In June, in a written parliamentary response, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula told the National Assembly that the SAPS had shelled out R15m for the integrated communities registration outreach programme (Icrop).
Sassa is the custodian of the Icrop project and funds it from its budget. The programme is targeted at wards identified as the poorest in the country.
In his parliamentary question, DA MP Archibald Figlan had asked Mbalula how much the police had spent on the project in the past financial year.
In response, Mbalula listed the 28 events and how much was spent on each one.
The expenditure ranged from R4.5m for a function in King Sabata Dutywa Municipality’s ward 31 to R8 000 in Nyanga, Cape Town. Other figures ranged from R750 000 in eThekwini Municipality’s ward 2; R1.2m in Thembisile Hani Municipality’s ward 1; and R1.3m in Rustenburg Municipality’s ward 44.
The SAPS was early this week sent a list of clarity-seeking questions by The Star. Spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, on Thursday responded, saying: “I am unable to provide answers to any of your questions at this stage, because the relevant office is in the process of providing a revised response to Parliament.”
Among questions sent to Naidoo were: What role the SAPS played in the project?; How many officers were on average deployed to each Icrop event? And a request for a breakdown of how money was spent.
Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi confirmed that Icrop was a Sassa-funded project. He explained that several government departments supported Sassa in the outreach programmes. These included the SAPS, Home Affairs and Health, he said.
“Officials from the Department of Home Affairs assist in processing applications for people who don’t have identity documents. Health is there to assess if people qualify for disability grants. The SAPS certifies documents (for grant applicants) and affidavits,” he pointed out.
Asked if the departments contributed financially to the project, he said: “They don’t contribute directly to us, but spend according to what they are doing.”
The project made headlines early this year when reports emerged of how the grants distribution agency had allegedly irregularly awarded a R400m contract to a company under police investigation.
The three-year contract, on which Sassa had already spent over R200m in one year, was now being investigated internally by the agency, Sassa said in its 2016/17 annual report.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) in September demanded that Icrop be cancelled and the money reclaimed. The organisation said it had been provided with information on the deal.