17/02/2012. Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini during a Media briefing held in Southern Sun Hotel yesterday. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Public servants have defrauded the government of R40 million through social grant graft.

This emerged in a written reply to a parliamentary question by DA MP Annelie Lotriet.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said there were 2 807 convictions between August 2009 and December 2011.

Over the same period, 8 760 acknowledgements of debt – where guilty individuals commit to repaying in instalments the money fraudulently received – were signed. The value of these was about R15m (signed between August 2009 and the end of March 2010), about R14m (signed during the 2010/11 financial year) and about R11m in the 2011/12 financial year .

The disgraced public servants have up to five years to pay off the debts.

DA MP Mike Waters said the money lost through social grant fraud by public servants could have paid for 145 875 child support grants.

“Social grants provide an indispensable safety net to the most vulnerable people in our country.

“That money intended for the poor, the elderly and other at-risk individuals is being drained from the system by corrupt officials in an affront to the department’s vision of ‘building a caring society’,” he said.

The Department of Social Development confirmed last week that the Special Investigating Unit had found 25 255 cases of social grant fraud by public officials since the inception of the SA Social Security Agency in 2005.

The DA has called for officials involved in the social grant system to be comprehensively vetted.

In a reply to another DA question in March, Dlamini confirmed that 80 percent of staff employed by the agency had not been properly vetted.

“This must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” Waters said.

“It is also imperative that the SA Social Security Agency database is cross-checked on a regular basis against both the Persal system, which is used for human resource transactions and the payment of salaries in the public service, and the population register of the Department of Home Affairs, which should indicate whether or not a specific individual is deceased.”

Waters said the DA would continue to push for the names and positions of public servants involved in social grant fraud, speculating that some of those involved might be in senior positions and thus have significant influence over the system and databases.

He said he would propose these interventions in a letter to Dlamini, and would raise them during debate on her department’s budget in Parliament tomorrow.

“The statistics on social grant fraud clearly illustrate the serious nature of the problem.

“Minister Dlamini has to demonstrate her commitment to vulnerable communities by taking decisive action,” he said. - Pretoria News