Bathabile Dlamini visits a SA Social Security Services pension grant pay point in Diepkloof when she was the social development minister. The Constitutional Court has found that she was not grossly negligent when she applied for an extension to an invalid cash grant payments contract. Picture: Antonio Muchave
Bathabile Dlamini visits a SA Social Security Services pension grant pay point in Diepkloof when she was the social development minister. The Constitutional Court has found that she was not grossly negligent when she applied for an extension to an invalid cash grant payments contract. Picture: Antonio Muchave

The Constitutional Court has found that former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini was not grossly negligent when she applied for an extension to an invalid cash grant payments contract.

The court handed down judgment on Thursday in relation to the cost order for the application brought by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and Dlamini, which resulted in the grants payment contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) being extended again.

In March, the court extended the contract for a further six months for cash payments. About 2.8-million grant recipients are paid in cash.

In granting the extension, it asked that Dlamini and then acting Sassa CEO Pearl Bhengu give the court reasons why they should not be held personally liable for the fiasco and pay out of their own pockets.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court ordered that Sassa and Bhengu, in her official capacity, pay the costs of the 2018 application.

Bhengu has since left her position as acting CEO after requesting to return to her previous position as Sassa regional manager for KwaZulu-Natal, while Dlamini was removed as social development minister during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet reshuffle in February.

Dlamini is still facing a possible personal cost order in relation to the 2017 debacle in which Sassa had to approach the court to extend the CPS contract for a year.

In this matter, Dlamini faced an inquiry headed by judge Bernard Ngoepe.

Ngoepe found that Dlamini was a "less than satisfactory witness" who was evasive.

He also found that controversial workstreams had been appointed by Dlamini and reported directly to her and that she was aware of their actions, despite stating otherwise in court documents and testimony.

The Constitutional Court is yet to hand down judgment, following the inquiry, on whether Dlamini should be held personally liable in this matter.

In its judgment on Thursday, the Constitutional Court said it was evident that Dlamini, in her role as minister, had not applied an effective supervisory role, particularly after it had come to her attention that Sassa had failed to comply with previous court orders.

However, it found that it was not sufficient to conclude that Dlamini’s actions constituted bad faith or gross negligence.

Sassa’s contract with CPS will officially come to an end on September 30.

Sassa, with the help of the SA Post Office, will take over the administering of grants.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za