| CAPE TOWN
CAPE TOWN Feb 28 Millions of South Africa's
most vulnerable people, including the disabled and the old, are
in danger of missing their social security payments because of a
service-provider dispute, setting the government racing to meet
an April 1 deadline.
Zodwa Mvulane, project manager at South Africa's Social
Security Agency (SASSA) said on Tuesday the agency was seeking
to ensure as many as 17 million people continued to receive
their money, despite concerns that retaining the existing
service provider is both unlawful and costly.
"We will be negotiating with the current service provider
for a new contract," she said.
The existing contract, run by Cash Paymaster Services, a
unit of technology company Net1 unit, has been in doubt
since South Africa's highest court ruled four years ago that
the tender process to acquire its services was unlawful. It
ordered that a new contract to be negotiated.
SASSA has so far failed to find a new service provider to
take up the service at the start of April or set up its own
payment agency, officials said, adding that they opted to renew
the deal with Cash Paymaster Services despite the court order.
The looming crisis saw opposition parties and ruling African
National Congress members of parliament unite on Tuesday in a
rare display of cross-party condemnation as SASSA officials
struggled to justify the delays.
For millions of South Africa's most vulnerable SASSA money
is often the difference between an empty or full belly.
The Treasury has expressed misgivings about SASSA retaining
Cash Paymaster Services, a move also criticised by members of
parliament's committee on public accounts.
"You are literally between a rock and a hard place, because
Treasury will have to approve your process and it doesn't look
like it wants to do it," said Tim Brauteseth of the opposition
Brauteseth quoted a Treasury letter to SASSA saying
extending a contract declared invalid by the Constitutional
Court was "not justifiable".
The government's expenditure on social grants in the 2017/18
financial year amounting to more than 150 billion rand ($12
billion), a key expenditure item in a low-growth environment.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini assured
beneficiaries that government would continue with payments. The
minister said she would hold a news conference on Wednesday to
address all questions related to SASSA.
($1 = 13.0375 rand)
(Editing by James Macharia/Jeremy Gaunt)