Zuma to take reins of social security committee

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President Jacob Zuma will now chair the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Comprehensive Social Security.
President Jacob Zuma will now chair the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Comprehensive Social Security.

President Jacob Zuma will now lead and chair the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Comprehensive Social Security to ensure the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) order concerning the payment of 17 million social grants is well executed.

The IMC was established last year and is currently co-chaired by the ministers of social development Bathabile Dlamini and finance Pravin Gordhan. Labour minister Mildred Oliphant, transport minister Dipuo Peters, and health minister Aaron Motsoaledi are also members.

Now the president will take over as chair and has added more ministers to the committee, including minister of telecommunications and postal services Siyabonga Cwele, communications minister Faith Muthambi, and home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba. The directors-general of the Department of Social Development and National Treasury will co-chair the technical task team and lead the IMC secretariat.

In a statement over the weekend, the president welcomed the Constitutional Court ruling that permitted the extension of a contract with Net1 UEPS's owned Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) for another year, in order to fulfil the constitutional obligation of paying social grants to beneficiaries.

On Friday, ITWeb reported chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and justices of the ConCourt had permitted the extension of the current invalid social grants payments contract for another 12 months. The contract to distribute social grants to 17 million South Africans was declared invalid by the ConCourt in 2014, and would have come to an end on 31 March this year. The court, however, suspended the invalidity so grants could continue to be paid while the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) makes another plan.

"I have directed the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Comprehensive Social Security to ensure that the order of the court is implemented efficiently and diligently, in its entirety," Zuma said in a statement.

"I want to assure all grant beneficiaries that government will implement the directive of the Constitutional Court and uphold the constitutional rights of the poor and vulnerable in our society. Government will ensure that all beneficiaries receive their social grants on 1 April," the president added.

Zuma also said the IMC will focus on comprehensive social security reforms to address the gaps and weaknesses identified and ensure the provision of comprehensive social security for all.

"The labour movement has been calling for comprehensive reforms of our social security system over a period of time. The IMC will assist cabinet in moving that process forward."

He echoed the minister of social development's apology to grant beneficiaries for the "undue anxiety that resulted from the uncertainty over grant distribution".

"We apologise to South Africans unreservedly," the president added.

Clear parameters

The ConCourt ruling gave clear directives on the extension of the grants distribution and the parameters within which government must operate. It ordered the terms and conditions of the contract shall contain adequate safeguards to ensure personal data of grant beneficiaries remains private, and may not be used for any purpose other than the payment of grants.

Within 30 days of the completion of the contract period, CPS must file - with the court - audited statements of the expenses incurred, income received and net profit earned under the contract. The court also ordered SASSA to obtain an independent audited verification of the statements provided by CPS.

The ordered verification must be approved by National Treasury and the audited verification must be filed by SASSA within a period of 60 days.

The court further ordered CPS to permit auditors appointed by SASSA to have access to its financial information, and that both Dlamini and SASSA must file a report on affidavits with the court every three months, setting out how they plan to ensure the payment of social grants after the expiry of the 12-month period. The report must also explain what steps they have taken in this regard, what further steps they will take, and when they will take future steps to ensure the payment of social grants is done.

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