The Portfolio Committee on Social Development is relieved that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has finally complied with an order of the Constitutional Court to terminate the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract, and was now distributing social grants on a valid contract with the South African Post Office (Sapo) and directly through banks.
The agency today appeared before the committee in Parliament to present a progress report on the implementation of the Constitutional Court order to terminate the contract with CPS following a ruling that the tender was invalid.
Since that historical court ruling in November 2017, the Portfolio Committee of Social Development and other committees in Parliament have been closely monitoring the developments, to make sure that the agency complied with the court order and, most importantly, to ensure that social grants distribution was not disrupted.
Today, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of Sassa, Mr Abraham Mahlangu, told the committee that the CPS contract was terminated at the end of September 2018 and the agency was now directly responsible for the payment of social grants through the South African Post Office and some other banks.
“For the first time we are paying social grants on a valid contract, we have obliged with the court order and we continue with the stabilisation of our partnership with SAPO,” said Mr Mahlangu.
Sassa executives also reported to the committee that as of 1st October this year, there was not a single grant recipient who was still under CPS.
Committee member, Ms Sibongile Tsoleli, said it was a great relief for the committee and Parliament that finally Sassa is doing what it has been established to do.
“The fact of the matter is that the state is doing it, one can see there is progress and that is a relief to us as a committee,” she said.
Committee Chairperson, Ms Zoleka Capa, also welcomed the progress on the implementation of the Constitutional Court order, and said it did not mean the end of monitoring the developments.
“The committee will continue interacting with Sassa and the Post Office to make sure the distribution of social grants continues undisrupted under the new partnership.
“Let us not drop this hand on support by ensuring that there are continuous progress reports and we will continuously phone the agency if we see there is a problem,” she said.
The committee also welcomed reports that the number of grant recipients queuing for cash at pay points in villages and townships has decreased, which meant that more people were using banks and the Post Office to get their money, which is safer.
“We need to make our communities aware that is important to have less cash at home and more cash in your account. We have a responsibility to make people aware about the benefits of using Sapo and banks instead of collecting all their cash at once, which can attract criminals to their homes,” said Ms Capa.
Asked on the validity term of the contract with the Post Office, the Acting CEO of Sassa said “It looked like it is going to be a long term”, and no longer the five years that was proposed in the initial agreement.
The agency has also made progress in decommissioning the old Sassa cards, which will officially become invalid by December 2018.
Sassa was also expected to brief the committee on the reasons that led to staff embarking on an industrial action against the use of the biometric system. However, members decided against this discussion, saying constitutionally the committee cannot get involved in labour-related matters of the agency.
The committee also advised the Sassa executives to ensure that whatever labour-related matters were there in the agency, they must not impact on the distribution of social grants to children, the elderly and people living with disabilities.
By ZizIpho Klaas
7 November 2018