Home South African Concern over Sassa’s new biometric verification process

Concern over Sassa’s new biometric verification process

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Civil society groups fear that a new biometric system to prevent ID fraud could hamper social grant payments.

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CIVIL society groups fear that a new biometric system to prevent ID fraud could hamper grant payments.

They said some grant recipients have had their profiles automatically flagged by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) of being at risk of having committed or being the victim of identity theft or fraud and will need to go through an online biometric verification process.

Francina Nkosi from #PayTheGrants said that the biometrics system is a serious challenge.

“We have not received enough information about the new verification system for those who need to update their details from Sassa. The major issue we are facing is a lot of recipients that have to verify their details, don’t have internet access and also don’t have smartphones, so how will they be able to verify their details?”

Nkosi said there are also so many beneficiaries that are living in rural areas.

“It’s going to be challenging for them to get to a place where there is internet access and the next grant payout date is only a few days away. Surely they could have been given more time and explained the biometric system to understand it better. Everything is rushed, we hope Sassa will do something about this.”

Evashnee Naidu of Black Sash said they had received reports that Sassa had instituted facial recognition verification for some of the grants that may have been flagged for fraud or other discrepancies.

“This is not a new requirement but has continued to pose challenges for applicants of the SRD grant as this grant is exclusively online, requires a smart phone and this facial recognition facility will require access to data.”

Naidu added that these are significant challenges that have plagued beneficiaries since the inception of this grant and will continue to exclude people who do qualify for the grant but who do not have access to the technology or means to complete this verification.

“Black Sash urges Sassa to stop putting barriers in the way of the most vulnerable being able to successfully apply and receive the SRD grant which was introduced and extended to support the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Naidu said they urged Sassa to remove this requirement and allow deserving applicants to be approved.

Dr Kelle Howson, a senior research consultant at the Institute for Economic Justice, said they became aware of the situation last week. “There has been no notice or prior communication from Sassa about this action. We understand that these beneficiaries’ grant payments will be suspended until they undergo a complex online biometric verification process. If they are unable to complete this process within a certain time frame, based on recent amendments to the SRD grant regulations, their payments can be cancelled.”

Howson added that the beneficiaries they are in contact with who have been affected by this action are not perpetrators or victims of fraud or identity theft.

“They are community members living in poverty who have a right to assistance from the state, many of them caregivers to children. The biometric verification system requires a beneficiary to have a camera-enabled phone and internet access, amenities not available to many living in food poverty.”

When contacted for comment, Sassa said they will release a statement in due course.

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