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Durban - An expert panel, which is monitoring the changeover in the social grant payment system, has cautioned that the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the SA Post Office (Sapo) need to prepare thoroughly to manage next month’s payment cycle after “technical glitches” left thousands unable to transact with the new Sassa cards this month.

The panel, which had been appointed by the Constitutional Court to monitor the phasing out of social grants distributor, Cash Paymaster Services, said 700 000 beneficiaries were unable to transact on their new Sassa cards and a repeat of the glitches would be damaging to the credibility of Sassa and Sapo.

The experts said for the beneficiaries who were not able to access their grants for several days was not a mere inconvenience but had resulted in “dire consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable” who rely on grants for their basic necessities.

They said the affected beneficiaries experienced technical, communication and processing constraints.

The panel warned that disruptions next month would likely have severe consequences and negatively impact on the reputation and credibility of both Sassa and Sapo.

Sassa national spokesperson Kgomoco Diseko said the agency pays over 12million beneficiaries per month and about 700000 of them use the new Sassa card and the system had been improved.

“The capacity of the system to deal with huge volumes has been strengthened to ensure that in the coming months nobody goes home unpaid.

“The line speed between Sapo and the payment clearing house called Bankserv was increased drastically and post offices were enabled to make manual payments whenever system faults arise,” he said.

Sapo spokesperson Johan Kruger said all beneficiaries have been paid, including those who initially had problems accessing their grants.

“The SA Post Office has taken wide-ranging steps to stabilise the network and increase its capacity. Beneficiaries will have a significantly smoother experience during the August pay cycle,” Kruger said.

Kruger pointed out the fact that beneficiaries do not need to queue at a Post Office to withdraw their grant in cash.

“The new Sassa card offers unlimited free swipes for payment at all stores and also offers three free cash withdrawals per month at participating supermarkets, Shoprite, Boxer, Checkers, Spar and Pick * Pay,” he said.

Sassa beneficiaries have until September 30 to swop to the new cards before the old ones become obsolete.

“Beneficiaries should ensure that by the end of August, they have acquired the new Sassa card because the old one is expiring in September 2018,” Diseko said.

Kruger said where beneficiaries are unable to get to a card swop site, Sapo does offer home visits and “we also visit old age homes”.

Diseko added that beneficiaries who encounter any problems can contact Sassa toll free on 0800 60 10 11 or in-box Sassa on social media.

“In extreme cases Sassa will provide social relief in the form of food parcels to anybody encountering problems with accessing their grants,” Diseko said.

The Mercury