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Don't take new SASSA system for granted

Read time 3min 30sec
Government is working to ensure the post office distributes SASSA payments.
Government is working to ensure the post office distributes SASSA payments.

With two months before the current social grants payments arrangement ceases, there are renewed fears that another 'SASSA-gate' is on the cards.

In a statement, the Black Sash says the latest report from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) on how social grants will be paid creates confusion.

The report was issued following an order from the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) on how SASSA payments will be made to beneficiaries when the Cash Payment Services (CPS) contract ends.

This is not the first instance the human rights group has flagged issues with the government-approved hybrid payment model.

Social development minister Bathabile Dlamini. [Photo source: GCIS]
Social development minister Bathabile Dlamini. [Photo source: GCIS]

Following last year's announcement by minister Jeff Radebe that the SA Post Office(SAPO) will be the official distributor of SASSA grants effective 1 April, the Black Sash sought more information about the options that will give shape to the hybrid model for future social grant payments.

"We remain concerned by the lack of clarity around the proposed 'hybrid' payment model; in particular, how cash payments will be made, as well as the transfer of beneficiaries to commercial bank accounts. Both these options present an opportunity for CPS and Net1 to continue the payment of social grants beyond 31 March 2018."

Out with the old

CPS, a Net1 UEPS Technologies subsidiary, distributes social grants on behalf of SASSA. The CPS contract, which was declared invalid, would have come to an end last year in March.

The ConCourt suspended the order of invalidity and ordered a year-long extension of the contract until 31 March to avoid a social grants catastrophe.

The highest court in the land also ordered minister Bathabile Dlamini, the Department of Social Development and SASSA to use the time to find an alternative service provider to distribute social grants from 1 April.

As the distributor of South African social grants to more than 10 million beneficiaries, CPS has faced a slew of allegations that it authorises deductions on beneficiaries' accounts before their social grants are paid out. The payments provider has refuted these claims.

After a tumultuous negotiation period, that required the intervention of an inter-ministerial committee, SASSA and SAPO reached an agreement regarding the future of social grants payments.

The government entities agreed to implement a hybrid payment model that will increase the role of the banks and merchants, and reduce the role of cash payment for social grants.

According to the Black Sash, SASSA has identified approximately two million beneficiaries that have their social grants paid into a private bank account.

"Grant beneficiaries will not receive their social grant in full and be saddled with banking fees they can barely afford, and unauthorised, illegal and unlawful deductions and debit orders."

Butting heads

Meanwhile, Radebe has been left to put out fires, with reports stating there have been disputes between the post office and SASSA.

At the weekend, reports surfaced claiming SAPO CEO Mark Barnes has been left frustrated with the manner in which SASSA deals with matters that are meant to finalise the service agreement.

Radebe has appealed to all the parties to respect and use the agreement, and reiterated that the social grants matter is too serious for government not to prioritise.

"[The] protocol and dispute resolution mechanism were agreed upon, together with the signing of the signed services agreement, signed by both parties.

"Government understands the interest the South African public has in this matter. It is for this reason that it has regularly briefed the public through scheduled media briefings and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Social Development and Standing Committee on Public Accounts," he said in a statement.

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