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Post Office must pay for social grants fraud

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The South African Post Office will cough up R17.2 million to pension grants beneficiaries whose accounts were defrauded since February 2020, according to Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.

File picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – The South African Post Office (SAPO) will cough up R17.2 million to pension grants beneficiaries whose accounts were defrauded since February 2020.

This was revealed by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu when she was responding in writing to parliamentary questions from IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe.

South African Social Security Agency grant recipients have experienced problems with unauthorised deductions from their social grants.

Van der Merve said this was despite the assurance when the gold Sassa-SAPO cards were introduced that the cards were totally safe and could not be duplicated.

She enquired Zulu about measures her department intended to put in place to resolve the ongoing problem of illegal deductions from grant recipients.

Van der Merwe also asked the total number of Sassa officials who have been prosecuted for their involvement in fraud and the amount Sassa lost due to fraud during the past 12 months.

In her written response, Zulu said the introduction of the Sassa-SAPO card has addressed the issue of unauthorised deductions.

“Unauthorised stop orders or debit orders are not allowed off the Sassa-SAPO card account. The only deductions which are allowed off social grants are premiums for funeral policies, in accordance with Regulation 26A to the Social Assistance Act,” she said.

Zulu explained that the authorised deductions were managed by Sassa before the social grants were paid to beneficiaries and that they were only effected with the consent of the beneficiary.

“The system is secure, and it is very unlikely that any unauthorised or illegal deductions are occurring; however, should this be the case, details can be forwarded to Sassa for further investigation.”

Zulu said in instances where social grant beneficiaries elected to receive the social grant into their personal bank accounts, they were able to authorise deductions and stop orders, and cancel these if needed with their bank.

“It is possible that abuse of deductions may occur in this commercial banking space. However, Sassa does not have any control over accounts held with commercial banks. Should a beneficiary have challenges with their bank, they can choose to have their grant paid via the SASSA/ SAPO payment system, which does not allow for deductions.”

Zulu also said a total of 17 Sassa officials have been prosecuted for their involvement in fraudulent activities over the past 12 months.

She revealed that the total amount that was defrauded from February 2020 to January 2021 was R17 279 523.95.

“This amount mainly consists of money lost through Sassa cards that were fraudulently re-issued within the South African Post Office environment. This loss is covered (by) SAPO which is responsible for the reimbursement of social grant beneficiaries who have been negatively affected by these fraudulent transactions,” Zulu added.

The defrauding of R17.2m social grants and prosecution of Sassa officials takes place against the background of 241 civil servants that defrauded the state R84 350 in R350 Covid-19 social relief of distress grants in May 2020.

Earlier this week, Zulu said investigations into fraudulent applications for the R350 Covid-19 grant were ongoing.

“Upon completion, Sassa will approach the relevant institution to recover the money, including requesting the institution to take appropriate disciplinary steps,” she said.

Zulu also revealed that a total of 39 672 government employees were found to have applied for the Covid-19 grant as of last month.

“No disciplinary or legal steps have been taken against these government employees because investigations have not yet been concluded. Once the investigations are concluded, Sassa will recommend to the relevant heads of departments to institute disciplinary action and also to recover money paid over to the individuals.”

Political Bureau