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Moving to Level 3 will accelerate Social Relief of Distress grant


Around 40 000 grants nationally are expected to be paid before the end of this month.

THE MOVe to alert level 3 will assist the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to accelerate the pace of paying out the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant and around 40 000 grants nationally are expected to be paid before the end of this month.

This is according to Sassa Northern Cape spokesperson, Inno Khunou, who said on Tuesday that the agency was currently operating with one-third of its staff during level 4.

“A move to level 3 will increase human resource capacity drastically thereby accelerating payment,” she stated.

The emergency ‘Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress’ grant was announced on 21 April and South Africans were told that payments would begin on Friday 15 May

Khunou said on Tuesday that a lot of progress had been made in preparing for the payment of large numbers of the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grants.  

“Sassa started using WhatsApp for applications but, as this platform received high volumes per hour, had to move to other platforms like the website and the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).  The situation was also further compounded by applicants uploading supporting documents through the various platforms, despite this not being necessary.  All these application channels have since been stabilised and the application process is significantly smoother.”

Khunou added that after increasing the capacity of the application channels, Sassa moved to testing the payment side of its system. 

“A sample of 10 beneficiaries was used to test the efficacy of the payment mechanism and nine were successfully paid. One applicant had captured his banking details incorrectly.  This has since been corrected.  This payment test should be seen for what it is.”  

Just under five million applications were received. According to Khunou, this figure includes duplications, incomplete and invalid applications. 

“Of the 75 000 applications processed up to now, about 39 000 qualified for the SRD grant while the rest were social grants people.  Some applicants were sent messages to provide banking details and they are requested to respond quickly to enable Sassa to pay them before the end of May.”

Unbanked applicants will be paid through money send using an ATM of their choice. “Sassa will finalise contracting for this facility with the banks to enable such payments this week.  Beneficiaries can also open accounts at their nearest post office.”

Khunou pointed out that it was important for SASSA to only start paying out this grant after tight systems had been established and tested to avoid wasteful expenditure and fraud.  “This was no easy feat as it was made out to be in some media circles, due to the dependencies along the value chain,” she said.

“The mammoth task of ensuring the correct and deserving individuals are paid has started in earnest. This process involved intense negotiations with institutions in the value chain and this unfortunately accounted for the delays that were encountered.  These delays proved to be worth it, given the number of unqualified applicants who were excluded during the process as they are either receiving social grants or UIF – two expressly disqualifying factors from receiving this grant.”

Sassa CEO, Totsie Memelo, added that the agency had received just under five million applications for this new grant and had to compare information provided by applicants with other government and private databases to ensure people with an income and recipients of other social grants are not included in these applications.  “In addition, we had to remove duplicates and incomplete applications, accounting for nearly 50% of all applications received,” Memela added. 

“Up to now, we have eliminated a number of undeserving applicants and this has saved the Fiscus about R14 million which could have sky-rocketed to over R81 million by October.  Once the vetting of applications is completed, the payments will start rolling in at an even faster pace.  We unreservedly apologise to those inconvenienced by the slower than expected process,” advised Memela. 

Members of the public are reminded that no applications for the special COVID-19 relief grant will be taken at Sassa offices because only electronic applications are accepted via WhatsApp at 082 046 8553 or USSD at *134*7757# alternatively email to [email protected]   To comply with the restrictions on services during level 4 of the lockdown, SASSA local offices have specific dates on which they attend to selected grants. 

On Mondays and Tuesdays local offices strictly attend to applications for old age grants while Wednesdays and Thursdays will be the turn of applications for child support and foster child grants. Fridays are reserved for administration and deal with referred cases from previous days.