Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has submitted an affidavit to the Constitutional Court to explain why she should not be made to personally pay the legal costs of the South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) social grants court case.
She said she had never considered the workstreams, which she put together to help with social grants, to be a "parallel" process to Sassa.
"At no stage did I regard the workstream as a parallel process to that of Sassa as I knew that [it] had taken steps to meet the March 31, 2017 deadline," Dlamini said in her papers filed to the court.
Dlamini gave reasons why she did not inform the court of her workstreams in her affidavit of March 31.
"The work of the workstreams, their composition, objectives and technical reports were not, I believe, at issue nor relevant to the questions the court raised," she said.
Sassa had been under pressure to find a solution to insourcing all the functions required to distribute 11 million social grants following the Constitutional Court order that the contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) was unlawful.
R48m contracts cancelled
On Sunday the government announced that a "landmark" deal had been signed between the South African Post Office and Sassa to deliver grants from April 2018 in a "hybrid" model.
Commercial banks would also play a direct role for more than two million beneficiaries, roughly 20% of the total scheme.
News24 previously reported that Sassa project leader Zodwa Mvulane had said that Dlamini's ministerial workstreams, which were first set up in 2013, only delivered on three deliverables in the past four years in advising on the grants takeover.
Their contracts were cancelled on July 10, costing the department a total of R48-million out of a R53-million budget.
They were replaced by a panel of experts set up by the Constitutional Court earlier this year, and this was agreed to by both the department and non-government organisation Black Sash.
Dlamini said in her papers that the workstreams, which she also monitored, reported to Sassa at regular intervals.
'Workstreams fully intended to report to Sassa'
Until she had read affidavits filed by former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza and director-general Zane Dangor in the Constitutional Court, she said she had not been aware that they considered the workstreams to be a parallel process to the work being done by the agency.
"I understand that they did not approve of the early reporting of the workstreams but Mr [Warwick] Metcalfe explained this process to Sassa exco at the meeting of October 24, 2016 and assured him that workstreams fully intended to report to Sassa and align themselves with Sassa going forward."
She said Metcalfe also explained that the workstreams had worked from the outset with the agency's employees on the ground, but had not reported to exco until they were in a position to propose concrete options on a way forward.
She said Sassa official Raphaahle Ramokgopa had "facilitated the timeous establishment of workstreams so that the technical workstreams could produce a report on the readiness and viability of Sassa taking over from CPS on March 31, 2017.
"The workstreams at no point reported directly to me and they certainly did not operate parallel to any work being done by Sassa."
She said the workstreams were the recommendations of the ministerial advisory committee and were established to meet the objective of insourcing payments of grants within Sassa.
Dlamini further said when it became clear in October 2016 that Sassa was unlikely to meet its April deadline, the workstreams were approached to assist the agency in attempting to meet its deadline.
"At no point could the assistance of the workstreams be characterised as a parallel process or undermining of Sassa's own work," she said.