Damning report on capture of Sassa
A DAMNING report on the failures at the South African Social Services Agency (Sassa) blames former minister for social development Bathabile Dlamini.
It outlines how Dlamini and her administration were catalysts which led to the agency being captured.
Dlamini now serves as the minister for women in the Presidency.
The report, penned by Professor Mark Swilling of the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University and researcher Robin Foley,is titled “How one word changed the game”.
It details the history of Sassa and the events that led to the capture of the agency by forces not linked to the Guptas.
“What is significant about this report is that it is an example of state capture that is not linked to the Guptas ...it shows that it is a much wider systemic problem,” said Swilling.
Significantly, the report shows how civil society actually averted a much bigger disaster at Sassa.
“There isn’t much evidence of large scale looting that runs into the billions like in other institutions and that can be attributed to actions of organisations such as Black Sash and Corruption Watch and others that used the Constitutional Court to get rulings that constantly crippled the strategies of state capture to really take over Sassa.”
He warned that “to think because there is a change in political leadership that state capture is over is a grave mistake; all that has changed is the rules of the game and how we fight that pattern.
“And the problems persist at the Department of Social Development.
“Sassa is by no means in good hands.
“What we are hoping to do by releasing this report, is to say they should not relax... we can’t trust the Cyril Ramaphosa administration to fix this on their own.”
The report provides a roadmap that led to destabilisation of the institution which saw the panic last year when around 17 million beneficiaries were at risk of not receiving their grants because of the contract awarded to Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) that was later ruled as invalid.
The roadmap shows:
2006: Sassa takes over contracts with provincial service providers at a time when the system was fragmented and inefficient to the point where at times beneficiaries received no grants while others were paid out twice in different provinces. This necessitated the introduction of biometric technology, which would work in the favour of CPS in the 2012 controversial tender.
2007: The agency puts out its first request for proposals on the provision of payments of services. The bid adjudication committee cancelled the nine bids. It later emerged that the then-chairperson of the committee, while deliberating on a R7 billion tender process, had allegedly been offered an “open chequebook” by an individual claiming to be from CPS.
2009: After the failed tender bid, the department continued using the services of CPS, Empilweni and AllPay until CPS made the demand for a two-year contract despite National Treasury only approving a year’s extension.
That same year when the South African Post Office agreed to provide specific payment services, CPS went to court to have this nullified. A two-year court battle saw the Supreme Court finally validating the agreement which was later invalidated by Sassa, who put out a new tender. This move was seen as the turning point at which Sassa and the department envisioned grant payments.
In May, Zola Skweyiya was replaced by Edna Molewa, with Dlamini as her deputy.
Two months later, Sassa chief executive Fezile Makiwane was placed on special leave following allegations of fraud and contravening the Public Finance Management Act with irregular procurement practices to the tune of R10 million, allegations which were never substantiated and led to him suing the department for R6.7m.
“In hindsight this is a story that appears to be replicated through various examples of state capture, the removal of Makiwane allowed for a change in the approach by the agency to distribution of grants and how this should be taken,” reads the report.
2010: A cabinet reshuffle by former president Jacob Zuma sees Dlamini becoming the minister for social development and appointing Virginia Petersen in 2011, days after a new tender proposal was requested, who also issued amendments to the bid under the guise of providing clarity of the issue of biometric identification, a move that was seen as the main reason CPS was awarded the contract in 2012.
What followed was a protracted court challenge by AllPay, who sought to challenge the contract, a matter that eventually ended at the Constitutional Court.
The report also highlighted how under the leadership of Petersen, wasteful and irregular expenditure increased drastically at the agency.
According to its annual reports in the 2010/2011 financial year, irregular expenditure stood at R8.8m, an amount that had accumulated from 2007.
However by the next year the recorded amount allocated as irregular expenditure for that year stood at R47.4m.
The latest report showed that the closing balance for irregular expenditure stood at R1.4 billon.
Grant beneficiaries, including, the elderly and disabled, have been sent from pillar to post due to Sassa debacles relating to the payment of their money. A report into the agency’s failures blames former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini’s...