Black Sash back to Constitutional Court over social grants

Organisation wants data protection for grant beneficiaries and a moratorium on issuing Easy Pay Everywhere cards

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Photo of the Constitutional Court
The Black Sash will be in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday to “ensure there is a plan in place for the uninterrupted payment of social grants” next month. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), on behalf of the Black Sash, will be in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday to “ensure there is a plan in place for the uninterrupted payment of social grants” next month.

The contract between the current service provider, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), which began in 2012, was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2014.

In March 2017, the court suspended this invalidity for a second time until 31 March 2018 to allow for the continuation of the payment of grants and to give SASSA time to appoint a new paymaster.

After interventions by an inter-ministerial committee, the South African Post Office was awarded the contract to distribute grants, except for cash payments.

SASSA wants CPS to continue distributing cash payments for the interim, and asked the court to suspend the invalidity of the contract with CPS until 30 September, but only for cash payments.

According to SASSA, such an extension will allow for a “phasing-in, phasing-out” period to migrate the system to the Post Office.

Last month, the Constitutional Court ruled that CPS is allowed to tender for future SASSA contracts.

A year ago, CALS approached the Constitutional Court in a bid to avert what it called a “national crisis” in the social grants payment system. In a statement on Monday, CALS said it would yet again be asking the Constitutional Court to protect beneficiaries. CALS said it would be arguing that SASSA did not give sufficient information to the court when asking for the extension.

“SASSA’s proposed plan has inadequate safeguards for protecting beneficiaries’ personal data which leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. There is no justification to pay CPS any additional fees for fulfilling its constitutional obligations,” the statement read.

CALS will be asking the court to extend its supervisory role in the matter.

“SASSA has known since at least 18 December 2017 that it would require a CPS cash payment extension. It delayed for nearly eight weeks before bringing this application. The conduct of SASSA is unexplained. The silence of the Minister of Social Development is deafening,” said Wandisa Phama, attorney at CALS.

Lynette Maart, national director of the Black Sash Trust, said, “We remain deeply concerned that the payment of grants to over 17 million beneficiaries will be compromised due to SASSA’s failures. We are calling for unlawful deductions on social grants to cease and for a moratorium to be placed on issuing Easy Pay Everywhere (EPE) cards.”

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TOPICS:  Sassa Social Grants

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