ConCourt wants Dlamini to explain why she should not cough up for grants legal costs
Ernest Mabuza | 2017-03-17 11:56:55.0
Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini has been ordered to explain to the Constitutional Court why she should not pay from her own pocket for the costs of an application that dealt with the grant payment debacle.
This order is contained in a judgment by the Constitutional Court on Friday‚ which dealt with an urgent application by rights group Black Sash to ensure that grant payments were made in a lawful manner.
Justice Johan Froneman said Dlamini bore the primary responsibility to ensure that the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) fulfilled its functions.
“The office-holder is ultimately responsible for the crisis … It is the minister who is required in terms of the Constitution to account to Parliament. That is the Minister‚ and the Minister alone‚” Froneman said.
The Department of Social Development and Sassa had earlier indicated to the court they would be unable to take over the payments of 17 million grants per month when Sassa’s contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) expires at the end of this month.
Sassa had told the court in November 2015 that it would not issue a new tender for the payment of social grants and would undertake the payments on its own. The court had in 2014 declared that the contract between Sassa and CPS for the payment of grants was invalid‚ but allowed the contract to run until March 31 2017‚ while Sassa undertook a new tender process. In a judgment on Friday‚ the court ordered that CPS and Sassa were under a constitutional obligation to ensure the payment of social grants to grant beneficiaries from April this year.
The court directed CPS and Sassa to ensure the payment of grants for a 12-month period from April 2017.
The 12-month contract will be under the same terms and conditions as the existing contract between them.
Froneman said Dlamini was the one who appointed Sassa’s CEO and there was little the CEO could do without her direction.
Froneman said attempts to obtain evidence of what steps she took after 2014 to ensure that beneficiaries would continue to be well catered for drew a blank.
Froneman said Dlamini was informed in October last year that Sassa could not comply with its undertaking made to the court in November 2015.
Froneman said Sassa and Dlamini were aware that compliance with the 2014 court order was impossible from late August.
The court said CPS may‚ in writing‚ request the National Treasury during the 12 months to investigate and make a recommendation regarding the price of the contract.
The court ordered National Treasury to file a report with the court‚ setting out its recommendation.
The court also ordered Sassa and Dlamini to file reports with the court every three months‚ setting out how they plan to ensure the payment of social grants after the expiry of the 12-month period.