The Constitutional Court today handed down a further judgment in the seemingly never-ending matter of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).
Today’s judgment did not relate to personal costs arising from the Section 38 inquiry, presided over by Judge Bernard Ngoepe, into former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini and the workstreams she had set up. It was given in relation to costs for the order handed down earlier this year, which granted Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) an extension to pay social grants.
In March 2018 Sassa urgently approached the court for a six-month extension to the CPS contract, which had been found to be invalid by the court in 2013. An extension had already been granted in March 2017, with the court ruling that CPS must continue paying social grants for another 12 months, starting from 1 April, the previous finding of invalidity.
The court was not pleased with Sassa’s application for a further extension, as the agency admitted to Justice Johan Froneman that there was no alternative plan in place for when the CPS contract ended. However, it granted the extension.
The court was placed in an “invidious position last year,” said Justice Leona Theron, handing down the unanimous judgment today, because of Sassa’s failure to take over the social grant payments. Beneficiaries could have been prejudiced if the extension was not granted, and their rights had to be balanced with the – at best – incompetent actions of Sassa.
Theron ordered former acting Sassa CEO Pearl Bhengu, in her official capacity, and Sassa to pay costs – including that of an advocate and two counsel – for the March 2018 application to extend the CPS contract.
The urgency was self-created and therefore, said Theron, “The applicants must bear the costs of the application.”
Furthermore, she said, Sassa had been “neither candid nor complete” in the extension application.
Judgment has not been handed down in the matter of personal liability for Dlamini.