Cape Town - With only four months to go before a decision is made on a future social grant payment system and service provider, the Constitutional Court has ordered the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to provide a detailed progress plan on takeover arrangements by December 8.
The court also wants the plan to specify roles and responsibilities, precise timelines and risk mitigation measures, and a contingency plan if a seamless transition for payments to 17 million beneficiaries is not realistic.
Sassa is also directed to provide monthly progress reports to the court after filing its plan.
The court’s move comes days after the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on social security, led by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, told the Social Development Committee and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) that the IMC and National Treasury had decided to fast-track the introduction of an integrated payment system.
Sassa and the South African Post Office (Sapo) had previously reached an impasse on a deal for the payment of social grants.
In its engagements with Treasury, the IMC proposed a hybrid model for the payment of social grants that could result in collaborations with commercial banks.
An agreement between Sapo and Sassa is expected to be signed this week and presented to Parliament on December 2.
In its report to the Constitutional Court, the panel of experts tasked by the court with monitoring Sassa’s progress, said Sassa had “repeatedly failed to provide timeous access to information”, preventing it from adequately doing its work.
The panel asked the court to instruct the agency to give it “access to information”.
The court has now directed Sassa to provide the panel with appropriate and sufficient information requested.
However, the human rights organisation, Black Sash, said while the intervention by the IMC was welcomed at “this late stage”, the organisation wanted to see concrete action by November 21.
“It is unclear what is meant by a hybrid model for the payment of grants and how the banks will be involved".
The Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) had indicated its willingness to assist.
However, Grindrod Bank has IT support from Net1 and created Sassa bank accounts, and recently the EasyPay Everywhere account, to facilitate banking, particularly with Net1 subsidiaries.
The Black Sash warned: “In the course of our community monitoring work, we have taken up many cases of unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful deductions and debit orders. We do not want a repeat of the past, where profit is the sole motive of the service provider and grant beneficiaries’ constitutional right to social security and social assistance is violated."
The organisation said it would like confidential data protected and used only for the payment of grants and “the new bank account should include some free services such as no transaction costs for cash withdrawals from ATMs".