SASSA has two weeks to show plan to phase out service provider CPS

“CEO says everything is going to plan, but where is this plan?”

Photo of two men

File photo of SASSA chief executive Thokozani Magwaza (right) in March accepting a memorandum from R2K provincial coordinator General Moyo in Pretoria. Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

By Barbara Maregele

16 May 2017

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) says it will have detailed timelines and costing for its plan to “phase out” Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) on schedule. SASSA CEO Thokozani Magwaza assured MPs that CPS would not be paying social grants on behalf of the state agency after April 2018.

This follows the Constitutional Court ruling in March which extended SASSA’s five-year contract with CPS for another year, while the agency made other plans.

The Court reinstated its supervisory role after SASSA failed to meet its own deadline to institutionalise the payment of social grants after the five-year 2012 contract with CPS was declared invalid.

Magwaza was presenting to Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday, where MPs once again grilled Magwaza and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, along with other officials.

Magwaza said they will be meeting with the South African Post Office tomorrow [17 May] to determine to what extent SAPO can pay grants on the Agency’s behalf.

“Once we have an idea of what SAPO’s capacity is, then we can go to National Treasury with how much billions this plan will cost,” he said.

Magwaza was responding to questions about the claim made by Dlamini last week that the five-year plan to take over the payment of social grants would cost R6 billion.

He said a detailed report will be submitted to the Constitutional Court by 17 June.

Despite Magwaza’s assurances, MPs said that they remained sceptical of SASSA’s progress since the March court ruling. They raised a number concerns around the lack of detail and timelines given to Parliament.

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said: “I will only be comforted when I see something tangible. April 2018 is not far and I don’t get a sense of urgency from SASSA. The CEO says they are working hard and that everything is going to plan, but where is this plan?”

ANC MP Mnyamezeli Booi said: “Our responsibility as Parliament is to get this done. Our people will not be held ransom by this company [CPS] again. We thought that by now you would have sorted out your problems.”

EFF MP Ntombovuyo Mente said: “What will be in the report to the Court in June? … I hear you say that SASSA is adhering to the Court instructions, but we don’t know what you’ve been doing.”

Mente also asked Magwaza if his relationship with Dlamini remains contentious as noted in an affidavit to the Constitutional Court.

Magwaza responded, saying: “My relationship with the Minister is cordial. We agree to disagree on certain matters.”

During the morning’s questioning, Dlamini was excused to attend a Cabinet briefing on nutrition. DA MP David Ross said that it was “yet another attempt by the Minister to dodge questions”.

Ross also said that SASSA’s business plan was “not well coordinated”.

In response to questions around biometric and payment data of beneficiaries, a SASSA official in the briefing told MPs that by January next year the Agency would have migrated all of the beneficiaries’ information to its new system. Currently, most of the data is still with CPS.

Scopa chairperson Themba Godi asked Magwaza to give the assurance that the contract awarded to SAPO or any other service provider will be done legally.

“We will give the CEO two weeks to respond to us in writing about all things we want to know,” he said.

Irregular spending

Scopa MPs also grilled SASSA CFO Tsakeriwa Chauke and Dlamini about irregular spending at the Agency for expenses such as damage to cars, traffic fines, and officials not showing up to conferences and meetings when hotels had been booked.

Mente questioned Dlamini about the use of private security services for her children. “I know the safety of your children is a concern, but you are employed by Parliament not the Department. You should have called SAPS. Why were they paying private security? Were you aware that this was irregular spending?”

In response, Dlamini said that she feared for her children’s safety after they had “received a call from someone in prison and their house had been broken into a number of times”.