SA Post Office Chief Executive Mark Barnes in Parliament. Photo: Chantall Presence / ANA
SA Post Office Chief Executive Mark Barnes in Parliament. Photo: Chantall Presence / ANA
SA Social Security Agency acting chief executive Pearl Bhengu. Photo: Chantall Presence / ANA
SA Social Security Agency acting chief executive Pearl Bhengu. Photo: Chantall Presence / ANA

PARLIAMENT- National Treasury would be facilitating meetings between the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the South African Post Office (Sapo) to break an impasse over the taking over of the welfare grants payment system currently run by a private firm.

Briefing a joint meeting of Parliament's standing committee on public accounts and its portfolio committee on social development on Wednesday, treasury director general Dondo Mohajane said he facilitated four meetings between Sassa and Sapo officials to try and break the deadlock.

"It is unfortunate that the two parties in terms of trying to resolve this...have not found each other in terms of agreeing on the role that Sapo should play in the grants administration," Mohajane said. It emerged that Sassa had not provided reasons to Sapo why the latter seemingly did not qualify to distribute over 17 million social security grants. That information has now been given to Sapo.

Mohajane also confirmed that technical teams from both sides have not met to discuss. This too, would also now happen. "We will from our side, bring out partners in the reserve bank, bring partners in Treasury who understand banking systems to form a committee that basically will ensure that strict deadlines are adhered to...," said Mohajane.

In addition, Mohajane said they discovered that at political level there was no proper guidance to both parties from responsible cabinet ministers. "This process up to now lacks a firm guidance that is needed from the IMC [inter-ministerial committee], that the two ministers should facilitate that at least from high political directive is given to actually move on the same page because currently that is not happening." On Monday, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini announced that Sapo fell short on three of four key functions needed to pay out social grants administration in South Africa. 

Post Office chief executive Mark Barnes contradicted Dlamini on Tuesday. Dlmini said the post office could not print the required 4.2 million beneficiary cards per annum that were required, or vouch for a sub-contractor who could do so. Barnes said this was simply not true.

“We can produce two million cards after eight weeks…then two million every three weeks,” Barnes said.  The Post Bank, an autonomous division of the Post Office, was the seventh biggest bank in South Africa and was more than capable of doing payments, he contended. “All our counters are considered ATMs and beneficiaries can withdraw funds as well. We do not need to register as a merchant to make payments,” he said.

Barnes said they would make use of cash-in-transit services to deliver cash to pay points for beneficiaries without bank cards. He argued an independent assessment by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) did an independent assessment of the post office, testing them against 218 categories of performance. The CSIR evaluation, according to Barnes, were tested against 218 requirements, scoring a 97 percent pass rate.  

- African News Agency (ANA)