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Slow pace of Social Relief grant fraud investigation has netted only 20 cheats out of 5 812

South African citizens queue to collect their monthly R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) in Cape Town. Picture: Mxolisi Madela

South African citizens queue to collect their monthly R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) in Cape Town. Picture: Mxolisi Madela

Published May 23, 2022

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Durban - Despite 5 812 public servants being red-flagged for fraudulently applying for and benefiting from the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant, only 20 are being investigated by the SAPS.

The grant was meant for unemployed South Africans from May 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the fraud cost the state R5.8 million, said Dr Mimmy Gondwe, MP and DA spokesperson for Public Service and Administration.

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In a written reply in the National Assembly to a DA Parliamentary question, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said a multi-stakeholder forum – comprised of her department, the SAPS, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Financial Intelligence Centre and the Discipline Management Unit of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) – is investigating the 5 812 cases involving public servants who fraudulently applied for and benefited from the SRD grant, said Gondwe.

In her written reply, Zulu stated that on or before September 31, the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) intended to ensure handing over the files to the DPSA to ensure disciplinary hearing co-ordination and to open criminal cases against the implicated public servants within the various provinces.

Gondwe said the DA first exposed the issue in March 2021,calling for implicated public servants to be investigated and, if necessary, subjected to disciplinary and criminal processes.

“It is not clear if the government would have picked up on the issue had the DA not first exposed it and kept pressuring the Department of Social Development and the DPSA to ensure the implicated public servants are investigated, subjected to disciplinary processes and also face the full might of the law.”

A reply to the National Assembly and to Gondwe, signed by acting national SAPS commissioner Lieutenant-General FN Vuma and Police Minister Bheki Cele, stated the office of the auditor-general noted that at least 5 812 public servants fraudulently applied for and received the R350 social relief of distress grant.

Vuma said that to date, 20 alleged fraudulent applications were referred to the SAPS by Sassa for investigation.

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“It is envisaged that the investigations in the 20 cases will be finalised within the next three months. Progress in the above-mentioned cases is provided during weekly meetings held at the SAPS fusion centre.”

Gondwe said they owed it to the public to ensure that, come September 31, Sassa had in fact followed through on the processes.

“It is on this basis that the DA will submit further follow-up questions to Minister Zulu. The DA will not rest until the implicated public servants pay back the money that they stole from the state and are totally rooted out of the public service system,” Gondwe said.

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