MPs on Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts have expressed strong reservations that the South African Social Security Agency will be able to meet the Constitutional Court deadline to switch service providers for the payment of grants
During Tuesday’s meeting‚ SASSA acting CEO Pearl Bhengu‚ who has been in the post for two weeks‚ assured the committee that they would be able to meet the Constitutional Court imposed deadline of April 1‚ to hand over the payment of about 17 million social grants to a new service provider.
The contract with the current service provider CPS was declared invalid but the Constitutional Court extended it for one year to avoid any non-payment of grants.
The committee heard that several “workstreams” set up to investigate ways in which to bring the payment of the grants in house‚ have been dissolved. These work streams were paid R48-million of a budgeted R53-million.
SASSA is now working with the South African Post Office but several committee members said the plan presented to them was vague‚ and appeared designed to bring “CPS in through the back door”.
ANC MP Nyami Booi‚ who was in no welcoming mood‚ accused SASSA officials of not giving them the facts.
“What they’re saying‚ we’ve been hearing for years. We want a progress report. You can’t be talking about ‘a lot of work’. We want details‚” he said.
SASSA met with SAPO in May‚ but only gave them an official Request for Proposal on July 24. SAPO has submitted its bid documentation and acting CEO Bhengu said these would be evaluated and adjudicated by August 31. Contracts will be drawn up by September 8 and testing is scheduled to start on November 1.
Bhengu could not tell the committee what the Post Office could offer as this was currently being evaluated but said that any services they could not offer‚ would be subjected to open tender.
EFF MP Veronica Mente said she wanted a guarantee that CPS would not be contracted to supply these services.
“This is exactly where CPS comes in the back door‚” she said.
She also said the long delays in between meeting with the Post Office and the issuing of the RFP pointed to an “element of delay”.
Booi agreed with Mente saying “you’re not here to get this project off the ground. She’s right‚ you don’t want CPS out‚” he said.
IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said he did not want the committee to be seen to be “aiding and abetting” another grants delay.
Hlengwa also asked about whether SASSA had enough skilled staff to pull off the project‚ to which Bhengu responded: “SASSA doesn’t have the requisite skills to embark on a process of this magnitude.”