No hostility between Social Development, Finance Ministers

Pretoria – The Department of Social Development has disputed media reports claiming that there is enmity between Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

“Such allegations are malicious and are intended to wedge a division between her and the Minister who is a colleague in a collective Cabinet,” the department said in a statement.

According to media reports, Minister Dlamini rejected Minister Gordhan’s option for banks and the post office to distribute social grants to 17 million beneficiaries.

In a letter, Gordhan proposed that Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) should not be part of the service providers to be considered for the distribution of grants, and that the tender be given to banks and the post office instead.

The department said that by its nature, presentation of various options as cited by National Treasury in a statement recently, affords her an opportunity to choose one. However, this does not mean the rejection of others.

“All correspondence between the two executives were part of the process of seeking solutions and therefore expressing views on the pros and cons to options presented to both principals by a joint committee that was established inclusive of National Treasury, South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and Social Development.

“Therefore, the options are an outcome of a collective process and options are no longer viewed as individual options. There is therefore no Dlamini option or Gordhan option. The task team acknowledged that all options have pros and cons, and it is the responsibility of Minister Dlamini to decide which option will ensure that social grant beneficiaries receive their social grant on 1 April 2017 without interruptions,” the department explained.

Minister Dlamini has also noted the malicious and deliberate attempts to mislead South Africans about the legal opinion given by Wim Trengrove SC and his role within South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA).

“Wim Trengrove SC was commissioned by the work-stream on Legal and Regulatory as appointed by the Minister. His opinion was sought upon realising that certain deliverables and time frames set to be achieved towards taking over the social grant payment function may not be achieved.”

The SC's opinion was sought on the following inter alia questions;

  • Whether SASSA will be in contempt if it does not take over the payment of social grants when the current agreement with CPS expires on March 31, 2017 pending SASSA taking over in full the social grant payment functions.
  • Whether SASSA can approach the Constitutional Court (considering the fact that the Court had discharged its supervisory jurisdiction over the matter) with a view to enable the lawful continuation of the agreement with CPS.
  • Whether SASSA is in anyway obliged to approach the Constitutional Court and lastly;
  • How to approach negotiations and conclusions of an agreement with CPS for services after the 31 March 2017 in a lawful manner.

“Therefore, the comprehensive opinion by Win Tengrove SC was part of the Minister's attempt to make SASSA a better organization. It was one of three legal opinions sought, given the complex legal issues associated with a contract deemed invalid by the country's highest court.

“The complexity is exacerbated by the fact that potential legal landmines could result in delays caused by vexatious litigation that may serve to rob the poor from access to their constitutional entitlements,” the department said.

The department added that Minister Dlamini is well aware of the fact that both the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank, as a regulator, are key partners in safely transferring funds to millions of people every month.

“The Minister therefore, would not under any circumstances wish to see a weakened Minister of Finance and a weakened Treasury. We know that this feeling is mutual; and this was demonstrated by the collaboration of the two departments, SASSA and the SARB’S most senior officials on strategies to ensure that we are able pay grants on the 1 April 2017 and beyond.”

Minister Dlamini reiterated that the department and SASSA have developed an approach, which includes approaching the Constitutional Court and that no formal negotiations have started with CPS.

Biometric verification

The inclusion of biometric verification is a prerequisite and any solution will have to include it. Biometric verification is used for:

  • Validation as well as the one too many searches to eliminate duplication of beneficiaries;
  • Eliminating fraud and corruption; and
  • Proving life to ensure payment is effected to the right beneficiaries.

Minister Dlamini assured all social grant beneficiaries that there will be no disruption to the payment of their grants and that their social grants will be paid on 1 April 2017. –