The SA Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) Monty Python-esque plan is to load 2.8 million grant beneficiaries – primarily the disabled and very old – into vehicles and take them to ATMs. This is if the Constitutional Court does not grant its application for a six-month extension on the declaration of invalidity of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract.
“This is what is going to happen. The people who are using pay points will be having their cards with the money but without anyone coming to deliver cash,” Sassa acting CEO Pearl Bhengu said in Pretoria yesterday.
“Remember the people using pay points are elderly people and mostly disabled people so it would have been then for Sassa taking all those people from the pay points to where they can get their money,” Bhengu said, and acknowledged the process would be “very inconvenient” to them.
Black Sash advocacy manager Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker was confident, however, the ConCourt would find a way to make the process simpler.
“Our concern is, the media briefing spoke about the contingency plan as if the extension had been granted already. It raises concerns Sassa itself is not too sure about its contingency plan with having to physically move old and disabled people,” said Abrahams-Fayker. “That is their biggest concern. How that will be done is another matter and who will be primarily responsible, that is what we will need to hear in the court finding.”
Still, she said, Sassa had had a year to sort the issue out.
Previously, Sassa used CPS to pay 10.7 million beneficiaries through cash payments, direct deposits and electronic payments, which put a disputed R700 million into CPS’s account. The contract was declared invalid in April 2014 by the ConCourt.
Bhengu said yesterday Sassa had reactivated its Paymaster-General (PMG) accounts with the SA Reserve Bank.
“This means that the money is not paid over to a private contractor in advance, but remains within the government environment until deposited into the social grant beneficiary accounts,” Bhengu said.
SA Post Office (Sapo) CEO Mark Barnes said the Post Office was ready to pay social grants without interruption from April 1.
He promised Sapo/Sassa card holders no deductions; three free withdrawals; one free balance enquiry and one free mini-statement per month – a free full statement covering up to a maximum of three months on demand – and a free first replacement card.
Bhengu said Sassa had taken over management of the direct funeral policy deductions for more than 727 000 beneficiaries, the only legally allowable deductions made before the grant is paid into the account of the beneficiary.
“In the meantime, beneficiaries should ignore anybody offering them any alternative card to the Sassa one under the guise that the Sassa card has changed,” she said.