Scepticism greets new grants payment plan

Crisis over? Post Office, Sassa to pay social grants via a hybrid system

09 November 2017 - 06:43 By Babalo Ndenze
Bathabile Dlamini last week claimed the Post Office did not have capacity to distribute social grants worth more than R172-billion to more than 17 million beneficiaries.
Bathabile Dlamini last week claimed the Post Office did not have capacity to distribute social grants worth more than R172-billion to more than 17 million beneficiaries.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Members of parliament remain doubtful about the government's commitment to resolving the social grants crisis, despite assurances by a high-powered delegation that the Post Office would take over the payment of grants from Cash Paymaster Services.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told MPs on Wednesday that the deadlock between the Post Office and SA Social Security Agency had been resolved and that both would be paying the social grants through a "hybrid model" from April.

Radebe briefed a joint meeting of the standing committee on public accounts and the portfolio committee on social development in his capacity as chairman of the inter-ministerial committee.

Committee members appeared before the two committees at the insistence of MPs last week after Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Sassa and the Post Office clashed before lawmakers over who should take over from CPS following a Constitutional Court order that nullified its contract earlier this year.

Dlamini last week claimed the Post Office did not have capacity to distribute social grants worth more than R172-billion to more than 17 million beneficiaries. But Post Office CEO Mark Barnes insisted the opposite was true.

After the inter-ministerial committee's intervention, which included a meeting that ended at midnight on Tuesday, Radebe said the three bodies had now agreed on working together to pay the social grants.

He said details of the "hybrid model" would be fleshed out on Friday next week once the project plan had been finalised.

Dlamini did not utter a word during the meeting as Radebe dealt with questions from MPs.

Radebe said the project plan included roping in other state organs where necessary.

But this was not good enough for opposition MPs, who said law enforcement agencies should investigate why there had been a delay in deciding on the role of the Post Office as the new distributor of social grants.

EFF MP Ntombovuyo Mente said the party suspected foul play.

"Who is engineering the delay? We're not going to run away from that. We're not going to do oversight, which is suppressed. In Sassa, whoever was dealing with specifications deliberately delayed the process and the Hawks must investigate.

"[They] need to get to the bottom of who is the problem in the [Department of Social Development] and that person must account to law enforcers. This is crime," said Mente.

The IFP's Mkhuleko Hlengwa said he was also sceptical about the intervention plan.

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