Mark Barnes denies Post Office links to Sassa grants bid

2017-02-15 15:30 - With Bloomberg
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Post Office CEO Mark Barnes launching the state-owned company's latest product. (Supplied)


Cape Town – Reports linking the South African Post Office (SAPO) to a bid for South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants to “CPS, Net1 or any other parties are not true”.

That’s according to a statement by SAPO spokesperson Bongani Diako and CEO Mark Barnes on Wednesday, after a report in The Star in the morning linked the state-owned company to the bid.

The Star said it saw correspondence between former CPS employee Dave de Beer and CPS boss Serge Belamant, in which De Beer requested Belamant to consider joining a consortium which included Barnes.

De Beer wrote that “members in my group have very close ties with top management in the Post Bank and SAPO and we are extremely well positioned to move them”, the report said.

“Mark Barnes made it clear that the system is still required and that card replacement will be a problem for them,” De Beer said.

However, in a statement Diako said SAPO did not approach either CPS or Net1 in relation to Sassa grants.

“SAPO submitted an independent response to the Sassa RFI (request for information) on February 10 2017,” he said. “No partners were included in the response and SAPO was not part of any consortium.”

READ: SA’s biggest banks are eyeing the gap as welfare distributor’s contract ends

Barnes said that “SAPO has had numerous recent approaches from several parties, expressing interest in providing support services, be they of a technical, banking or logistics nature”.

“SAPO took the decision to submit the RFI independently. Neither SAPO nor I have any form of understanding nor agreement with any party whatsoever in relation to Sassa grants,” he said.

Bloomberg has seen a letter in which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini that her plan to extend a contract with a unit of Net1 UEPS Technologies would be “unlawful”.

READ: Gordhan says extending Net 1 welfare deal is unlawful

On February 1 Sassa, which Dlamini is responsible for, told Parliament that the only viable option to ensure that 17.2 million people will continue receiving their payments in April in the R139.5bn a year programme would be to extend the Net 1 contract that expires at the end of March.

That contract has been declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court because of concerns over how it was awarded, and extending it would need the court to overturn its 2013 decision.

“Sassa’s proposed interim agreement with Cash Paymaster Services will not be lawful,” Gordhan said in a letter to Dlamini dated February 1.

“The options proposed by the Sassa team cannot be supported unless the Constitutional Court were to approve such an option.” Cash Paymaster is owned by Net1.

Gordhan said that should Sassa press ahead with its plan, it would open up government to “legal challenges” and pointed out that Sassa had asked that Treasury approval for its proposal be waived.

Read more about: sassa  |  treasury  |  sapo  |  mark barnes  |  social grants