Grants payout woes continue
TENSIONS are brewing in Parliament over which committee should play an oversight role on the phasing out of Cash Paymaster Services in the distribution of social pension grants.
This has now pitted the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) against the portfolio committee on social development in a turf war.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has even entered into the fray by seeking the intervention from Speaker Baleka Mbete as her officials dabble in reporting between the two committees almost weekly.
This is on top of quarterly reports to be made to the Constitutional Court and the usual reporting to the committee playing oversight on the department.
Worsening matters is the committee’s frustration to get reports on the work of experts appointed by court to monitor Sassa and account to Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu..
The matter has escalated to a point where the social development committee is now seeking legal advice. This is to determine if Scopa is not overstepping its role to make the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) account when there is no audit finding.
Dlamini let the cat out of the bag when she appeared before the committee this week, saying her department has raised their concerns to Mbete.
“We are waiting for (a) response,” Dlamini said.
In her letter, Dlamini complained of overlap between Scopa and the portfolio committee and the officials’ appearances to committee meetings.
“I write to express my concern and seek your intervention in the manner in which Scopa is increasingly overstepping the boundaries of its mandate with regard to the work of the South African Social Security Agency,” she wrote.
“We are concerned about the onerous reporting requirements placed on Sassa officials who are called to appear almost every week,” Dlamini added.
She complained to the committee about a meeting with Scopa earlier in the week where they were asked about not yet awarding the tender for the distribution of pension grants to the South African Post Office.
“We are unfairly treated when it comes to that issue,” she said.
“We are being compromised in the name of doing justice,” Dlamini added.
Committee chairperson Zoleka Capa said they appreciated that Dlamini wanted Mbete to intervene, especially on which “committee to be prioritised and which to be marginalised”.
Capa told of how the committee had gone to KwaZulu-Natal on an oversight visit without the department, Sassa and National Development Agency because officials had to report to Scopa.
The pulling apart of the officials, according to Capa, extended to the reporting on work related to reports to the Constitutional Court with the panel of experts prioritised.
“This is overriding and flying over the face of portfolio committee...”
The situation has prompted the committee to seek a meeting with Makwetu on Tuesday and also solicit legal advice.
“This matter cannot be a matter of conflict so law must come in,” Capa said.
In an interview with Independent Media, Capa said the portfolio committee was responsible for monitoring and playing oversight over the department while Scopa dealt with audit findings.
She said legal opinion would be followed by a bilateral meeting with whips and chairs of Scopa as they wanted to ascertain legal facts.
But, Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said he was unaware that the portfolio committee had concerns, and that he only heard rumours about Dlamini seeking intervention from Mbete.
“I’m shocked to hear that the portfolio committee is seeking legal opinion on whether we are overstepping the mark,” Godi said.
He also said they were a phone call away if there were issues of concern and that committee of chairs Cedric Frolick should have been roped in.
“We have been mindful of our work. One thing we won’t do is to be told by the executive how we must do our work,” Godi said.
“Instead they must do their work and we will get off their back,” he said, adding that the social grant contract was too important to be left to the officials alone.