The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) was put on the hot seat this week, as its leadership and governing minister, Bathabile Dlamini, were grilled by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).
Scopa was seeking answers from Sassa and the department of social development on how it plans to take over social grants payments following the crisis it faced earlier this year – and also wanted an explanation for R1.1 billion it accrued in wasteful and irregular expenditure.
In a rare and brief appearance by Dlamini – who is notorious for skipping meetings where she is to be held to account for her department – it was revealed that private security for her children was being paid for by Sassa, despite the minister not being an employee of the agency.
No reasonable explanation for why the minister was enjoying such a benefit from Sassa could be provided, except that Dlamini claimed her children had received communication from a man in prison, and her home had been broken into three times.
The minister also read out a police report which recommended that her spokesperson Lumka Oliphant be provided with “necessary security measures” by the Department of Social Development to “mitigate any possible risks to her physical security”.
However, this proved unsatisfactory to Scopa, who noted that, as government officials, her and her family’s security is the responsibility of the SAPS, not Sassa.
The VIP security bill of R3.5 million was signed off by former Sassa CEO, Virginia Petersen, as well as former director general, Coceko Pakade.
According to Sassa CFO, Tsakeriwa Chauke, a final claim was sent on 1 March 2017, and the agency is waiting for the final bill on the minister’s private security.
How to blow R1.1 billion
Quizzed further by Scopa on Sassa’s R1.1 billion “irregular expenditure” bill, current CEO Thokozani Magwaza continuously pointed the finger to his predecessor, Peterson.
It was Peterson who signed off on the irregular deal with CPS, which accounted for R316 million of the total amount, Magwaza said, while highlighting other ways money was wasted by the agency.
This included a number of crashed vehicles, traffic fines and money lost by officials not showing up for hotel bookings – some for as long as seven days.
When asked for specific cases, Magwaza said he did not have any, saying he only had a week to prepare for the meeting.
Scopa has put Sassa and the department of social development on notice, and is expecting a full report detailing the extend of the wasteful expenditure and other issues. Magwaza asked for two weeks to better prepare for the committee’s questions.