File photo: David Ritchie
File photo: David Ritchie

Social grant fraud reaches a huge R60m

By Mogomotsi Magome Time of article published Mar 27, 2013

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Pretoria - The re-registration process for social grants by the Department of Social Development has uncovered massive fraud involving nearly R60 million, but only R1.1m has been recovered.

The department has also made a saving of an estimated R150m by stopping more than 110 000 social grants payments that were being made to illegitimate beneficiaries.

This was revealed by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini on Tuesday as she announced a 30-day extension for beneficiaries who have yet to re-register with the department.

Dlamini said this would be the final extension, following the three months’ grace granted by the department for beneficiaries who had not registered by the cut-off date in December.

The minister announced in February last year that beneficiaries would have to re-register as the department was implementing a biometrics-based payment system for social grants.

Beneficiaries had to present themselves at social grant pay points with updated personal details so they could be issued with biometric cards.

Ninety-four percent of social grant beneficiaries have heeded the call and been issued with cards.

According to figures released by the department, 19 million people out of a targeted 21 million havere-registered.

The department is hoping the rest will re-register before the final cut-off date at the end of next month.

“This is an important milestone in our quest to create a clean database of social security beneficiaries. Some provinces have re-registered more than 97 percent of beneficiaries,” Dlamini said.

She said those who had not re-registered would receive letters in May notifying them of the department’s intention to stop paying their social grants within 90 days of their receipt of the letter.

“I remain hopeful that all the beneficiaries who have not re-registered will emulate the exemplary conduct of our senior citizens and re-register before the end of April.

“We are aware that for many beneficiaries, social grants are the only source of income and that is why we have taken the decision to extend the re-registration.”

According to figures released by the SA Social Security Agency chief executive, Virginia Petersen, many staff members in the agency have faced disciplinary action for their roles in grant fraud, which involved just over R59m.

Fifty-two employees have been suspended and 25 dismissed, while seven have been fired before or during disciplinary proceedings.

Most of the suspensions and dismissals have taken place in KwaZulu-Natal, which coincidentally has re-registered more beneficiaries than other provinces.

In one instance, a number of employees were arrested for being in possession of 127 unregistered social security cards, R37 000 in cash and Cash Paymaster Services machines, used to dispense the grants.

Petersen said Sassa was looking to smaller entrepreneurs to help with the dispersing of grants by allowing the biometrics-based cards to be used to buy groceries or withdraw cash at their stores.

This follows complaints by some major retailers, including Shoprite, that they experience long queues on the days when social grants were paid out.

“What we are doing is (challenging) the industry to create specials they can offer to beneficiaries who buy with the card on certain days,” Petersen said.

“They may be complaining about the number of people, but (the retailers) must look at their bottom line as well because they are making a lot of money from selling to beneficiaries.

“We are engaging with smaller merchants to help alleviate the pressure at major stores, and so they could also get some of the money the government dispenses on social grants.”

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Pretoria News

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