Who is Sassa? Everything you need to know about the agency at the centre of the social grants scandal

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That’s no doubt one of the many considerations that will have been weighing on the minds of Constitutional Court judges as they wrote up their judgment‚ which is due to be handed down on Friday.

But who exactly is Sassa and what does it do?

A look at the agency’s own records is both revealing and worrying.

It shows that the recent social grants saga is not the first time that Sassa has been in the firing line over its performance‚ particularly around financial management.

Then again‚ why has Sassa failed to deliver on its mandate‚ especially with such a highly skilled staff complement?

Here are some interesting details about the multi-billion-rand government agency‚ largely in its own words:

-The South African Social Security Agency was set up in 2004‚ in terms of the South African Social Security Agency Act.

-In terms of the Act‚ the objects of the agency are to:

(a) act‚ eventually‚ as the sole agent that will ensure the efficient and effective management of social assistance;

(b) serve as an agent for the prospective administration and payment of social security;

(c) render services relating to such payments.

– Sassa employs 8 776 permanent staff.

– Of the 8 776 employees‚ 728 are described as professionally qualified and 1 931 as skilled.

– Its 2015/16 budget amounted to R6‚642 billion.

– Around a sixth of Sassa’s 2015/16 budget was squandered on irregular expenditure‚ which amounted to R1.14 billion.

– R10.91 million was deemed wasteful expenditure by the auditor general.

– As recently as August 2016‚ social development minister Bathabile Dlamini spoke highly of Sassa’s competence.

“The way ahead is clear and preparations are underway to set up an effective organisation that will manage the entire value chain process for the efficient and effective management of the of social grants payment system in South Africa‚” Dlamini said in Sassa’s 2015/16 annual report.

“During the 2015/16 financial year‚ we focused on strengthening the work streams to support and coordinate key components aspects aimed at building state of the art institution that is equal to this task.”

-As far back as 2011 former Sassa CEO Virginia Petersen had signalled Sassa’s intention to be self-sufficient.

“Although the cost of grant payments by cash payment service providers has been marginally reduced‚ the overall administration costs are still unacceptably high‚” Petersen said in Sassa’s strategic document.

“Going forward‚ it makes good financial sense for the Agency to be directly involved in the payment of grants‚ rather than to outsource this function to payment service providers‚ as is presently the case.”

Both the remarks by Dlamini and Petersen are in stark contrast to the picture now being painted of Sassa and its ability to carry out its mandate.

The agency recently conceded it is incapable of handling the payment of social grants.

Sassa wants Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to carry on distributing grants‚ even though the Constitutional Court has ruled that a previous CPS contract was illegal.

CPS’s current grants contract expires at the end of this month.

– Sources: Sassa annual report 2015/16‚ Sassa strategic plan for the fiscal years 2012/13–2016/17

– TMG Digital

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