The South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Thokozani Magwaza has told MPs that he does not know where Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini got the suggested R6-billion figure for the social grants takeover.
Dlamini told the portfolio committee on social development last week that Sassa needed R6-billion and five years to fully take over the scheme, as ordered by the Constitutional Court.
"As Sassa, we have not sat down to discuss what we need, and that's all I'm going to say about it," Magwaza told the standing committee on public accounts on Tuesday.
MPs wanted Magwaza to discuss the differences with the minister further, but committee chairperson Themba Godi shielded him from answering, saying it could make his work conditions untenable if he went against his political principal.
Dlamini, who ducked out of the meeting after thirty minutes to attend a Tuesday Cabinet meeting, should account for her statements herself, Godi said.
Minister 'ducking responsibility'
MPs took issue with Dlamini for "ducking her responsibility" yet again, leaving Magwaza to account for her statements.
Magwaza said he believed the process could take two to three years.
"The thinking we have as Sassa is to operate on a built operating system," Magwaza told the committee.
"If we go that route, it will help us to take over the full stock of what must happen. It will be between two to three years, and a maximum of five years.
"I think it can happen before, but if there are hiccups, we have set ourselves a period of five years."
Magwaza and project lead Zodwa Mvulane told MPs that Sassa was meeting with the SA Post Office on Wednesday to discuss the areas in which it could assist in taking over the social grants scheme.
The Post Office had a part to play in assisting the takeover, and their workshop this week would discuss how they would come on board.
Magwaza stressed that current service provider Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) would definitely be phased out by the March 2018 deadline.
Talks with Post Office
The Post Office discussions were necessary for the interim period until Sassa was ready for a full takeover.
Beneficiary data would incrementally be migrated to Sassa, and would be done by January, another official said.
Magwaza said they had made an enquiry with the Constitutional Court over the experts that must be appointed to oversee the year-long phasing out of CPS.
Sassa had nominated experts on their side, and were waiting for the court to get back to them.
MPs said they were concerned about the "lack of urgency" in the Post Office talks. Two months had gone by, leaving ten more months to phase out CPS.
The idea of the workshop was not enough, and Scopa needed details about the talks with the Post Office, they said.
Magwaza said he could send the committee a report once the talks were held, and asked for two weeks to reply.