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Sassa defends awarding of controversial tender

Sassa CEO Virginia Petersen says there's no clear evidence to prove there was fraud and corruption.

Sassa CEO Virginia Petersen says there's no clear evidence to prove there was fraud and corruption. Picture: Corruption Watch.

JOHANNESBURG - South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Virginia Petersen says there's no clear evidence to prove that there was fraud and corruption in the awarding of a contract to distribute social grants.

There are calls for a criminal investigation into the unlawful awarding of the R10 billion tender to American company Cash Paymaster Services.

Last week, the Constitutional Court overturned the tender after finding that Sassa had committed serious irregularities and ordering a new tendering process within 30 days.

But Petersen says there's no evidence to support this.

"I can't work on perception; I have to work on fact. If there is evidence, it will be investigated. All of government's agencies have looked into this matter and no one has come and said there is clear evidence of fraud and corruption."

Meanwhile, in the wake of the ground-breaking ruling, Corruption Watch has called on the police to investigate the possibility of criminal conduct and prosecute accordingly.

Corruption Watch's David Lewis says now that a court has found conclusively that tender procedures were flouted, it is time to establish who lined their pockets.

"When the rules are broken, you have to ask in whose interest were they broken and why they were broken and so the police have to ask those questions and an investigation has to be conducted."

He says the court has prescribed the process going forward.

"A new tender process now has to be put in motion. It will be totally scrutinised by the court ad by us."

Lewis says the court has made it clear that where there are irregularities, such tenders will be set aside.

Lewis says Corruption Watch will explore several options including the possibility of a private criminal prosecution if police decline to investigate.

"We will write to them and ask them if they are going to investigate or not. I don't know whether we're competent in a legal sense to lay the charge or not but certainly if they didn't investigate it, we would investigate what further legal options there are to compel them to further investigate."