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Chief Justice slams Sassa over CPS contract extension request

The agency approached the court last month and requested a six-month extension.

A screengrab shows Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Constitutional Court, on 6 March 2018. Picture: SABC Digital News/youtube.com

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has been criticised for failing to approach the Constitutional Court earlier to request an extension to its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

The agency approached the court last month and requested a six-month extension.

Sassa's current contract with CPS was declared invalid in 2014.

The court then suspended this invalidity in March last year until the end of March 2018, to allow Sassa to appoint a new service provider.

WATCH: ConCourt rules on Sassa grant payments

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has asked Sassa why it only approached the court last month when it knew in December that the Post Office would not be able to provide cash payments.

“When did you get to know the extension would be required? You say 8 December, why didn’t you immediately launch the application for the extension then?”

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies, on behalf of Black Sash, is in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday seeking clarity on social grant payments.

Following interventions by an inter-ministerial committee, the Post Office was identified as the new provider to distribute grants except for cash payments.

Sassa now wants the court to suspend CPS's invalidity which will allow for a phasing-in period for the Post Office.

Concerns have been raised about Sassa's management of the social grant system while former Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini is the subject of an inquiry into whether she should be held personally liable for the payment crisis.

**'BLACKMAIL'**

The court has expressed frustration at Sassa, saying it’s perpetuating unlawfulness, blackmailing the court and not taking the issue of social grants seriously.

Mogoeng Mogoeng said: “And unlawfulness continues to be perpetuated while we’re watching. It’s very sad. It’s like we’re being laughed at by Sassa and CPS.”

Justice Sisi Khampepe says the agency has failed to get its affairs in order once again.

“It’s a cause for concern as Sassa comes to this court almost to blackmail it … if it is not given an extension then more than 2 million beneficiaries will suffer.”

The social grants distributor has already indicated it will incur losses if Sassa does not hike the company’s fee to pay social grants for the additional months.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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