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Mogoeng: Why hasn't Dlamini done more to solve grants debacle?

Minister Bathabile Dlamini's lawyer says she wasn’t aware of the problems that Sassa was experiencing until late last year.

FILE: Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has pushed the lawyer representing Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini for answers as to why she didn’t do more to resolve the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) payment issue.

Andrew Breitenbach, who is representing both the minister and Sassa, says his clients will agree to a contract overseen by the court to ensure the payment of social grants - but insists Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) is the only service provider that can deliver in time.

In 2014 the court declared the CPS contract invalid and it now expires at the end of March, with no other alternative solution in place.

Breitenbach says he was only brought onto this case last week.

He says the minister wasn’t aware of the problems that Sassa was experiencing until late last year.

But Chief Justice Mogoeng wants to know why the minister hasn’t done more.

“We all make mistakes - everybody makes a mistake but what explanation do we have from the minister appreciating the enormity of her responsibilities, her constitutional responsibilities, to say this is what happened.”

Opposing parties have also lashed out at Dlamini saying she created this crisis because she didn’t properly monitor Sassa.

There's now a proposal to either extend the existing CPS contract or allow the court to draft a new interim contract with the company until a bidding process is complete.

At the same time, both Sassa and the Social Development Department are adamant that the Post Office cannot take over social grant payments at this stage.

The Constitutional Court has also heard that Sassa still needs to explain why it didn’t act to ensure the continued payout of grants - and that its time for the Hawks to investigate the crisis.

Black Sash and Freedom Under Law have presented their arguments about how social grants can be paid on 1 April.

CPS WANTS A CONTRACT BEFORE DISTRIBUTING GRANTS

CPS says it cannot fulfil its constitutional obligation by continuing to distribute social grants, without a contract in place with Sassa.

Alfred Cockrell who represents CPS says his client will continue paying social grants on an interim basis but they need a contract in place.

Cockrell says they are not asking for more money but rather an increase in line with inflation.

“It does want an increase after 1 April. It says take the price I was being paid on 31 March, the same price will apply going forward, but there must a provision for a CPI increase during the life of the contract going forward.”

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)