Durban - The provincial SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has said it is aware of the problems at a Phoenix Sassa branch.

During an oversight visit by the DA to the branch on Tuesday, pigeons were found perched inside the building and there were bird droppings on chairs due to the birds gaining access through a hole in the roof. Beneficiaries also complained of long queues.

Following the visit, senior KwaZulu-Natal Sassa communications manager, Vusumuzi Mahaye, said that a complaint was lodged with the KZN social development MEC about the problems.

“Sassa was included in the task team which was set up by the MEC for social development to attend to the structural and maintenance challenges which affect the Phoenix office, which is shared by the provincial Department of Social Development, the provincial Department of Health and Sassa.”

Mahaye added that the issue of the bird droppings inside the building was being addressed with the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health as the building was a shared facility with Sassa.

In response to the overcrowding due to the Phoenix Sassa also housing the Verulam branch, Mahaye said the matter was receiving close attention and support from the Sassa eThekwini district.

Approval was granted for all local offices to work wovertime on weekdays and weekends.

Mahaye further explained that the eThekwini Municipality councillor for the Verulam area is currently co-ordinating an effort to use a municipality-owned site in the vicinity of the taxi rank in Wick Road, where “SASSA can erect park homes for the immediate relocation of the Verulam Office.”

An allegation by the DA spokesperson on social development, MP Bridget Masango, was that officials at the Pinetown Sassa branch had told her that the social relief of distress (SRD) budget was not being utilised.

“The grants are part of a broader social security network. So if you are just giving R380 to a destitute mother of a child with no food on her table, and it’s not augmented by social relief of distress (food parcels or vouchers), something is wrong there,” said Masango.

In response to the claim, Mahaye said it was not true that funds were not being utilised.

“Already R126567.38 (6%) has been spent against the allocation of R1484000. We currently provide relief using food parcels while awaiting the finalisation of a food voucher tender,” he said.

The Mercury