Sassa has 10 officials processing thousands of R350 unemployment grants
Cape Town – The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has come under criticism for allocating a "core team" of 10 officials to handle appeals made by people whose application for R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress grant were rejected.
This after Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu disclosed in a parliamentary response to DA MP Alexandra Abrahams the number of officials handling the appeals.
Abrahams had asked the number of Sassa personnel assigned and solely dedicated to the special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant appeal process, among other things.
Zulu said Sassa has no dedicated staff assigned to the special Covid-19 social relief of distress appeal process.
"There is a core team of approximately 10 people who are driving the appeals process, in addition to the other responsibilities they have.
"An additional 24 staff members have also been assigned to assist with the capturing and registering of appeals, while a minimum of two staff members per regions have been trained to assist, taking the total to approximately 52," she said.
Zulu also said a total of approximately 60 000 appeal emails have been received, which need to be attended to by the Sassa staff in order to register these so that they can be reconsidered.
"To date, more than 37 000 have been registered," she said.
DA MP Bridget Masango expressed shock that Sassa relied on 10 staff members to deal with appeals.
She said millions of unemployed and poor South Africans applied for R350 grants and many had applications rejected and rightfully began the process of appealing.
"It is now no wonder that the appeals process has been marred by backlogs of thousands of emails and phone calls. There has been no foresight at Sassa and the Department of Social Development in bringing on board temporary additional capacity to deal with this new function and to ensure that the appeals process is managed effectively and swiftly."
Masango also said Sassa had already been operating on a skeleton staff operation for most of the year.
"It boggles the mind how anyone would have thought that this process would run smoothly."
She said the number of officials handling the appeals casted serious concerns over Sassa's February 28 deadline to process all the R350 SRD applicants.
"Without any additional assistance to accelerate the application process and to deal with appeals, millions of South Africans will probably never gain access to this much-needed relief."
Masango said it was up to Zulu's department to show some leadership to address the challenges.