Minister unprepared for distribution of R10 billion in social grants – Bridget Masango

DA says Bathabile Dlamini must table detailed project plan including timelines to make sure people not negatively affected by transition

DA confirms Minister Dlamini is unprepared for distribution of R10 billion in social grants 

10 October 2016

The Democratic Alliance has reliably established that, despite the repeated assurances from Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, that her department and the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) will take over the distribution of social grants to millions of South Africans from April next year, they are in fact, completely unprepared to take on this massive task when that day arrives owing to the department not having the infrastructure to discharge this mandate itself.

As such, the DA challenges Minister Dlamini to table a detailed project plan including timelines and costs to satisfy Parliament that she will meet the 1 Aprildeadline. 

This follows information received by the DA from well-placed sources who have asserted that there will be far-reaching ramifications for millions of South Africans who rely on the efficient distribution of social grants for their survival. It is therefore critical that the Parliament is apprised of any and all contingencies to mitigate this ill-timed transition. 

The DA therefore calls on Minister Dlamini and the acting CEO of SASSA, Raphaahle Ramokgopa, to appear before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development as a matter of great urgency to explain in detail what the real state of play is, to own up that they are unable to take on this mammoth undertaking and to tell us what contingency plans they have made in order to avoid a national social crisis.

I have also written to the Chairperson of Parliament’s Social Development Committee to ask her to summon Minister Dlamini and Ramokgopa to give a full presentation on the plan for the transition as soon as possible.

We believe it is in the national interest that the Minister plays open cards on this matter because 17 million people rely directly on social grants in South Africa. In the current economic climate, more than double that number of people rely on them for their survival.

Should they not receive their grants efficiently and on time, the country would face a social crisis of major proportions.

Similarly, if SASSA intends extending the existing contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS)– ruled as invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2014 – we demand to know this too as a matter of urgency.

At present, about 17 million grants, valued at more than R10 billion, are paid out to poor and vulnerable recipients throughout South Africa every month.

In 2012, CPS, a division of Net1, won the SASSA tender to distribute the grant payments which was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court which ordered SASSA to reissue the tender by October 2015 as it said there was “irregular”conduct in awarding the contract to CPS. This was not done and instead SASSA saw fit to extend CPS’s contract until March 2017, under the pretext that the tender bids received “were non-responsive in mandatory administrative functionality”. 

SASSA reported to the Constitutional Court in November 2015 that it would be ready to take over the payment of grants from 1 April 2017. For months now, SASSA and the department have consistently stated that SASSA plans to itself take over the social grants distribution by 2017 and not to reissue the tender.

In a somewhat obfuscatory manner, the Minister has referred to “workstreams”allocated to the takeover task, insisting, that “we will take all necessary measures to ensure the non-disruption of social grants payments.”

However, the DA has learnt that, far from these assurances, SASSA is hopelessly unprepared for the task.

We do not believe that the fate of 17 million poor people should be left in this Minister’s hands. We also believe the government has been lying consistently about one of the most serious issues in the country and that there has possibly been a cover up of corrupt dealings. At worst, what we are witnessing is a dangerous incompetence and a looming social crisis, or, at best, a strategy to create an emergency to keep CPS.

In the coming week, both the department and SASSA will be presenting their annual reports to the Social Development portfolio committee. The DA will use that opportunity to demand answers, but will also not rest until the minister accounts for what is going to happen come April 1, 2017.

Issued by Bridget Masango, DA Shadow Minister of Social Development, 10 October 2016