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Sassa inquiry to hear closing arguments in March

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The inquiry into whether Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini should be held personally liable for the grant distribution crisis at the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) will resume on March 19 for closing arguments.

The Constitutional Court appointed Judge Bernard Ngoepe to head the inquiry to investigate whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for the costs incurred during the Sassa payment crisis.

Dlamini appeared before the inquiry last week, where she denied establishing work streams that would undermine the work at Sassa.

She also denied that work streams reported directly to her and that she was warned by former Sassa director general Zane Dangor and former CEO Thokozani Magwaza that the work streams were running parallel to Sassa.

During her three days of testimony, Dlamini was often defiant, causing Ngoepe to reprimand her and demand that she answer questions during cross-examination.

The minister had elected to testify in Zulu but, on several occasions, she promptly corrected her interpreter, choosing to address the question herself in English.

During his testimony, Magwaza testified how Dlamini ran Sassa like “her personal spaza shop”.

He said he warned Dlamini informally on several occasions that the work streams were operating parallel to Sassa against the instructions of the Constitutional Court.

In 2014, the Constitutional Court found that grant distributor CPS’s contract with Sassa was illegal.

It gave Sassa until March 2017 to clean up and to insource the administrative requirements to distribute grants.

Sassa however, in 2017 failed to meet the Constitutional Court’s deadline, which allowed CPS an extension.

Dangor, who resigned as Dlamini’s advisor in 2017, during the crisis, accused her and Sassa of creating delays to allow CPS to continue.

He accused Dlamini and her established work streams of having a “lack of urgency” when looking for legal solutions that would allow Sassa to transfer its grants payment system from CPS to a new service provider.

“The delay was to ensure that the current service provider continues, [despite] it being illegal,” he said.

The inquiry will investigate whether Dlamini sought the appointment of individuals to lead the various “work streams” to report directly to her.

The three work streams – which were “information and business management”, “banking services and project management, “legislative and policy requirements management”, and “benefits and local economic development” – appeared to exist in parallel with the function of the department and Sassa.

[Source: news24]
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