PARLIAMENT– The South African State Security Agency (Sassa) and the South African Post Office (Sapo) will return to the negotiating table after significant pressure from MPs on Tuesday.
MPs sitting on Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and the portfolio committee on social development are fed up that the two parties have not reached an agreement over the payment of social grants just five months before the contract of current service provider, Cash Paymaster Services, a private firm, runs out.
“We hoping from your side as Sassa and Sapo, let’s come back with an agreement,” Scopa chairman Themba Godi said after getting both Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele to instruct their officials to meet to break the deadlock.
On Monday, Dlamini said Sapo could not take over the payment of social grants to around 12 million South Africans as it fell short on three of four key functions to do so. These included that it could not print the required 4.2 million beneficiary cards per annum that were required, or vouch for a sub-contractor who would do so and that it could not provide a full-scale banking service that includes a disbursement account linked to a card with biometric verification data and assure that cards were compliant with all existing ATM machines.
This was strongly disputed by Sapo chief executive Mark Barnes, who told MPs on Tuesday that Sapo was more than ready to start disbursing grants through the Post Bank which was autonomous and a fully-fledged bank.
“We don’t need to register as a merchant. Bear in mind the receipt of social grants is predominantly a one-way transaction,” Barnes said.
He argued an independent assessment by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) did an independent assessment of the post office, testing them against 218 categories of performance.
“There were only eight where it [CSIR report] said requirements weren’t met. I went to a government school and 97 percent was a pass, not a fail, and that’s what we achieved according to the CSIR evaluation,” said Barnes.
Dlamini responded that the information given by Barnes was not contained in information provided to Sassa. At one stage, she accused the post office of bullying her officials.
“It’s not like we have a bad relationship with Sapo. We are trying to work together and surely if you work together, you don’t agree on everything, members sitting here don’t agree on anything. We must be given an opportunity to iron out areas where there is disagreement,” she said.
MPs were not impressed, stressing that only five months remained before the contract with CPS ended and they did not want another situation where the Constitutional Court, who ruled this contract was illegal, had no choice but to allow the continuation of the deal when there was an alternative solution.
Politicians from across the political divide said they would not allow a situation where CPS would be allowed to continue milking the State.
“Who is cooking this…so CPS can come back again? We not gonna allow CPS to come back,” said Economic Freedom Fighters MP Ntombovuyo Mente.
In the end, MPs agreed the two parties would meet and provide a report back to the two committees at 6pm on Wednesday evening.