Fired: Thokozani Magwaza’s ousting as CEO of Sassa is the latest instance of interference in the agency’s operations by the social development minister. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Fired: Thokozani Magwaza’s ousting as CEO of Sassa is the latest instance of interference in the agency’s operations by the social development minister. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Ministerial interference in the running of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has prompted the IFP to propose legislative amendments to ensure that the agency has its own independent board.

The most recent crisis at Sassa was the departure of Thokozani Magwaza as CEO because he refused to follow Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s dictates on how the takeover of social grant payments from current service provider Cash Paymaster Services should be managed.

Magwaza wanted a more central role to be played by the Post Office’s bank than Dlamini, and he terminated the workstreams which she appointed to manage the takeover.

These workstreams reported directly to the minister and acted in parallel to Sassa. The IFP is to submit a private member’s bill to Parliament proposing an amendment to the Sassa Act to provide for the establishment of a board as a way of securing the independence of the agency.

But who sits on the board will be critical in determining whether it will be independent so the IFP is proposing that the amendment bill should specify this as well.

Board

IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe suggests that board members should, for example, include academics, economists and civil-society members, and that their remuneration be set to "limit the opportunity to abuse such a board for cadre deployment". The proposed independent board would be tasked with the appointment of executives and oversight of the entity’s fiduciary responsibilities.

DA MP Bridget Masango said the party would support any initiative that secured the independence of Sassa.

The Sassa Act gave the minister too much power.

"There is definitely a need for a body that would make the agency independent of the minister’s interference," Masango said.

Van der Merwe said the IFP had already held meetings with parliamentary law advisers to discuss the proposed bill, which would take about six to eight weeks to finalise.

"The latest developments at Sassa pertaining to the forced exit of its former CEO and the appointment of a close confidant of the minister of social development [former head of Sassa in KwaZulu-Natal Pearl Bhengu] have highlighted the need for urgent steps to be taken to ensure greater accountability and improved corporate governance at the entity," she said.

Minister's power 

"Sassa controls billions in taxpayers’ money and looks after the poor and most vulnerable in our society."

An independent Sassa board would ensure that the minister was no longer able to hire and fire at her sole discretion without considering what was in the best interests of the entity and, by extension, the public at large, Van der Merwe said.

"It will also ensure that the current maladministration at Sassa and the abuses of corporate governance come to an end," she said.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za

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