The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has finally told the Constitutional Court who the officials were behind some of the major decisions that have lead to the current social grants crisis.
In an affidavit submitted late yesterday‚ acting Sassa CEO Wiseman Magasela responded to questions posed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng last week.
Mogoeng had sought clarity after the agency and the department of social development submitted a report to the court‚ explaining why it would not be able to take over the administration of over 17 million social grants once the current contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) expires on March 31.tmg
In 2014 Sassa’s contract with CPS was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court due to tender irregularities. The Constitutional Court allowed CPS to continue administering grants while Sassa devised an in-house system.
In papers filed on March 2 this year‚ Sassa told the court that it was clear in October 2016 they would not be able to administer the contracts themselves and that CPS needed to continue managing the contracts until another service provider could be found.
This prompted Mogoeng to ask for more specific details about who knew what‚ when.
Magasela‚ who was only acting as CEO for five days from March 8 to 12 this year‚ explains the role a number of former CEOs played in the decision-making process.
Mogoeng had asked: “Who was the person responsible for determining on behalf of Sassa whether Sassa itself would not be able to pay the grants by end of March 2017?”
“The person responsible was the CEO [Virginia Petersen]‚ on the advice of Ms Mvulane‚” Magasela’s affidavit read‚ referring to Sassa head of programmes Zodwa Mvulane.
Magasela paints Mvulane as a central character in the Sassa plot‚ saying her advice was adopted by all incumbents to the CEO’s office.
Petersen was the CEO of Sassa until May 2016. Rapaahle Ramogopa then took over as acting Sassa CEO from May 23 2016 to October 2016‚ followed by current CEO Thokozani Magwaza‚ who returned to work on Monday after more than a week of sick leave.
Mogoeng wanted to know “the date when the responsible person on behalf of Sassa first became aware that it would not be able to pay the grants itself by end March 2017?”
Magasela puts the date at 19 April 2016‚ before going on to explain further.
“Ms Mvulane was aware by 19 April 2016 at the latest that Sassa would not be able to pay the grants by itself by the end of March 2017. It was for this reason that an opinion was sought from counsel on certain of the legal implications of Sassa’s inability to pay the grants by itself by the end of March 2017‚” Magasela said.
According to Magasela‚ Petersen became aware on 20 April last year‚ but left Sassa a month later. Then acting CEO Ramogopa was told on 10 June 2016.
Because the Constitutional Court had initially declared the CPS contract invalid‚ Sassa was required to provide progress reports to the court‚ providing timelines of when it would be able to administer the grants internally.
In a November 2015 progress report‚ Sassa assured the court it would be able to handle administering the grants internally.
But in yesterday’s court papers Magasela says part of the reason for the delay in informing the court that Sassa could no longer take over from CPS was because “Sassa first had to concretise its plan for the period after 31 March 2017”‚ when the CPS contract comes to an end.
Strangely‚ Magasela says Sassa will only be able to provide the court with a “concrete road map” for the competitive bidding process relating to a new contract within the next three months.
Magasela says Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was informed of the situation in October 2016 and says there is no contract in place with CPS at present. – Tiso Black Star Group/Kyle Cowan