Cape Town - The legislature’s standing committee on social development has been told about hiccups in grant payments since the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) contract with the South African Post Office (Sapo) was transferred to Postbank last October.
The management of the Sassa Western Cape regional office was briefing the committee on the new Sassa grant payment method to beneficiaries in the province.
In their presentation, Sassa said Postbank was only given three months to prepare themselves to take over the contract, and continued to remain heavily reliant on Sapo for services.
Sassa said reliance on Sapo was a “concern” for both the national Department of Social Development and Sassa, and as such they had been in constant engagement with the Postbank around alternatives to mitigate the challenge.
They said among other things, Postbank had challenges with Sassa cards due to expire, but that permission had been granted by the Payment Association of South Africa to electronically extend the expiry date on the cards.
Millions of the cards due to expire between March and June 2023 would now remain valid until December 2023.
Sassa said it had worked to ensure the payment of grants directly into the bank accounts of the vast majority of its clients.
Committee chairperson Dan Plato (DA) said while some progress was made, there were still concerns at the level of service delivery experienced by Sassa’s Western Cape clients.
“Many rural and older clients remain reliant on the direct withdrawal of grants from Sapo offices, and Sassa themselves admitted this remains a concern, as does the number of doctors available to process disability grant claims.”
The committee was also told about large-scale staffing shortages, and that many positions in Sassa were filled by acting staff members, who did not have the necessary resources to fulfil their mandates.
Plato said he was concerned that the problem of understaffing had been allowed to develop, and that it was difficult to imagine ongoing service delivery issues were not the result of this oversight.
Committee member Rachel Windvogel (ANC) said they welcomed the briefing about challenges experienced and the mitigation plans introduced.