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Government tackles public servants who are receiving social grants

Pensioners queue at Falala Community Hall in Soshanguve to receive their social grants. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pensioners queue at Falala Community Hall in Soshanguve to receive their social grants. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Published May 9, 2022

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Pensioners queue at Falala Community Hall in Soshanguve to receive their social grants. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

More than 100 000 government employees have been implicated in a graft scheme to steal funds meant for the poor in SA

Johannesburg - A significant number of public servants could have been unlawfully benefiting from the social grants, including staff in the offices of President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the National Treasury and law enforcement agencies.

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Employees of the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Public Service Commission, the National School of Government and several national and provincial government departments have been identified as recipients of the social grants.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has revealed that nearly 178 000 public servants have been receiving social grants.

The figure excludes public servants who have been paid the R350 per month social relief of distress (SRD) grant, which was introduced in May 2020 to counter the unprecedented social and economic challenges resulting from the hard lockdown regulations under the Disaster Management Act, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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In total, beneficiaries of social grants employed by the state work across 45 national government departments and entities, such as the Civilian Secretariat for Police and Statistics South Africa.

The recipients were also found in 117 provincial government departments and entities across all nine provinces.

Zulu said 3 268 public servants were found not to qualify to receive social grants after a review process was completed.

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”An amount of R12.6 million has been recovered from public servants who have been found not to qualify for the grant that they received,” she said.

The minister said the affected public servants had completed debt acknowledgement forms to enable the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to recover the debt.

By February last year, 36 972 public service employees had applied for the SRD grant and there were investigations into the 241 public service employees who received the grant.

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The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has warned that state employees receiving any form of income from the public service do not qualify for the SRD grant and may not apply for it, as it is tantamount to stealing from the poor.

According to the department, this amounts to fraud as people who do not qualify to receive the SRD grant include public servants on the persal (personnel and salary administration) system, those on internship, the government’s expanded public works programme, learnership or any developmental programme and receive a form of stipend from the state.

Government has extended the R350 SRD grant with the following conditions:

  • Applications for the grant can be made through the website (srd.sassa.gov.za) or the WhatsApp number (082 046 8553) but the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has cautioned against applying many times on every channel.
  • Sassa will only process one application received from each individual.
  • The agency said there is no fixed payment date for the SRD grant and that every month applications are checked to verify if the applicant still qualifies for the grant and is paid each month provided they still qualify for that particular month.
  • In terms of the Social Assistance Act regulations relating to the SRD grant promulgated two weeks ago, a person in need of temporary assistance may qualify for the SRD grant if he or she has insufficient means.
  • Qualifying criteria are that a recipient must be between the ages of 18 and 60, a South African citizen, permanent resident, refugee or a holder of a special permit under the special Angolan dispensation, the Lesotho and Zimbabwe exemption permit dispensations.
  • Other qualifying beneficiaries include valid asylum seekers, and beneficiaries must be registered on the Department of Home Affairs database or Sassa’s social grant database.
  • Beneficiaries must reside within the borders of South Africa, and must not be a resident in a government-funded or subsidised institution and not unreasonably refuse to accept employment or educational opportunities.

Zulu provided the details of the payment of social grants to public servants to DA MP Mimmy Gondwe.

Gondwe said the government workers who unlawfully received social grants should face criminal charges or be fired.

”We take the view that public servants that do not qualify for the social grants should not receive them at all,” Gondwe said.

Sassa, Zulu explained, and the DPSA with the administrators of the persal system were currently looking at ways to prevent illegal access by public servants to social grants and to take action against public servants who accessed grants unlawfully.

“If any public servant is found to have received a grant that he/she is not entitled to, following the review process, further action will be implemented, which will include recovery of the amounts overpaid as well as an official report to the department that employs them for disciplinary action to be taken by the respective department,” Gondwe warned.

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