Social Development Minister Susan Shabangu assured the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and the portfolio committee on social development that the suspension of the process to get a new service provider would not affect grant beneficiaries.
Shabangu said the South African Social Services Agency (Sassa) would comply with the September 30 deadline, before which they had to find a service provide to take over the cash payment of social grants.
“We suspended the tender of the 2.5 million people’s payment because there were challenges […] in the process of the tender,” Shabangu told the committee.
The minister said the suspension of the tender process was filed with the court on March 23 and reasons for the process being suspended were stated in the court papers. She added these reasons were further outlined in the agency’s monthly report submitted on Monday.
In court papers filed for the suspension of the tender, Shabangu stated the team of individuals tasked with judging tender proposals – the current bid evaluation committee – did not have technical knowledge and expertise to evaluate proposals.
She explained the minister required more time to appoint persons with the required knowledge and expertise to assess “the technical aspects of the bids”.
Business Day reports Shabangu told the court on Thursday that the bid evaluation committee had had to clarify and make amendments to the terms of reference in the tender three times.
The newspaper reports the lack of clarity had been raised by G4S, a potential bidder for the tender.
The potential bidder had said an accurate figure of the cash payment beneficiaries had not been stated on the tender document, it is reported.
“[T]he further information provided by Sassa to the bidders was inadequate, contained discrepancies and made it impossible for bidders to come up with a proper costing,” Business Day quotes the minister as saying.
Shabangu assured Parliament that all social grant beneficiaries, including those who received their grants in cash, would continue to be paid.
“Nothing has changed; there is no new mechanism which has been put in place to replace that. If there is a new mechanism, we will explain it,” the minister said.
Other issues raised by members of the Scopa were that beneficiaries queued in long lines, and at times for days, for their grants, that the winding lines were sometimes blamed on failing systems and that grant recipients were in some areas forcibly encouraged to open bank accounts so their grants could be paid into them.
Shabangu said these concerns would be investigated, adding it was the right of grant recipients to decide whether they wished to make use of a commercial bank to receive their grants.
The minister said another challenge the department was addressing how Grindrod, which dispenses money for the cash payment of social grants, started charging grant recipients R10 during last month’s payment.
Shabangu said that was being dealt with because no agreement about the R10 charge had been made with Grindrod.
The minister said Grindrod had an arrangement with Treasury that for three months – April, May and June – the bank must facilitate the cash-payment social grants.