Warning issued: another grants crisis looming

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File image: Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini at the first Sassa Anti-corruption Conference on November 4, 2013 in Centurion.

JOHANNESBURG - The officials tasked with overseeing the payment transition process of South Africa's grant system are warning that the country is facing another grant payment crisis. 

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has just under five months to bring all potential service providers on board before phasing out CPS, as ordered by the Constitutional Court.

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The auditor general and a panel of experts, including former Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus and ANC veteran Mavuso Msimang, is sounding the alarm over Sassa's lack of preparation as they try to prevent a potential crisis like the one the country saw last year.

Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini was found to have obstructed Sassa at every turn to find a new payment system service.

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In its latest report filed last week, the task team is crying Mayday. 

The agency has repeatedly failed to provide the panel with the documents it needs to assess its progress, and keeps missing its deadlines to enable a smooth payment take over.

It's yet to sign an agreement with the South African Post Office (SAPO) to be the new payment distributor, which means SAPO cannot invest in the infrastructure it would need to undertake this massive task.

Sassa, it would seem, has no plan B, nor does it have a contingency plan.

It also has no roll out plan, which according to experts means a smooth transition from CPS to Sassa is unlikely to happen.

If the post office can't do the job, it leaves the agency with only one option - CPS, yet again.

The panel also notes in its report that there is deep mistrust between senior managers at Sassa and the Minister Dlamini's team, and that its very concerned about her failure to provide leadership in averting a fresh payment crisis that could see millions of desperate South Africans without grants in March next year.