The Constitutional Court has asked Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini to come and explain exactly what is going on with the South African Social Services Agency (Sassa).
Amongst others, the court wants Dlamini to explain who decided on behalf of Sassa that it would not be able to pay the social grants itself by the end of March, and when did that person become aware that the agency could not pay the grants.
In a ruling on Wednesday in a case brought by lobby group Black Sash, the court also wanted to know when Dlamini was informed that Sassa could not pay the grants itself from next month onward, and when she was informed.
The court also wanted to know whether Sassa has entered into any agreement with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) about the payment of grants from next month onward. The court in 2014 ruled the contract invalid and instructed the department of social development to find another service provider by the end of this month.
The department failed to do so, and Dlamini told Parliament on Tuesday that, while Sassa negotiated a new contract with CPS, nothing was signed yet.
The court also wanted to know from Sassa whether it considered the agreement with CPS lawful, and what steps it took to run a transparent and competitive bidding process, as well as the timeframes.
It also wanted to have any agreement and implementation independently monitored.
At the same time, the court refused the Democratic Alliance's application to join in the Black Sash case.
Dlamini was summoned to answer the court's questions on or before March 15.
Sassa filed a report with the ConCourt on November 5, 2015 saying it would not award a new contract but instead take over the payment of social grants by April 2017. The court then said there was no more need for it to supervise the process.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, however, said an extended or new contract with CPS would be unlawful and uncompetitive, contrary to the requirements of section 217 of the Constitution, and would constitute a deviation from prescribed procurement procedures. The minister stated he would not sanction such deviation unless the ConCourt agreed to this request.
Dlamini and Sassa said it would merely report to the ConCourt, at an unspecified time, before the end of March, on what they had done about the payment of grants after the end of March.