Officials of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) have turned against Minister Bathabile Dlamini, accusing her of meddling in their efforts to present the SA social grants payment plan to Parliament.
The officials revolted against the minister this week after a number of alarmed officials approached amaBhungane with separate, corroborative accounts telling how she tried to lord over the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) with a last-minute plan to boost the role of private contractors – particularly that of the controversial incumbent, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) – in the SA social grant payment scheme.
This revelation came a while after members of Parliament rejected the possibility of former prisoners getting SA Social grants.
“Staff decided to defy the order for her own good,” said one of the officials who went on to reveal that officials redrafted the presentation at the last minute – although the end result was an awkward compromise.
The officials said Dlamini’s plan contradicted an “open architecture” alternative that Sassa, Treasury, the Department of Social Development, and the SA Reserve Bank had fleshed out.
When officials refused to table Dlamini’s plan, amaBhungane’s contacts said she ‘went rogue’ and tried to stop them from presenting to Parliament’s portfolio committee on social development.
Dlamini’s favored plan is argued to extend CPS’s role to at least 2019. CPS currently distributes social grants nationally for Sassa. Its contract expires on March 31, after which government has no clear plans.
But, according to reports, the officials are worried that extending CPS’s contract and later replacing it with another proprietary solution, as Dlamini appears to want, would increase the risk of tender corruption.
In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled against Sassa, saying it had mismanaged its tender process so badly that CPS’s contract was invalid. But it let CPS keep it so grant payments would not be interrupted.
amaBhungane’s contacts have consistently described deep divisions between the SASSA officials and the minister on how to proceed come April 1, especially in finding a viable plan for paying the SA Social grants, arguably government’s most important delivery function.
About 17 million South Africans benefit from SASSA’s R10 billion grant every month. The SA Social grants was put in place by the government to keep many South Africans from abject poverty.
Should payments be interrupted, “the country is going to burn,” Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza has warned.
While Dlamini and Sassa refrained from responding to written questions on the matter, Magwaza – who reportedly made the decision to sideline Dlamini’s presentation – poured cold water on the claims in a phone conversation.
“We did not defy the minister on anything. Yes of course the presentation changes all the time. But the minister does not prepare the presentation. It was prepared by us,” he said.
Dlamini’s preferred presentation was allegedly drafted by the payment transition project manager, Zodwa Mvulane who some of the officials repeatedly referred to as Dlamini’s “point woman” in Sassa.
They insisted Dlamini had instructed Mvulane to draft the presentation. Mvulane did not reply to questions.
Meanwhile, the MPs questioned the logic of spending money trying to rehabilitate and skill offenders so they could find work after their release, only for them to get money for free.
Justice committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga said the idea should not even get off the ground because they (former prisoners) have to be allowed to find work for themselves and not to be given free money.
DA MP James Selfe who was shocked at the idea of giving grants to former prisoners also explained that employing them in expanded public works programmes would support them so they could provide socially useful service