Human rights NGO Black Sash says the South African Social Services Agency's (Sassa) contentious tender with Cash Payment Services (CPS) has caused untold hardships for beneficiaries, as well as eroding the gains made by the state.
Sassa was ordered on Thursday to initiate a new tender process for the payment of welfare grants, effectively rendering its two year contract with CPS void. The decision taken by the Constitutional Court followed a ruling in November, which declared a R10 billion contract with CPS invalid, due to certain irregularities in the tender process.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast Beat, Black Sash advocacy programme manager Elroy Paulus said the contract raised suspicion and worry when it emerged CPS were allegedly making deductions from beneficiaries' accounts.
Paulus said Black Sash were more than happy with the court ruling, as well as the manner in which it was done.
"If you are an organ of state, you have to abide by the rules of how a public entity should be rendering a public service. In addition to the merit of the case, the core of the judgement is the obligation of an organ of state to respect, protect, promote, and fulfilled the rights contained in the bill of rights, beyond mere contractual considerations," he said.
In addition to the contract being nullified, Sassa were also ordered to initiate a new process, as well as an evaluation committee to report back after each step in the tender process. The court also ruled that CPS would have to carry out the obligations stated in the contract, until the new process was complete. The ruling was seen by many anti-corruption groups as a precedent for other state tenders to be probed in a similar manner.
Corruption Watch (CW) executive director David Lewis said they were very pleased with the court's decision however, he noted there were still other serious issues that needed to be confronted.
"There needs to be a very serious investigation addressing why the tender committee made such serious errors, in whose interest were they made, and why these irregularities committed," he said.
Lewis said the regulations in handling tenders of this magnitude were pretty clear, which was why it was so confounding that they had been contravened. He suggested the matter needed to be investigated by the police.
"The police have got to say that surely in a tender of this sort, the tender committee knew what the regulations were. They are not rocket science, they are not complicated, but in this case they were violated," he suggested.
Lewis also agreed to the sentiment that the ruling was a victory for the fight against corruption, saying it was a strong signal to other tender committees and companies that participate in tender processes that were irregular. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)