The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has irregularly paid more than R150 million to deceased former social grant beneficiaries over the past three years.
This was revealed by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu who confirmed that at least 74,636 such irregular payments had been made.
“There are instances where deceased social grant recipients have been wrongly paid. This happens when a grant beneficiary dies after proof of life is confirmed by the Department of Home Affairs, and when the payment run is released to the beneficiary’s bank account,” Zulu said.
She was responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Jacques Smalle who asked about systems in place to verify and prohibit deceased former social grant recipients or card holders from getting paid and whether there had been instances where such payments had been made.
Zulu also said there were 32,920 social grant beneficiaries who were wrongly paid in 2021-22.
The number was reduced to 26,512 in the following financial year and then 15,204 in the 2023-24 financial year.
According to Zulu, Sassa worked closely with the Department of Home Affairs on deceased data validation and conducted monthly checks to confirm the life status of beneficiaries before a payment was generated.
“Payment is effected to beneficiaries who are confirmed to be alive, as per validation outcomes.”
The minister said that in an effort to prevent the withdrawal of social grant monies, Sassa froze the accounts of the deceased beneficiaries through Post Bank and followed up with a letter to the next of kin to return the money to Sassa. “Where a withdrawal has already taken place, a Sassa debt recovery process is followed,” Zulu said.
Meanwhile, the Auditor-General has found that a total of 5,812 civil servants were drawing R350 social relief of distress grants despite drawing salaries from the government.
This as a further 33,833 public servants had their social grants lapsed and also referred to the fraud and compliance unit for further investigation after they failed to present themselves to have their grants reviewed.
“The 5,812 Covid-19 related and 33,833 normal grants recipients had their grants lapsed upon identification that they had contravened Section 21 of the Social Assistance Act, (that is they) furnished untrue information when applying or continue to receive social assistance when their standard of living changed,” Zulu said.
She also said 5,812 civil servants benefited from the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant from May to October 2020.
“The number of civil servants may have qualified through misrepresentation which has been uncovered as Sassa systems were improved and enhanced.”
Zulu was responding in writing to parliamentary questions from DA MP Mimmy Gondwe, about public servants receiving grants.
The minister said only 36 public servants had been taken to task for receiving grants they did not qualify for.
“To date, 1,815 cases have been referred to the South African Police Service by Sassa for further criminal investigation for the contravention of the Section 21 of the Social Assistance Act, as it is a criminal offence,” she said.
Zulu would not say how much has been recovered from the public servants who irregularly pocketed social grants.
“The recovery of loss is being managed where the employee is located through signing of an acknowledgement of debt that Sassa at its provincial office will submit to the Office of the Premier.
“Where employees refuse to sign acknowledgement of debt forms, Section 300 of the Criminal Procedure Act will be invoked,” she said, adding that the Department of Public Service and Administration and Sassa would co-ordinate the process.
Slamming the problems at Sassa, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Social Development Dan Plato said: “Sassa is not getting any better, but rather worse at the hands of the ANC national government.
“A department meant to provide our most vulnerable citizens with the support they need to make ends meet, is simply failing in its mandate.
“The Department of Social Development and Sassa are gambling with the livelihoods of social grant beneficiaries and need to maintain the integrity of the payment system.
“I am of the firm belief that this will never be achieved under the current minister. It is time to vote the ANC out.
“They have grown out of touch with the struggles of our people, and they must not be allowed to continue disregarding the well-being of those who need a helping hand.”