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A meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development today received a briefing from the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) on the social grant fraud and corruption issues which have left a large number of beneficiaries unable to access their social grants.

While Sassa has seen an increase in the fraudulent beneficiary grant withdrawals over the past few months, the committee was assured that the agency, along with Crime Intelligence and other government agencies, have been working tirelessly to address the situation.

The committee heard that organised crime syndicates that have been defrauding beneficiaries of their social grants were found in the communities, but within the South African Post Office (SAPO) and Sassa itself. A number of arrests have been made in the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, while the agency is still investigating a number of other possible suspects in other provinces.

Ms Dianne Dunkerley, the Executive Manager: Grants Administration, told the committee that the nature of the incidents reported include disputed withdrawals, where “some beneficiaries leave their cards with ‘mashonisas’ and report them as lost or as having not withdrawn the money”. Incidents also include fraudulent account opening at SAPO, beneficiary account changes and false beneficiary registrations at Sassa, she said.

Corrective measures taken by Sassa and SAPO have included strengthening internal control measures at both institutions – and the reintroduction of biometric identity and access management within Sassa is underway.

According to Ms Dunkerley, SAPO has agreed to perform an on-line biometric verification of beneficiaries against the Home Affairs National Identification System (Hanis) as a measure of addressing verification challenges. She said SAPO is also enhancing its Integrated Grant Payment System (IGPS) controls and functionality features to reduce opportunities for fraud.

While the committee enquired about the amount of money that has been lost through fraudulent activities, Sassa officials said a reconciliation process is yet to be done but a number of beneficiaries have confessed to having had their money withdrawn by other people and subsequently crying foul play. The committee welcomed the steps taken by Sassa to address fraudulent activities, which deprive many beneficiaries of their social grants benefits.

The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Rosemary Capa, said: “There are Sassa cards that have not been collected, which would perhaps indicate that those beneficiaries do not exist. This means the process of migration to SAPO has also assisted in identifying fraudulent beneficiaries.

By Felicia Lombard
13 March 2019