Cape Town - Names of bogus grant beneficiaries will be handed over to the fraud unit of the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), says Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question, tabled on Thursday, she said this would happen once the overhaul of the social grant database was complete.
Dlamini confirmed what Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said in February when tabling his budget - that more than a million “invalid beneficiaries” had been removed from the grant system.
“A total of 1 015 489 social grants have been removed from the SOCPEN (social pension) system since the commencement of the re-registration process,” Dlamini said in her reply.
She suggested that those who had submitted fraudulent grant claims might soon face prosecution.
“Factual verifications of the re-registration back-office process is still being done before the files are to be sent to 1/8the 3/8 Fraud Management and Compliance Unit.”
Dlamini said no person had been charged yet, “pending the finalisation of the verification process referred to”.
Last year, in an attempt to clean up the database, all grant recipients were required to re-register. The exercise turned up the million invalid beneficiaries.
At the time, it was reported that syndicates and individuals had defrauded the state of tens of millions of rands through false claims.
Asked if Sassa was set to take a hard line on grant fraudsters following the discovery of the million bogus claimants, the agency's acting head of communications, Kgomoco Diseko, told Sapa: “Definitely. We have a zero-tolerance policy.”
On when this would start, he was not certain.
“We will follow up on each and every one when the time is ripe,” Diseko said.
Although the re-registration process had ended in October last year, the agency was “tying up loose ends at the moment”.
However, Sassa was currently running a “sting” operation on grant fraudsters in Mpumalanga, he said.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) - which is investigating social grant fraud - announced last year that it had returned more than R135 million to the department of social development.
This was money it had recovered from 43 404 public servants who had irregularly accessed social grants they were not entitled to.