So­cial grants ‘may not be paid’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - CARYN DOLLEY

SEVEN­TEEN mil­lion of the coun­try’s most vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens fear that their so­cial grants may be cut in six months.

From April 1, the SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa) is to take over pay­ment to grant ben­e­fi­cia­ries, a func­tion which un­til now has been out­sourced.

But if the agency is ill-pre­pared to im­ple­ment this huge task, as some fear, needy res­i­dents, in­clud­ing des­ti­tute chil­dren, the dis­abled and el­derly, would be left with­out the gov­ern­ment stipend .

Ex­ac­er­bat­ing the mat­ter is the agency’s re­luc­tance to di­vulge how far it is with the tran­si­tion.

This week Sassa spokesman Kgo­moco Diseko de­clined to an­swer any Week­end Ar­gus ques­tions about whether the agency was ready to take over pay­ment of 17 mil­lion grants val­ued at R10 bil­lion.

“The Min­is­ter of So­cial Devel­op­ment ( Batha­bile Dlamini) will de­tail these is­sues in the an­nounce­ment she will make dur­ing the sec­ond week of Novem­ber,” he said.

Sassa is set to be­come pay­mas­ter af­ter years of le­gal wran­gling in­volv­ing al­le­ga­tions of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and af­ter the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ruled two years ago that a con­tract with Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vice, the com­pany that pays ben­e­fi­cia­ries, was in­valid.

Three years ago, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the switch-over, a min­is­te­rial ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee was ap­pointed to work out how Sassa would take over the pay­ments.

But sources say it ap­pears that de­spite this prepa­ra­tion, the cards that ben­e­fi­cia­ries use could be­come in­ac­tive on April 1 as 9 mil­lion new ben­e­fi­ciary cards are yet to be cre­ated.

There has been no ma­jor drive to alert the pub­lic to the switch-over.

The new pay­ment sys­tem to have been pi­loted this year does not seem to have been rolled out.

A progress re­port filed at the Con­sti­tu­tional Court and dated Novem­ber last year de­tailed Sassa’s ini­tial plan.

It said de­vel­op­ing Sassa’s “in- house ca­pa­bil­i­ties” to man­age pay­ments, meant to be car­ried out be­tween 2013 and this year, had as of last year not yet started.

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