Can government pay social grants? Parliamentarians wait to hear if its agency is ready
Linda Ensor | 2017-02-01 10:27:23.0
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Government’s South African Security Agency (Sassa) has only two months left to prepare itself to take over the payment of social grants with much work still outstanding if it is to accomplish the task.
Progress with the preparations – or the lack of it – is expected to emerge Wednesday during a briefing by the agency and the Department of Social Development to the portfolio committee on social development.
Black Sash spokesman Elroy Paulus said the organisation had “high expectations for clarity” from the meeting as the April 1 for the takeover looms.
Currently Net1 subsidiary Cash Paymaster Services is responsible for the payment of R140 billion of social grants to about 17-million beneficiaries annually‚ even though its contract was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court.
If Sassa is not able to take over the grants nor able to appoint an alternative service provider‚ it will have to apply urgently to the Constitutional Court for a variation order‚ the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Cals) at the University of the Witwatersrand said in a submission to the committee.
The centre has represented the Black Sash in various court actions related to the administration of social grants and the unauthorised deductions made by financial services companies from them.
Cals attorney Nomonde Nyembe said in the submission that the centre was concerned about the uncertainty over the administration and distribution of social grants after March 31 when the contract with expires. The court granted a suspension of the order of invalidity in 2014 to allow Sassa time to make alternative arrangements for the social grant payments.
Nyembe said if Sassa was not ready to take over the payment of grants and if it had not managed to contract with an alternative service provider to do so by April 1‚it would have to apply to the Constitutional Court for a variation of the court order dated April 17‚ 2014 and continue with the contract with CPS.
Without this variation order‚ the continuation of the contract would be rendered invalid.
Nyembe said it was urgent for Sassa to bring the application for variation “well ahead of the expiry of the period of suspension”.
Sassa informed the Constitutional Court on October 15 2015 that it would take over the payment of social grants itself and Nyembe said “arrangements should have been made over the last 15 months to take over the system”.
– TMG Digital/BusinessLIVE