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Sun Dec 11 02:13:29 SAST 2016

Sassa assures Parliament that it is ready to take over grant payments

Linda Ensor | 2016-11-30 14:15:26.0
Thokozani Magwaza. File photo.
Image by: Jeremy Glyn

The Social Security Agency of SA (Sassa) will be ready to pay social grants to 17-million beneficiaries from April 1 next year when it takes over the distribution of grants from existing service provider Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

Sassa’s newly appointed CEO‚ Thokozani Magwaza‚ made this assurance to MPs on Wednesday.

He acknowledged the concern over the state of readiness of the agency to take over the distribution but insisted during a long-awaited presentation that Sassa would be in a position to fulfil its constitutional obligations.

However‚ the presentation on progress by Sassa project leader Zodwa Mfulani did little to reassure MPs that Sassa would in fact be ready.

Mfunali cited the example that biometric verification of social grant beneficiaries would only be ready by October 2017‚ one year later than the October 2016 deadline laid down by the Constitutional Court.

Furthermore a request for information on payment infrastructure and cash distribution and security systems will only be issued in the next month.

DA social development spokesman Bridget Masango said she did not believe Sassa would be ready by end-March while DA MP Lindy Wilson said Mfulani's report was "bad news".

Sassa pays out R141bn in social grants annually to support children‚ the elderly and the disabled.

The progress or otherwise of the preparations for the takeover as from April 1 next year has been a source of great concern to the DA.

The party’s repeated questions to the Department of Social Development and Sassa about progress had been blocked‚ DA social development spokeswoman Bridget Masango said in an interview.

There is a perception of a lack of political will and a suspicion on the part of the DA that the department and Sassa are stalling in order to create a situation in which the contract of existing service provider Net1 subsidiary CPS is extended for a further 12 months.

The Constitutional Court ruled in 2014 that the contract between Sassa and CPS was irregular but Sassa decided not to award it to another provider citing so-called deficiencies in the bids made and decided it would take over the payment of social grants as from April 1 when the CPS contract expired.

The court laid down certain deliverables and timeframes for Sassa in preparation for the takeover. These related to the integration of systems‚ biometric verification and authentication‚ payment processing‚ payment infrastructure‚ cash distribution and security and card issuance and special accounts.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini appointed an advisory committee to advise on the takeover and once it was dissolved‚ work streams within Sassa took over the work.

Magawaza’s presentation dealt with the nature of the system that Sassa was working on to ensure that it could distribute the grants.

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