Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: RUVAN BOSHOFF
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: RUVAN BOSHOFF

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is to investigate the relationship between Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), the company that administers the payment of social grants.

Mkhwebane’s office confirmed to Business Day on Sunday that she would be investigating the matter after the DA requested the probe.

Public protector spokesman Oupa Segalwe said this would form part of Mkhwebane’s "own-initiative investigation" into the maladministration of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants matter, which dealt with the apparent undue delay in implementing the 2014 Constitutional Court judgment that found the CPS contract was invalid.

"Regarding the own-initiative probe, advocate Mkhwebane already wrote to the ministers and directors-general of social development and finance two weeks back to bring to their attention her intention to investigate," Segalwe said.

"In the correspondence to the Treasury, she had asked for available options for an uninterrupted payout of grants, but she has taken note of [Friday’s] court judgment giving directives on the matter," he explained.

However, the Constitutional Court’s decision did not mean the public protector would stop investigating the causes of the delay in implementing the previous judgment.

On Friday, the Constitutional Court ordered that the contract between Sassa and CPS be extended for 12 months from April 1 to ensure grants are paid. In 2014, the same court found the contract between CPS and Sassa to be invalid, but suspended the invalidity.

On Friday, the court also extended the suspension of the invalidity in order to avoid a payments crisis.

In 2015, Sassa had assured the court it would take over the payment of grants from April 1 2017, but it came to light earlier this year that the agency would be unable to do this and had to extend the CPS contract.

The Constitutional Court judgment was scathing of Dlamini’s conduct, saying the ultimate responsibility for the "crisis" lay with her.

Sassa admitted to the court it knew in April 2016 it would be unable to pay social grants, while Dlamini claimed she was informed only six months later — in October 2016.

Alliance partner Cosatu is piling pressure on the minister and has called on President Jacob Zuma to fire her.

Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said the union federation would continue to picket outside Sassa offices this week in support of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union strike. Cosatu would also continue pushing for Dlamini to be fired.

In a statement released soon after the Constitutional Court judgment, the ANC called for harsh action to be taken against those responsible.

The Sunday Times reported that Dlamini had met with the ANC’s integrity commission at the weekend to discuss the grants issue.

Dlamini’s spokeswoman, Lumka Oliphant, could not be reached for comment on such a meeting.

With Linda Ensor

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