Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

SASSA Faces Challenges as Irregular Payments Exceed R150 Million, Including Payments to Deceased Beneficiaries

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has come under scrutiny for irregular payments totaling over R150 million made to deceased former social grant beneficiaries in the past three years, according to Social Development Minister Indie Zulu. The revelation emerged in response to parliamentary questions, with at least 74,636 improper payments identified.

Minister Zulu explained that the irregular payments occurred when a grant beneficiary passed away after the Department of Home Affairs had already confirmed their proof of life, and the payment run was subsequently released to the beneficiary’s bank account.

In 2021-22, there were 32,920 instances of wrongful payments, a number that decreased to 26,512 in the following financial year and further to 15,204 in the 2023-24 financial year. Minister Zulu highlighted SASSA’s collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs, conducting monthly checks to verify the life status of beneficiaries before initiating payments.

To prevent the withdrawal of social grant funds, SASSA took proactive measures such as freezing the accounts of deceased beneficiaries through Post Bank and sending letters to the next of kin, urging them to return the funds. In cases where withdrawals had already occurred, SASSA initiated a debt recovery process.

Additionally, the Auditor-General uncovered that 5,812 civil servants received R350 social relief of distress grants despite drawing government salaries. Another 33,833 public servants had their social grants lapsed due to non-compliance with the Social Assistance Act. Minister Zulu noted that 5,812 civil servants obtained Covid-19-related social relief between May and October 2020, potentially through misrepresentation.

Addressing the issue, Minister Zulu stated that 1,815 cases had been referred to the South African Police Service for further criminal investigation under Section 21 of the Social Assistance Act. However, the exact amount recovered from public servants who irregularly received social grants remains undisclosed.

In response, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Social Development Dan Plato expressed concerns about SASSA’s performance, emphasizing that the department’s failure to provide efficient support to vulnerable citizens jeopardizes the integrity of the payment system. Plato urged for a change in leadership, asserting that the ANC national government has grown out of touch with the struggles of the people and must be held accountable.