The Black Sash is gravely concerned at the outcome of SASSA’s briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development on Wednesday 1 February 2017. More specifically, SASSA’s failure to meet the Constitutional Court Order of 2014 to create and implement the insourcing of social grant payments by 31 March 2017. This affects over 17 million people.
SASSA proposes that the unlawful contract with Cash Paymaster Services to pay social grants be extended for another year ending 31 March 2018. The CPS contract has resulted in countless and unresolved complaints of unauthorised, fraudulent, and unlawful deductions from grant beneficiaries’ SASSA bank accounts. SASSA submitted its timeframes to the ConCourt in November 2015. More than 14 months has passed with no progress and now only weeks before the deadline SASSA will be approaching the ConCourt to extend an invalid contract in the hope of a favourable judgement.
The extension of the CPS contract by a year is premised on several assumptions and decisions to be made by third parties; that the ConCourt will rule in favour of an extension; that National Treasury will grant an extension of the contract in terms of its procurement policies; and that CPS will come on board on agreeable terms. With only 41 working days left before the contract expires, SASSA is not only ambitious but also reckless.
SASSA’s inaction has created this crisis. Yesterday SASSA acknowledged to Parliament that they ‘have failed’. The agency has placed itself in this position by not adhering to the timelines ordered by the ConCourt. SASSA’s inaction has further placed grant beneficiaries’ wellbeing and survival at risk with continued unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent deductions from their bank accounts with inadequate recourse, resulting in indebtedness. We are dismayed about the trading of grant beneficiaries’ confidential data, which was not addressed in SASSA’s proposals.
SASSA presented six options, each with their own benefits and risks for short to long term implementation. The medium to long terms plans are vague and without milestones or timeframes. How did SASSA come to the conclusion that the contract should be extended by one year? SASSA also did not disclose how much extra this will cost the tax payer. The Black Sash and our civil society partners have not been consulted on these options despite our repeated requests throughout 2016, and despite serving on the Ministerial Task Team to stop deductions. Given its history, SASSA does not inspire our confidence that they are capable of delivering on their own milestones timeously within the year, let alone successfully insourcing social grants.
The Portfolio Committee on Social Development has failed the South African public in its oversight role by not asking the pertinent questions raised above. The Minister has also been significant by her absence at a hearing on this matter for a second time. Ultimately, in the absence of oversight, who will hold SASSA accountable for the creation and delivery of an insourced grant payment system that will finally put an end to unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent deductions? We, as part of civil society, demand answers now. We will work with renewed determination to find these answers in the public interest.
Black Sash Statement issued on 2 February 2017