Social development has spent millions on legal fees

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.Photo;Leon Sadiki
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.Photo;Leon Sadiki

Cape Town – The Department of Social Development has spent R30m on legal fees since April 2013, a parliamentary reply has revealed.

The department, which has been wrapped up in a three-year court process with the Constitutional Court over the country’s social grants scheme, posted its legal figures in a reply to Democratic Alliance MP Malcolm Figg on Wednesday.

The R30.22m figure however is mainly attributed to social assistance appeals, and is not reflective of the amount the department has spent on its Constitutional Court appearances, meaning the total figure is likely much higher.

A social assistance appeal is usually filed by a potential grant beneficiary whose initial grant application was rejected by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).

The breakdown for past financial years:

  • 2013-2014: R10 297 837.54
  • 2014-2015: R12 994 173.95
  • 2015-2016: R3 382 845.97
  • Since April 2016: R3 568 041.93

Constitutional Court battle

In March, the Constitutional Court ordered Sassa and Cash Paymaster Services to continue paying social grants until another entity can be found to do so within 12 months.

This followed a three-year court-ordered process beginning in April 2014 during which the department and Sassa were given seven deadlines to successfully migrate the social grants project to a new scheme.

It was revealed in a parliamentary portfolio committee meeting in October 2016 that the department missed five of the deadlines set by the court, and needed to apply for an extension.

The Constitutional Court handed down a stern judgment against Sassa in March, noting that the entity had been aware since April 2016 that it would not be able to comply with its original order.

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An apologetic Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who has been minister since 2010, said Sassa and the department must “put all their ducks in a row” after the court gave them a second chance to do their job.

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