President Jacob Zuma will now lead and chair the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Comprehensive Social Security to ensure that the Constitutional Court order concerning the payment of grants is well executed.
The IMC was established last year and it includes the Ministers of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini and Finance Pravin Gordhan as co-chairpersons. Other members are the Ministers of Labour Mildred Oliphant, Transport Dipuo Peters and Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
In a statement on Saturday, the President welcomed the Constitutional Court ruling that permitted the extension of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) for a year, in order to fulfil the constitutional obligation of paying social grants to beneficiaries.
CPS is responsible for the distribution of social grants to 17 million beneficiaries. Its contract, which was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2014, would have come to an end on 31 March 2017. The court, however, suspended the invalidity so grants could continue to be paid while the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) made another plan.
“I have directed the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Comprehensive Social Security to ensure that the order of the court is implemented efficiently and diligently, in its entirety.
“On behalf of government, I would like to welcome the pronouncement by the Constitutional Court on the distribution of social grants. The court has given clear directives on the extension of the grants distribution and the parameters within which government must operate in this regard.
“I want to assure all grant beneficiaries that government will implement the directive of the Constitutional Court and uphold the constitutional rights of the poor and vulnerable in our society.
“Government will ensure that all beneficiaries receive their social grants on 1 April,” said President Zuma.
The IMC will now also include the Ministers of Telecommunications and Postal Services Dr Siyabonga Cwele, Communications Faith Muthambi and Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba. The Directors-General of the Department of Social Development and National Treasury will co-chair the technical task team and lead the IMC secretariat.
Constitutional Court order
The court on Friday, 17 March suspended the declaration of the invalidation of the CPS contract for a period of 12 months, effective 1 April 2017.
The court ordered that the terms and conditions of the contract shall contain adequate safeguards to ensure that personal data of grant beneficiaries remains private and may not be used for any purpose other than the payment of grants.
Within 30 days of the completion of the period of the contract, CPS must file with the court audited statements of the expenses incurred, income received and net profit earned under the contract.
The court also ordered SASSA to obtain an independent audited verification of the statements provided by CPS. The ordered verification must be approved by National Treasury and the audited verification must be filed by SASSA within a period of 60 days.
The court further ordered CPS to permit auditors appointed by SASSA to have access to its financial information, and that the Minister of Social Development and SASSA must file a report on affidavits with the court every three months.
The report must set out how they plan to ensure the payment of social grants after the contract expires, what steps they have taken in that regard, what further steps they will take and when they will take future steps to ensure that the payment of social grants is done.
President Zuma on Saturday said beyond this directive from the Constitutional Court, the IMC will also focus on comprehensive social security reforms to address the gaps and weaknesses identified and ensure the provision of comprehensive social security for all.
“The labour movement has been calling for comprehensive reforms of our social security system over a period of time. The IMC will assist Cabinet in moving that process forward.”
He echoed the Minister of Social Development’s apology to grant beneficiaries for the “undue anxiety that resulted from the uncertainty over grant distribution”.
“We apologise to South Africans unreservedly,” the President said.