Investigate Sassa bosses, says Treasury

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Investigate Sassa bosses, says Treasury

New report says Sassa acting CEO Pearl Bhengu deliberately delayed grants payment process

Journalist

The national Treasury has recommended an investigation into the acting CEO of the SA Social Security Agency, Pearl Bhengu, for her role in “compromising” plans for a new grant payment system.
A report by the national Treasury, that was sent to Sassa in February but has not been made public, finds that Bhengu and executive regional manager Zodwa Mvulane dragged their feet in evaluating a proposal from the SA Post Office (Sapo) to take over the grants payment system.
According to the report, which Times Select has seen, the delay that was created by Bhengu and Mvulane, opening the door for them to appoint Rangewave Consulting last December – instead of just implementing the deadlines for Sapo to take over the payments.
Rangewave Consulting was appointed on a three-month contract, worth R11-million, to provide IT and technical advice to Sassa.
But in February, Treasury halted the contract and investigated the appointment of Rangewave Consulting. It is this report that found the pair had acted improperly and recommended that they be investigated.A Treasury spokesman told Times Select: “The evaluation and adjudication [of the Sapo proposal] was delayed unnecessarily while waiting for a CSIR [Council for Scientific and Industrial Research] report which was never used, thus compromising the deadlines. The delay was then used as a motivation to appoint Rangewave.”
“The recommended investigation will confirm the allegations, that they [Mvulane and Bhengu] compromised grant payments.”
Rangewave belongs to businessperson Patrick Monyeki and his company did work for Sassa in 2016 – but that contract was cancelled in July 2017 after Treasury found that its appointment was irregular. Monyeki did not respond to requests for comment from Times Select.
Yet Bhengu and Mvulane again appointed Rangewave in December that year.
Treasury’s head of supply chain management monitoring and compliance, Solly Tshitangano, who drafted the report, recommended that Bhengu and Mvulane:

Should be investigated for undermining Sassa procurement policies and for possible “abuse of authority” in appointing Rangewave;
Had "improperly evaluated” the Sapo proposal to take over functions of the grant payment process resulting in the creation of “fertile ground for bringing back the work stream suppliers”; and
Had not prioritised the finalisation of specifications for the Sassa card and special disbursement account.

The Treasury report concluded: “Ms Z Mvulane, Ms P Bhengu and other Sassa officials should be investigated for possible abuse of authority and non-compliance with SCM legal framework, for improper evaluation and adjudication of Sapo proposal, irregular appointment of Rangewave Consulting and failure to prioritise the finalisation of various specifications before the end of December 2017.”
The report was sent to Sassa and to auditor general Kimi Makwetu, whose office said on Monday the information in the report would form part of Sassa’s annual audit.But Sassa spokesperson Kgomoco Diseko denied that Sassa had caused any delays in the process.
Diseko said the procurement process and Sapo bid had been dealt with extensively and “explained in a letter written to the director-general of Treasury”.
“The involvement of Rangewave was meant to compensate for deliverables that Sapo could not provide. An example of is that the solution for cash payments to beneficiaries won't be delivered by Sapo. That is why a tender is out for this service,” Diseko said.
“The Rangewave matter has been dealt with as well and, when Treasury declined the approval, Rangewave was released. Their matter has been closed. There is therefore NO investigation instituted against Ms Mvulane and Ms Bhengu.”
According to Treasury, any irregularities they discovered were reported to the authorities or the accounting officer for their attention. In this case, the former Social Development minister Bathabile Dlamini would have received the report.
Last week, the Constitutional Court extended an illegal contract between current service provider Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and Sassa for a further six months as crucial deadlines to facilitate the takeover of grant payments by Sapo were not met.
With less than a week to go, no new system was in place to start distributing grants on April 1.
The court also ordered CPS to pay back R316-million to Sassa, plus interest, and that Bhengu and Dlamini must provide reasons to the court as to why they should not be held personally liable for costs...

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