File picture: David Ritchie/Independent Media
Parliament – Parliament's watchdog public accounts committee has written to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to ask that it be given insight into the monitoring of grant payment by Cash Paymaster Services for this year and the process of finding a new service provider to play that role thereafter.

"The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) has written to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on issues around the Constitutional Court judgement on the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) in relation to its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and the processes of securing a new and valid contract," the committee said on Friday.

Committee chairperson Themba Godi asked Mogoeng for the names and contact details of legal and technical experts who have been appointed to work together with the Auditor-General of South Africa as a panel to evaluate the implementation of grants during this 12-month period with the CPS contract.

Godi said in the letter to the chief justice that he was asking so that the committee could, if necessary, invite the panel to brief MPs on its findings. He added:

"Furthermore, I am of the view that it would be useful for us to engage further on the implications of the judgement and on the manner in which Scopa can assist in ensuring that the Respondents comply with the order of the Court. Kindly indicate if you would be willing to attend such an engagement so that the necessary arrangements can be made."

The Constitutional Court ruled in March that Cash Paymaster Services had a constitutional duty to continue to pay out some 17 million welfare grants every month until the function could be taken over by another entity.

Rights groups took the issue to the highest court after it emerged that the the South African Social Security Agency was not ready to take over payment, as per an earlier undertaking to the court, when CPS's contract was due to expire at the end of that month.

This week, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, said Sassa was still five years away from being able to pay grants and that preparing it to do so would cost the taxpayer R6 billion.

Godi noted that Scopa would have another meeting with Sassa next Tuesday to discuss the implications of the court judgment and to deal with the long-standing issue of R1.1 billion in irregular expenditure on the agency's books.

In particular, he said, Sassa would be asked why an extra R316m was irregularly given to CPS to re-register grant beneficiaries.