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Gordhan: Still time to meet 1 April grant deadline

The Finance Minister says there’s no need to panic over the payment of social grants as between the executive and the judiciary a way will be found.

FILE: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.  Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

CAPE TOWN – Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says there’s still time to find a solution for the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to pay social grants from 1 April.

This despite a claim by Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) in papers filed with the Constitutional Court, that Wednesday is D-day for a deal to be struck if payments are to be made on time.

Explanations given by Gordhan to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday appear to refute this.

The Finance Minister says there’s no need to panic over the payment of social grants and between the executive and the judiciary as a way will be found.

Gordhan says funds only need to be transferred from Treasury three working days before payment has to be made.

Scopa members say they don’t want to see government enter into another contract with Cash Paymaster Services because of the way beneficiary information has been used to the company's advantage.

But Gordhan says it’s not for politicians to get involvement in tender processes.

“I would certainly send a message to the shareholders of NET1/CPS that they should ask some tough questions about the public utterances of the CEO.”

Gordhan says only government should have rights over beneficiaries’ personal particulars.

INTERIM CONTRACT PROPOSAL

Meanwhile, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said she doesn't want the Constitutional Court to oversee a new social grants payment deal, adding she rather wants the Auditor-General (AG) and Public Protector to monitor a new deal.

On Monday, Dlamini and Sassa missed a 4pm deadline to answer the court's questions about the controversial contract with CPS that it had declared invalid in 2014.

Instead, they have suggested in court papers filed in response to opposition parties that a new interim contract will be signed with CPS and that the Auditor-General and Public Protector should oversee this process.

Sassa says the Public Protector and AG should evaluate an interim contract with CPS because it is of the opinion that it can legally sign an emergency contract with the company, as long as Treasury condones it and the contract is no longer than absolutely required to ensure the payment of social grants.

Sassa doesn't want the court to be part of the new negotiations because it does not have all the pertinent information before it. However, the agency concedes that negotiations may not lead to a new contract.

(Edited by Masechaba Sefularo)

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