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Sassa has admitted 2.8 million grant recipients are at risk of not receiving grants next month, should the extension request of the CPS contract be declined by the Constitutional Court.

Pearl Bengu, the social security agency’s chief executive, filed the affidavit on Monday after the Constitutional Court on Friday demanded that both Sassa and the South African Post Office (Sapo) clarify the contingency measures in place relating to social grants payments.

This was after Bengu and her Sapo counterpart, Mark Barnes, announced the plans to the media. This was two days after informing the court that no plans were in place should the request to extend the CPS contract be turned down by the court. 

Evidently irritated, the court on Friday implored the two state-owned entities to lodge affidavits and written explanations, of no more than 10 pages, explaining why neither had informed the court about the contingency plans that were in place.

In an affidavit filed on Tuesday, Bengu said that a panel of experts appointed by the court was on February 23 informed that the agency was working on a contingency plan for beyond six months.

“Sassa is aware of what it will have to do should the court not grant its application. This would mean, of course, that Sassa would not be able to provide cash payments to the 2.8 million beneficiaries on the day, because the plan was still a work in progress, and was dependent on a variety of things which will not be realistically be attained by April 1.”

She added that what she was trying to emphasise during last week’s media briefing was that “the challenge that Sassa has is not that it cannot pay the grants into the various forms of Sassa cards that recipients hold” to receive grants.

“It will not be possible to do it by April 1, and without causing panic to the 2.8 million beneficiaries affected. This is what Sassa sought to avoid by making an application to the Constitutional Court,” she said.

She reiterated that as of March 6, Sassa had “not consulted on any contingency plan in relation to cash payments of the social grants with the panel of experts, nor the inter-ministerial committee”.

She added that the plan outlined during the media briefing had not yet been costed and properly evaluated.

“The plan has not been budgeted for, and several steps will have to take place before it can be implemented,” she said. She added that Sassa executives working on the project were, after last week’s hearing, summoned to find an alternative solution for cash grants.

“I apologise for any impression created that Sassa was not transparent with the court about whether it had a contingency plan in place or not, in respect of the cash component,” she added.

Barnes reportedly also filed an affidavit yesterday in which he emphasised the “phase in, phase out” aspect of the agreement between Sassa and the Post Office.