Minister suspends 80 SASSA staff for grant fraud in EC
Eighty South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) officials have been suspended following the investigation of 2 800 ‘suspicious’ grant cases, 1 945 of which are from the Eastern Cape last Friday. During a visit to East London, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu announced that R68 million has been allocated to investigate this fraud and fight corruption.
According to Paseka Letsatsi, spokesperson for SASSA, “Over the past six months the Agency has received an increasing number of complaints from beneficiaries whose grants are fraudulently collected by strangers through card-cloning. The fraudsters involved are quite sophisticated if the equipment at their disposal and their modus operandi are anything to go by”.
SASSA has had to refund R20 million to the defrauded beneficiaries and has launched a costly investigation composed of multi-disciplinary teams to access a diverse set of skills required to eliminate current and any future fraud. “Systems are also developed to prevent fraud. As a result of these factors, the project does deserve a realistic budget to carry it out,” said Letsatsi explaining the R68 million.
Speaking at the SASSA East London offices, Minister Zulu showed concern over the state of the Eastern Cape, considering that over 80% of the fraud cases were located in the province.
Furthermore, she lamented the state of the youth that benefits from grants more than the elderly. “Already, the government pays up to R3 billion a month on Eastern Cape beneficiaries alone with 71 percent of social grant recipients being young people. Why are we paying children to have children, something is wrong here? She questioned. In the recent past, the courts have not only sentenced people found guilty of social grant fraud but has issued orders for them to repay what they stole from the State. Innocent and affected beneficiaries, whose payments have been stopped, are advised to write an affidavit at the police station. Thereafter, a beneficiary must take their bar coded or smart card ID together with the completed affidavit to SASSA or the post office.
As part of her visit, Zulu conducted a site inspection for the construction of a new facility, the Masibulele Day Care Centre in Mdantsane. The centre currently provides Early Childhood Development (ECD) services to 61 children that are subsidised by the provincial Department of Social Development.
R518 million has been allocated to provinces for the upgrade and maintenance of ECD facilities. This allocation will benefit between 600 and 800 ECD centres. “An intensive process of studying the trends was embarked upon and the modus operandi of the fraudsters was exposed. Systems and controls were tightened and we can confidently say that the noose has tightened on these criminals and the law will deal harshly with them,” said Lumka Oliphant, spokesperson for the department.