions, about half of which concerned payments for air time.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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