Durban — Dead people are receiving state pension payouts while many who are alive go for weeks without being paid and sometimes never receive the money due to them.
However, the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) says it is not at fault, blaming the families of the deceased for erroneous payouts to 74 000 dead people.
The matter came to light in a written reply by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu in response to DA parliamentary questions.
“As much as we are aware of some corrupt activities taking place which our fraud and compliance unit is dealing with daily, as Sassa we can confirm that the majority of this is not due to corruption, but rather the timing of reporting of death by the responsible family members and the date on which Sassa extracts payments for the affected clients,” it said.
The Department of Home Affairs revealed that the grant recipients were dead after “proof of life was obtained from them by the Department of Social Development,” the DA said.
In its response, Sassa said that every month it extracted beneficiary details and compared them with information from the Department of Home Affairs.
“The key purpose is to test if the beneficiaries are still alive or deceased. This process takes place just around the 22nd or 23rd of every month.
“In an instance that the client is found to be deceased, such a record is deactivated on the Sassa system before extraction of payment and no money is generated for such clients,” it said.
But Sassa said if beneficiaries died away from their usual residential areas, they would only know about this if it was reported by family members.
DA social development spokesperson Bridget Masango said given the millions paid to dead beneficiaries, the minister should consider moving proof of life checks closer to payment dates.
She said it was disingenuous that Zulu tried to blame vulnerable and distraught family members for not reporting the deaths of Sassa beneficiaries when they were unable to contact Sassa offices.
“Last year the DA found that only 4.7% of the 212 Sassa offices we contacted answered their phones, while only 48 (22.6%) had a working telephone line. The remainder had outdated numbers or no telephone numbers available at all.”
Masango said another parliamentary question revealed that in 2023, 39645 public servants contravened the Social Assistance Act and fraudulently received grants. However, to date, Sassa had only opened 1815 cases with the police and only 42 public servants had faced consequence management.
Meanwhile, the party said it had asked the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for an update on its investigation into the persistent crisis around the disbursement of social grants.
The party said it lodged a complaint after a series of payment failures left vulnerable social grant recipients in distress. In the latest incidents 150 000 beneficiaries did not get their January payments which it said was not only an indictment against Sassa and the minister, but should drive the SAHRC to conclude its investigation as a matter of urgency.