The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has set the record straight on reports that 74,000 deceased recipients were wrongly paid.
Sassa explained that the number reported is actually the number of beneficiaries who were reported to have died in the past three years, and either their deaths were not timeously reported to Sassa or the Department of Home Affairs or the beneficiary's death was reported only after their family had collected the monies.
The agency was responding to media reports, spurred by a response from Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, in a written reply to a parliamentary question.
"As much as we are aware of some corrupt activities taking place which our Fraud and Compliance Unit is dealing with on a daily basis, as Sassa, we can confirm that the majority of this is not due to corruption, but rather due to timing of reporting of death by the responsible family members versus the date on which Sassa extracts payments for the affected clients," Sassa's Paseka Letsatsi said in a statement.
Letsatsi said Sassa, as part of its normal social payment extraction process, extracts beneficiary details and compares details with the Department of Home Affairs monthly.
Letsatsi added that this is to verify if the beneficiary is alive, and this process is undertaken on the 22nd or 23rd of each month.
If it is found that the beneficiary has died, their details are removed from the system.
"This interface process with the Department of Home Affairs, as explained, is automated, and it is executed on a monthly basis without exceptions."
He said that when a beneficiary dies at a different residence, the only time that Sassa is informed about the death is when the beneficiary's family informs their offices or the Department of Home Affairs, and such an eventuality can result in some payments being prematurely released.
Letsatsi said there are cases where a person's death is only reported days later.
"This late reporting of death to the Department of Home Affairs or to Sassa, results in exceptions for monies released prematurely. Unfortunately this element of late reporting of death, neither Sassa nor Department of Home Affairs has any control over it,“ he said.
The agency said Sassa's cut-off payment date is the 22nd of each month, and this determines the payment of the deceased, depending on the Home Affairs registration.
"A fraud-prevention strategy, aligned to the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, has been implemented by Sassa, and fraud awareness campaigns are conducted regularly to increase awareness," Letsatsi said.