Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was not spared by even her own African National Congress (ANC) comrades when she had to face Parliament's public accounts committee over the social grants fiasco on Tuesday morning.
Up to now Luthuli House — the ANC headquarters — has refrained from making public comments about the matter.
Four of the ANC MPs on Parliament's Standing Committee for Public Accounts (Scopa) grilled her about radical economic transformation and whether taxpayers' money will be spent in line with government policies around black economic empowerment.
It was only Zoleka Capa, chairperson of the National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Social Development, who seemed sympathetic to the minister.
Capa has previously shielded Dlamini from difficult questions during meetings of the portfolio committee she chairs.
After Scopa members grilled Dlamini for almost three hours about her department's plans to extend the services of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) despite the Constitutional Court ruling that another service provider must be found, Capa told MPs to remember that they weren't there "because of business interests, but because our people are poor".
Dlamini has in the past few days implied that the company disbursing the social grants were not as important as the needy recipients of these grants, and she has given various assurances that welfare grants would continue beyond the end of this month, when the CPS contract expires.
ANC MP Ezekiel Kekana wanted to know "what are the timelines of negotiations of the contract so that we can be assured that grants will be paid by the first of April?"
His colleague, Nyami Booi, asked Dlamini to name the officials she had been blaming for delays in deciding on a new service provider.
He also asked her for details about the costs. Dlamini told Scopa although the South Africa Social Services Agency (Sassa) had been paying R16.44 up to now for each grant disbursed, there had been no agreement with CPS yet as to what the escalation would be after the end of the month.
There had been different reports about the escalation of costs, which the Mail & Guardian has reported could be between 52 percent and 59 percent.
Booi also said if taxpayers' money was spent, it should be in line with government's policies of radical economic transformation and black economic empowerment.
"Is there BEE in this agreement (with CPS)?" he asked, saying it seemed the old players (who were not BEE compliant) were still involved.
"Treasury is putting in money and our money must be respected. The president spoke about radical economic transformation," he said, referring to President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address and adding that the process should be followed.
Another member of the ANC caucus, Nthabiseng Khunou, had similar concerns about transformation.
Dlamini said she didn't have knowledge of CPS's BEE credentials but said Scopa should call the company to account for themselves.
She also said negotiations for the contract after April 1 had started before Zuma introduced radical economic transformation, but that these issues would be considered in future negotiations. She said her department already made sure to deal with small, black-owned companies in the procurement of social relief of distress goods.
Another ANC MP, Thapelo Chiloane, asked whether other social development programmes would be affected should there be budget deviations with a new CPS contract, but Dlamini said it was legally allowed to move money between programmes should it become necessary.Suggest a correction