There is no scientific evidence to support claims that child support grants are driving a surge in teenage pregnancies, says government. File picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) is reviewing the voice recognition system it uses to identify beneficiaries before they may be paid.

The agency has received complaints about this “proof of life” certification system, which uses voice recognition technology, Sassa spokesman Kgomoco Diseko says.

The system has been adopted in an effort to prevent frauds using the identities or drawing the grants of people who have died.

It requires beneficiaries to call a toll-free number and follow the prompts to provide voice samples, which are recorded.

When beneficiaries collect their grants at a Sassa payout point, they speak into a microphone and their voices are checked against the recording. They are paid their grants if these match.

Those who use a PIN to access their grants at shops and ATMs will continue receiving their grants during the review, which began on Friday and is to last as long as it takes the agency to iron out problems with the system.


Diseko said some beneficiaries complained they were ill or could not get to a Sassa payout office, while others did not understand the process.

The voice activation had been carried out in two phases.

“Phase 1 targeted 1.5 million beneficiaries who access their social grants using a PIN code. In February SMSes were sent to beneficiaries for them to activate their voice to enable payment. Phase 2 was implemented in March for more beneficiaries using PIN codes.”

Diseko said social grants were paid out only when a fingerprint or voice was verified.

“This was done biometrically using voice verification or fingerprint verification, at a Sassa pay point or a store with a fingerprint scanner before collection of the social grant,” he said.

“Beneficiaries were required to follow the voice prompt instructions so that their voice could be matched to the voice recording that was taken during Sassa re-registration.

“The verification could be done in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Sesotho, Zulu, Venda and Tsonga.”

Beneficiaries who had received an SMS but were unable to call because they were ill, had been requested to appoint a procurator, Diseko said.

“A home visit was then conducted for these beneficiaries where both the beneficiary and procurator needed to be present for the voice recording of the procurator.”

Once a beneficiary’s voice was validated, the system would inform the beneficiary that their voice verification was successful and their social grant will be immediately available.

The re-registrations process was introduced in February 2012 to clamp down on corruption and ensure the agency pays out grants only for people who are alive.

Cape Times