Representatives from the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) have admitted to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts that it did not have an alternative plan in place to continue paying grant money to 17 million South Africans by the end of March.
This came as representatives of the agency and the Department of Social Development accounted to the standing committee on the ongoing imbroglio related to a contract with Net 1’s Cash Paymaster Services (CPS)‚ which the courts ruled was awarded wrongfully.
This also comes amid reports on Tuesday morning that Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza had been suspended. He did not show up to Scopa’s hearing in Parliament‚ but other representatives said he took sick leave on Friday evening and that NDA head Vuyelwa Nhlapo was appointed acting CEO on Tuesday morning.
The members of the standing committee were annoyed by the fact that the Magwaza had not appeared before the committee‚ with some even suggesting the absence was an attempt to avoid accountability.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini also did not show up before the Scopa hearing. However‚ she was in the precinct of Parliament as part of a briefing from cabinet’s social cluster of ministers.
After attempts to get information from the Sassa delegation proved unsuccessful‚ Scopa member for the ANC Mnyamezeli Booi said the committee needed to summon the minister to the hearing.
The committee eventually grilled Sassa’s programme head Zodwa Mvulane on the latest developments regarding the Net 1 CPS contract‚ for which the department is expected to find a replacement in time for 1 April.
Mvulane told the committee that the only sustainable option the agency had was to pursue a new contract with the same service provider‚ thus extending the current arrangement.
She also mentioned a possible service fee increase payable to the service provider from R16 to about R25. She said the agency and department would not approach the courts to have a previous ruling on the contract reviewed‚ but to file a supplementary report on the matter.
When she said Sassa would begin negotiating a new arrangement with CPS on Wednesday‚ DA member Tim Brauteseth raised the contents of a shareholders meeting where Net 1 CEO Serge Belamant suggested that the agency had had extensive discussions on a new arrangement.
Brauteseth told Mvulane that Sassa’s actions were akin to holding a gun to Treasury’s head and expecting the fiscus to absorb the risk of the decision or face “a ticking time bomb” should the social grant payment system collapse.
Sassa issued a statement on Tuesday saying reports of Magwaza’s suspension were “fake news”.
“It is disconcerting to learn that the fake reports about the CEO are actually peddled by legitimate publications we hold in high esteem. Worse still‚ the writers don’t even bother about getting a comment from Sassa before going public on the matter‚” it said.
“Sassa wishes to put it on record that its CEO is on official sick leave until he recovers and Thamo Mzobe is the acting CEO. Social grant beneficiaries and the South African public can rest assured that we will continue to provide all our services at the required standard despite this needless distraction.” – TMG Digital/BusinessLIVE