Reinstate Constitutional Court oversight of grant payment system

In 2012, SASSA contracted Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to pay social grants.  In 2013, the Constitutional Court declared the contract invalid. In April 2014, the order of invalidity was suspended and the CPS contract was allowed to continue until 31 March 2017 so beneficiaries could be paid. SASSA was to initiate a new tender process.

SASSA filed a report with the Constitutional Court on 5 November 2015 that stated it would not award a new contract, but intended to take over the payment of social grants from 1 April 2017, when the CPS contract ends. The ConCourt then discharged its supervisory role in this regard.

SASSA is not able to take over the payment of social grants on 1 April 2017.  It appears that at this stage, a revised or new contract between SASSA and CPS is the only way to ensure that grant beneficiaries are paid on 1 April 2017. SASSA now intends to enter into a further contract with CPS to continue the payment of grants for an unspecified period. The contract price may also be increased more than the inflation rate. The Minister and SASSA knew in 2016 that SASSA would not be ready to pay grants by 1 April 2017, but failed to seek guidance from the Constitutional Court.

The Minister of Finance has stated that an extended, or new contract with CPS would be unlawful and uncompetitive, contrary to the requirements of section 217 of the Constitution, and would constitute a deviation from prescribed procurement procedures. The Minister has stated that he will not sanction such deviation unless the ConCourt agrees to this request.

SASSA announced that it would approach the ConCourt for its approval of the proposal.  It subsequently withdrew its application.  On 22 February 2017, the Minister of Social Development and SASSA informed Parliament that SASSA would not make any application to the ConCourt.  It would merely report to this Court, at an unspecified time before 31 March 2017, on what it had done.

The Black Sash has made an urgent application for direct access, in the public interest and in the interests of all grant beneficiaries, most of whom are unable to litigate themselves, to seek the re-instatement of the oversight role of this Court for the payment of social grants in order:

  • For the ConCourt to have oversight over the proposed contract between SASSA and CPS for payment of social grants before it is a fait accompli;
  • To ensure that grant beneficiaries continue to receive payment of grants from 1 April 2017;
  • To protect the integrity of the social grant system; and
  • To protect grant beneficiaries from harmful practices by, amongst others, CPS.

The Black Sash brings its application to ensure that SASSA complies with its Constitutional obligations to provide social assistance, to do so in a lawful manner, and to protect grant beneficiaries from unlawful depletion of their grants.

The Black Sash submits that, given the situation SASSA has created, the ConCourt should compel SASSA and CPS to enter into a contract on terms designed to protect grant beneficiaries.

The Black Sash asks that the ConCourt re-instate its oversight role to oversee SASSA’s further management of its Constitutional obligations relating to the lawful and effective payment of social grants.

The matter will be heard in the Constitutional Court on 15 March 2017.


PRIVACY PROTECTIONS

In terms of the POPI Act – which protects personal information – we want the Minister, SASSA and any companies involved in grant payment to:

  • Protect beneficiaries’ personal information
  • Specify that beneficiary information is the property of SASSA
  • Specify that beneficiary information will be removed from CPS’s possession (and related companies) at the end of the contract
  • Stop CPS from inviting beneficiaries to “opt in” to the sharing of their confidential information.