Pensioners wait in a queue at a Sassa pay point in Mpumalanga. Picture: SOWETAN
Pensioners wait in a queue at a Sassa pay point in Mpumalanga. Picture: SOWETAN

I have 20 years’ experience in the construction of big information technology (IT) systems to support engineering megaprojects. The Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) payment system is such a system. But it’s not actually very complicated; it is made to appear complicated.

It transfers small amounts of cash to 15-million or so beneficiaries every month. But it could just as well be 10,000 beneficiaries or 1,000. The number "17-million" is a club brandished with reckless abandon to underscore the complexity, but that is BS. It’s just the number of transactions the computers have to process. If you can get it right for 1,000 beneficiaries, the number doesn’t matter — you could process 170-million transactions. You would simply need a couple more computers.

Banks routinely transfer billions of rand every day. The systems are in place and the protocols have been in place for years.

The IT system used by CPS is written and tested. The work flow is established. The ancillary services are in place and the staff is trained and by all accounts fairly competent. They press a button on a day and the computers do most of the work.

This system was designed and written for and on behalf of the government. It should "own" it. If it was correctly contracted and specified you should be able to duplicate it very easily. But it depends on the contract. We had to build "open" and extremely well-documented IT systems, because they were given to the mine or plant operator after we left.

I suggest the best, most competent and more trustworthy institutions — the banks — get co-opted into service. They could provide the technical resources and put the thing together on a cost-plus-a-kiss basis. All the data and intellectual property belong to SA. The banks should get a nominal fee for doing this — nominal. Like R5 a transaction, not R16.

Ancillary services, such as security and cash distribution, could be contracted out, as they are now. The banks could nominate their distribution CEO and run under direction from the Reserve Bank or the Treasury. They could see it as a form of taxation or as their social conscience project.

Lee Brand
Via e-mail

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