03/04/2014 Police and SASSA investigators escort two SASSA officials based in KwaMhlanga local office in Mpumalanga. They are suspected of defrauding the agency a total of R752 460. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Pretoria - The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has lost over R68 million because of fraudulent grant claims over the last two years.

More than 180 officials have been implicated in 8 600 fraud and corruption cases since April 1, 2012.

Continual operations to clamp down on corrupt employees who have raked in exorbitant amounts of money have led to the successful conviction of five officials, three of whom are serving seven-and-a-half year sentences.

On Thursday, three more allegedly corrupt officials were arrested.

Two elderly women who had already been suspended after an internal Sassa investigation were escorted into the KwaMhlanga police station’s holding cells in Mpumalanga on Thursday after they had been arrested by police at their homes earlier.

The third woman was arrested early on Thursday and was yet to receive notice that she too has been suspended.

The three are accused of fraud relating to R752 460 in disability grants.

The two-year investigation started after a member of the public informed Sassa about two “beneficiaries” receiving disability grants.

Sassa general manager of the fraud management and compliance department, Renay Ogle, said the investigation revealed that 55 alleged disability grants were captured and verified on the social pension (Socpen) system but no physical application forms or beneficiary files in respect of the grants existed.

“Furthermore, no evidence existed confirming that any of the so-called beneficiaries had undergone medical assessments. Their names could also not be found in the medical claims,” she said.

Sassa chief executive Virginia Petersen said it was deeply disappointing to see such senior officers implicated.

“They are level seven workers which means they are the sign-off persons. We trust them to put applications into payment,” Petersen said.

Ogle said that criminal charges had been laid against the trio.

“The criminal investigations will reveal the exact flow of money. There are usually three spheres in the syndicate, the beneficiaries, the agent/tout and the official,” she said.

Petersen said the agency had noted a troublesome trend in the province which would lead to more arrests.

“A further 15 officials will be arrested within the next few days for their involvement in 125 fraudulent social grants amounting to R1.1 million.”

The Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were listed as high concern areas.

Petersen urged the community to expose corrupt officials.

“Don’t give your ID number out and don’t go the short-cut route if you qualify for the grants. Help point out the corrupt officials so money can be going to people who are truly deserving of it,” she said.

Pretoria News