22/07/09. Deputy Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini at the launch of the National Policy Guidelines for Victim Empowerment and National Directory on Services for Victims of Violence and Crime. Picture: Damaris Helwig

More than 15 million people who receive government social grants are to re-register to clean the system of corruption and abuse.

The Social Development Department expects this process to be completed in a year, Minister Bathabile Dlamini said this week.

Dlamini announced that the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) had awarded a tender – valued at R10 billion over five years – to Cash Paymaster Services to pay the social grants nationwide, saying the company offered a substantially reduced cost for its services compared to the existing range of distributors doing the work.

Dlamini was briefing the media on the work of the social protection and community development cluster, after President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address last week.

She said tackling poverty, inequality and unemployment were the central themes for the work of the government in the year ahead.

Of the 15.3 million people who received income support in the form of social grants, about 10.3 million were children.

“We want to ensure we pay the correct recipients and that is why we are going to re-register everyone – even children and older persons.

“We will visit them in their homes to ensure they are the correct recipients,” Dlamini said.

She said her department was working with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) – which has a long-running probe into massive social grant fraud – to determine who was receiving grants incorrectly.

The SIU has claimed that removing fraudulent grants has saved the government more than R1bn and the prevention of future losses of R11.8bn.

Dlamini said the department had learnt, through research conducted by the department and Unicef, that more than two million people entitled to social grants had not received them.

Answering questions on the new tender, Social Development director-general Vusi Madonsela said Cash Paymaster Services would charge a transaction fee of about R16 per beneficiary for payments, as compared with the R28 fee the department had been paying.

Madonsela said the contract was “far less” than paying the existing handling fee for social grants to different distributors.

He said Sassa was the only agency the government had for accessing grants, although some people received payment through other channels like banks and post offices.

“The minimum we have been paying is in the region of just over R2bn per annum and our transaction fee is estimated at R28 per beneficiary. It has been brought down significantly to about R16, which in itself says we have significantly reduced the cost.

“There have been disparities – as we have not been paying the same fee to different distributors. Now we will have a floor cost,” he said.

Dlamini said the recruitment of child and youth care workers to assist in the care and nurturing of orphaned and vulnerable children would start in the year ahead.

“We will recruit relevant people from communities. We are not going to helicopter people into communities. We do not want people who are not part of communities. We insist that children must be taken care of by people who know them. There are children out there who have to care for their siblings. We want to ensure that they receive basic care, guidance and support,” Dlamini said.

She said the government would work towards raising awareness of the early childhood development (ECD) programme to increase access to such services.

The department would host a national ECD conference next month to look at the successes and challenges in the sector.

“These services have the potential to expose children to an educational environment that shapes their social, cognitive and emotional skills. We have a total of 19 331 registered ECD centres in the country. More than 848 000 children receive ECD services at these centres and over 514 000 of them are subsided by the government.”