The South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) this week addressed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development outlining options available for their payment process. While the agency has in recent years received much criticism for its choice of Net 1 Cash Paymaster Services to process grant payments to beneficiaries, it confirmed that it has requested that its contract with the company be extended for another year. In a bold move, SASSA indicated that it is working to internalise the payment system, but assured the committee about their readiness to take over the distribution of the R141 billion in social grants.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, SASSA’s National Spokesperson, Kgomoco Diseko explains that over two days SASSA appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Social Development where it informed the committee on the progress that it has made in grant payment options.
He said that of the six options tabled, there is only one viable option that SASSA is proposing, which is the extension of the current contract that SASSA has with Cash Paymaster Services.
“To do that we have to write a submission to the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) explaining the circumstances that we find ourselves in and requesting them to suspend condition of invalidity of the current contract so that people can be paid,” he stated.
“Ensuring that in the long term we execute the functions internally without the use of a middle person, but in the short term ensuring that we use Cash Paymaster Services for a year or so.”
He noted that previously SASSA was taken to court when it signed a five-year contract with Cash Paymaster Services, by a losing bidder – a subsidiary of ABSA bank.
The ConCourt declared SASSA’s five-year contract with Cash Paymaster Services as invalid, but suspended the invalidity in order to ensure that beneficiaries receive their income.
“We advertised the tender and in 2015 it closed; only three companies responded to the request for proposals, one of these companies was the bank, but we did not award the tender because all three companies did not meet the requirements,” Diseko elaborated.
Following the process, a team was established to investigate the modality of SASSA taking over payment functions, which brought forward six options.
Diseko said that while each of the six options had pros and cons, the option with the least risk was the extension of the contract with Cash Paymaster Services.
With regards to the advantages of SASSA taking over the payments, Diseko says that the investigation proves that it is a difficult task, but it is not an impossible task.
“If you say you want to take over the payment of grants, you must be a bank; you must be registered under the professional bodies that they use and the regulatory bodies, you must have experience in moving money and security services, and thirdly we have to ensure that we have the expertise…So it’s not a small task.”
Diseko confirmed that payments will happen as usual and that beneficiaries will receive their money on time.
But social rights group Black Sash said SASSA’s “inaction” had led to the current uncertainty and further questioned whether SASSA will be held accountable.
“Who holds SASSA accountable? They have now said ‘come February 22 you will know the details’, but how much more outside of their budget will they get to pay a very controversial service provider, I think it sets a very bad precedent,” said Black Sash advocacy manager Elroy Paulus.
Beware of scammers
With regards to scams, Diseko urged all beneficiaries not to provide their ID numbers, SASSA numbers or pin codes to anyone requesting it via telephone.
“Once you give someone your ID number that person can commit ID fraud.”
Beneficiaries are also warned against approaching loan sharks, since they are renowned for keeping beneficiaries at their mercy until loans are repaid.
Beneficiaries who have been contacted via telephone by someone posing as a SASSA consultant who requests personal details can report the incident to SASSA at 0800601011.