JOHANNESBURG, February 9 – The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has again approached the Constitutional Court to have its controversial contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to pay welfare grants to millions of beneficiaries extended by six months.
In an affidavit filed at court on Wednesday, Sassa acting CEO Pearl Bhengu said the agency still had to make arrangements for at least 2.5 million ”unbanked” beneficiaries and needed CPS to continue dispensing grants until September this year.
”These beneficiaries are in the main the elderly, illiterate and disabled. They constitute what is termed the ‘unbanked’ population who rely on social grants but regrettably, have not, and cannot, at this stage, register with a financial institution,” said Bhengu.
”They lack the sophistication to access any alternative source of payments. They rely on payments being made physically to them at their location. It is in respect of these beneficiaries that Sassa requires an order of this court to enable CPS to continue with this service for the period commencing 1 April 2018 to the end of September 2018”.
After ruling that the CPS contract was illegal, the Constitutional Court ordered in March 2017 that CPS continue to pay grants for a further 12 months, after it was found that Sassa was unable to meet the deadline and take over grant payments. The court’s 12 month extension ends in March.
The grants crisis saw rights group Black Sash and Freedom Under Law (FUL) take Sassa and the department of social development department to court to ensure that over 17 million beneficiaries continued to receive grants.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was widely blamed for what many saw as an engineered crisis designed to maintain the contract with CPS.
She has sought to shift the blame to former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza. Magwaza resigned last year after a fallout with the minister, whom he accused of lying to the court and stalling the grants payments takeover by Sassa.
Dlamini, said Magwaza, deliberately slowed the process through contentious and expensive work streams which cost taxpayers over R40 million and her unwillingness to engage with the banks.
A Constitutional Court-mandated inquiry into the grants crisis and whether Dlamini should be personally liable for legal costs incurred, will resume next month at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand.
– African News Agency (ANA)