There are more questions than answers about whether 17 million social grants will be paid on April 1, and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini can expect a grilling from Parliament's public accounts committee on Tuesday — if she turns up this time.
Dlamini has been invited by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) to respond to questions on the possible extension of an unlawful contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) for welfare payments after it expires at the end of this month.
This comes after she failed to pitch for a similar meeting last week, and although she was in Cape Town on Monday afternoon where she received a hero's welcome at a "stakeholder consultation" on the payment of grants, she didn't send a response to Scopa's invitation.
Committee chairperson Themba Godi said if she is a no-show again, the committee would have to decide what it could do to get her to come and account.
One of the options would be to subpoena her.
The DA has already called on Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the leader of government business in Parliament, to order her to account to the committee.
Godi said Dlamini needed to respond on the South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) state of readiness to continue disbursing grants after CPS's contract expires at the end of the month.
The contract was ruled unlawful by the Constitutional Court.
"At last year's meeting on this, she said 'give us some time to do our work and call me early next year to get an update'. We now want that update," Godi said.
Dlamini called a press conference on Sunday in an effort to explain, but ended the briefing after apparently being uncomfortable with the line of questioning.
These are some of the questions MPs would like to ask her:
- How did things get to this point? Sassa had more than two years after the Concourt's judgment to find a service provider other than CPS to disburse the grants, but only started working on alternatives late last year.
- DA Scopa spokesperson David Ross said there was an accountability issue, and Dlamini has to answer on that. "The minister should take the Concourt ruling into consideration," he said, and, seeing that the CPS contract was unlawful, is she calling officials involved in the original contract to account for that and reporting them to National Treasury?
- Why did Sassa director-general Zane Dangor resign last week? Was it because of a breakdown in relations between Dangor and Dlamini — the reason he gave to the media for his resignation? Scopa has expressed "anger" over the resignation of what it called an "honest" civil servant.
- Did Dlamini overrule officials and sideline staff in the process of trying to find a replacement for CPS?
- Who will be accounting for the delays — Dangor has resigned and Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza was booked off for at least a week with hypertension (or reportedly suspended)?
- Why did Dlamini apparently not listen to advice from Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to keep a distance from procurement processes?
- What are the cost implications of extending the CPS contract? Will it escalate by R1.3 billion a year, as has been mentioned?
- What are the details of a new contract after the end of March? MPs will ask to see a copy of it.
- Why is Dlamini not cooperating with Treasury, and why did she ignore Gordhan's four suggested options for the payment of social grants, which excluded CPS?
- There is R1.1 billion in irregular expenditure for which Sassa must also account.