Business

Ray Mahlaka
3 minute read
26 Jan 2018
9:18 am

Bathabile Dlamini has her version of the truth

Ray Mahlaka

Despite an impasse between her department, Sassa and the Post Office raging on for eight months.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has rejected the suggestion that she was opposed to the idea of the SA Post Office taking over social grants payments from incumbent distributor Cash Paymaster Services.

Dlamini told a Constitutional Court-mandated inquiry that she, in fact, supported the inclusion of the Post Office into the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) network to pay social grants to more than 17 million beneficiaries.

The mandate of the inquiry – presided over by Judge Bernard Ngoepe – is to probe Dlamini’s role in the Sassa fiasco that nearly jeopardised the livelihoods of SA’s most vulnerable citizens and whether she should be personally held liable for it.

As on Wednesday and Thursday, Dlamini said the Post Office was suggested as the paymaster long before CPS’ contract with Sassa expired on March 31 2017.

CPS’ contract – which was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2015 as it didn’t go through proper tender processes – was extended by the same court at the eleventh hour in 2017 for another year ending on March 31 2018.

“Whoever said I was opposed to the Post Office? I don’t know where that comes from,” Dlamini said when cross-examined by Vincent Maleka, the senior counsel for Zane Dangor, a former advisor to Dlamini and her department’s Director-General.

Dangor resigned in March 2017 citing a breakdown in his relationship with Dlamini over the handling of the phasing out of CPS’ contract.

“In advisory committee meetings, I was supporting the Post Office coming on board [in the payment of social grants],” said Dlamini.

She said minutes of several meetings in which Dangor and other Sassa executive committee members were present could prove her support for the Post Office and how CPS eventually became the paymaster.

Dlamini told the inquiry on Thursday that the idea of the Post Office being contracted to pay social grants was also touted by her predecessor Edna Molewa. Dlamini was appointed as Social Development Minister in 2009.

Her apparent support of the Post Office is in stark contrast to what two Sassa insiders have recently told Moneyweb. She preferred CPS and was pushing to extend its contract with Sassa beyond the period allowed by the Constitutional Court, the agency’s insiders said.

Dlamini’s reluctance to collaborate with the Post Office was also revealed in November 2017 during her appearance before the Social Development Committee and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in Parliament to deal with the Sassa crisis.

An impasse between Dlamini and Post Office CEO Mark Barnes ensued over the capacity of the state-owned enterprise to pay social grants. Barnes revealed in Parliament how Sassa, which is overseen by Dlamini, frustrated the Post Office’s efforts in submitting and qualifying for a tender to pay social grants.

It took the intervention of National Treasury officials, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and MPs to break the impasse between Sassa and the Post Office, resulting in the latter eventually being selected to collaborate with commercial banks to distribute social grants.

At the heart of the inquiry is Sassa’s controversial work streams, a parallel function that had been established in July 2016 comprising of Dlamini’s handpicked advisors to investigate Sassa’s capacity to take over social grant payments from CPS.

The work streams were controversial because officials from Sassa had little knowledge of their existence, they failed to make progress on its mandate and more than R30 million was spent on them which the National Treasury has recorded as irregular expenditure.

Thursday was Dlamini’s last day testifying at the inquiry and she was excused by Judge Ngoepe. The inquiry is scheduled to end on Friday.

Brought to you by Moneyweb

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