An official holds the new gold Sassa card on the left and the old card on the right. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Billions of rand could be lost to the fiscus following revelations that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has suspended its biometrics enrolment system which combated widespread grant-beneficiary fraud.

Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi confirmed on Wednesday night that, following a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the decision to suspend the use of capturing biometrics was to allow for the training of ill-equipped workers.

Sources within the Department of Social Development (DSD), however, have warned of how disastrous this decision could be as biometric capturing had saved the country’s financial coffers roughly R2 billion by eliminating over one million fraudulent beneficiaries.

This is corroborated by a 2014 National Treasury publication, which showed that DSD saved R2bn due to “the removal of ineligible beneficiaries”.

Sassa’s own internal records show that the introduction of biometrics has assisted in:

* Eliminating people who enrolled under two or more ID numbers;

* Cut down on ghost and deceased beneficiaries; and

* The biometric system was used “as an independent and additional security measure to protect beneficiaries in case of lost cards”.

Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini warned then finance minister Pravin Gordhan in February last year that the SA Post Office (Sapo) was ill-equipped to distribute grants to roughly 17 million beneficiaries because it lacked the necessary technology used to combat grant fraud.

But Sassa spokesperson Letsatsi rejected claims that the suspension of biometrics would lead to an upsurge in fraud, adding that Sapo was prepared to assist therein.

“Once we enrol you and before you get a Sassa card from Sapo, Sapo verifies with Home Affairs through biometrics if that is you. So, there can’t be fraud,” Letsatsi said.

However, a high-ranking official said the system helped Home Affairs with the capturing of children, who make up over 12 million of the beneficiaries through the child support grant.

“Remember, they (Home Affairs) don’t have the biometric of children. They do it when you apply for an ID,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

The source’s views were confirmed on Wednesday night by Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola.

Khaya Xaba, spokesperson for Nehawu, confirmed that Sassa would suspend the biometric system. “It (the suspension) was our demand; that is why we went on strike,” Xaba told The Star.

Letsatsi refused to answer why workers were not up-skilled to avoid these issues, and he also couldn’t say for how long the suspension would last.

“Those are the modalities which the administrators will have to work on,” he said.

The Star