The past two weeks has been a nightmare for pensioners and grant recipients. The so-called glitch that saw thousands of Postbank social grant clients unable to withdraw their money, is another operational management failure. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of South African citizens were forced to rely on the goodwill of others, and make several attempts to get their money, and in doing so incurred more expense and costs.
Marie Sukers ACDP MP recounts the story of one of the many constituents who contacted her. In rural Hopetown, a pensioner was informed by doctors that her only sister’s condition has deteriorated and that the family must come to say their final goodbyes. The pensioner waited for her social grant to make the trip, but unfortunately several attempts to get her grant were unsuccessful. Her sister died several days later alone without her sister by her side.
It is stories like this that make us call on the President and the Minister to radically reform the grant payment system and hold those responsible accountable. Ultimately the buck stops with the executive, and they must hold officials accountable who fail to do their job. The poor implementation of service level agreements, ineffective procurement and contract management is at the heart of these monumental failures. Whilst firing incompetent staff is essential, it is not enough to address the systemic challenges in the whole government procurement system. Suppliers get away with murder in the public service, and we need proper answers as to where in the value chain the failures originate.
Sukers, who also serves on the Portfolio Committee on Health says this is no different to the vaccine over-payment debacle. “At the time, I warned that the state had no capability in strategic procurement and here in another department we see the same pattern repeated.
To make matters worse, the poor communication with grant recipients when it became clear that there was a problem with Post Bank, is unacceptable. All media should have been utilized to inform the public that they would not be receiving their grants. In addition, public office bearers in local municipalities could have been informed to communicate with communities. It is nonsense that heads of departments responsible for such large budgets cannot crisis manage! Especially since creating emergencies is all the incapable South African state seems able to do.
The ACDP calls on the Minister to fire those people responsible, it is her job that is on the line. Beyond that we call for a total radical reform of the system. We cannot merely seek to outsource problem after problem to the private sector. We must ensure true participatory democracy at every level of government. What is needed immediately is a top-level task team drawing from across civil society and business to find a lasting solution to this rolling grants crisis that affects the quality of life of thousands of poor and vulnerable citizens.
If the Minister doesn’t act, the ACDP will.