06 MARCH 2017
Yesterday’s press conference held by Minister Dlamini did not reveal any solutions to the crisis of grant payments from 1 April 2017. The details of the proposed future Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract have not been disclosed.
In 2012 the South African Social Assistance Agency (SASSA) contracted CPS to pay social grants on its behalf. The contract was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2013. This order of invalidity was suspended in April 2014.
SASSA filed a report with the Constitutional Court on 5 November 2015, stating that it would not award a new contract, but instead intended to take over the payment of social grants from 1 April 2017, when the suspension of invalidity would lapse. The ConCourt then discharged its supervisory role in this regard.
SASSA is not able to take over the payment of social grants on 1 April 2017. It appears that at this stage, a revised or new contract between SASSA and CPS is the only way to ensure that grant beneficiaries are paid on 1 April 2017. SASSA now intends to enter into a further contract with CPS to continue this function for an unspecified period.
The Minister of Finance has stated that an extended, or new, contract with CPS would be unlawful and uncompetitive, contrary to the requirements of section 217 of the Constitution, and would constitute a deviation from prescribed procurement procedures. The Minister has stated that he will not sanction such deviation unless the ConCourt agrees to this request.
SASSA announced that it would approach the ConCourt for its approval of the proposal. The agency subsequently withdrew its application. On 22 February 2017, the Minister of Social Development and SASSA informed Parliament that SASSA would not make any application to the ConCourt. It would merely report to this Court, at an unspecified time before 31 March 2017, on what it had done.
The Black Sash has made an urgent application for direct access, in the public interest and in the interests of all grant beneficiaries, most of whom are unable to litigate themselves, to seek the re-instatement of the oversight role of this Court for the payment of social grants in order:
- For the ConCourt to have oversight over the proposed contract between SASSA and CPS for payment of social grants before it is a fait accompli;
- To ensure that grant beneficiaries continue to receive payment of grants from 1 April 2017;
- To protect the integrity of the social grant system; and
- To protect grant beneficiaries from harmful practices by, amongst others, CPS.
The Black Sash brings its application to ensure that SASSA complies with its Constitutional obligations to provide social assistance, to do so in a lawful manner, and to protect grant beneficiaries from unlawful depletion of their grants.
The Black Sash submits that, given the situation SASSA has created, the ConCourt should compel SASSA and CPS to enter into a contract on terms designed to protect grant beneficiaries. The Black Sash asks that the ConCourt re-instate its oversight role to oversee SASSA’s further management of its Constitutional obligations relating to the lawful and effective payment of social grants. The matter will be heard in the ConCourt on 15 March 2017.
The Black Sash is a non-politically aligned civil society organisation that has been working on the Hands Off Our Grants (HOOG) campaign with our community and stategic partners since 2013. We note the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) application to join our ConCourt application at this late stage. The DA, as the majority opposition party, together with other opposition parties, has the duty of parliamentary oversight to address and remedy this vital issue of SASSA’s noncompliance. It would seem that Parliament has failed the poorest and most vulnerable South Africans. We are now left with no option but to appeal to the highest court in the land.
For more information contact:
Black Sash Advocacy Manager
082 748 5621 / 021 686 7168
Black Sash KZN Regional Manager
084 430 6133 / 031 301 9215