Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Sassa pulls out all the stops to nab R350 Covid grant fraudsters

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jun 29, 2021

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Cape Town - The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) is pulling out all the stops to ensure that those who fraudulently benefited from the R350 Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant face the full might of the law.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said Sassa was not only investigating the fraudulent cases but was referring them to the Fusion Centre – a body that consists of the Financial Intelligence Centre, Special Investigating Unit, State Security Agency, National Prosecuting Authority and SAPS.

Zulu also said Sassa was pushing government departments to discipline implicated civil servants who obtained the grants fraudulently.

The minister revealed this while responding in writing to parliamentary questions by DA MP Gizella Opperman and her colleague, Mimmy Gondwe.

Opperman wanted to know the total amount that the auditor-general had found to have been defrauded in the payment of the R350 grants.

She also asked for the reasons behind the slow progress in finalising cases under Sassa investigation and the impact of the slow progress of finalising cases on consequence management.

Gondwe asked to be furnished with a breakdown of the total number of implicated public service employees in each government department and asked when the outstanding investigations would be concluded.

She asked whether Sassa would be soliciting any assistance from any other government agencies in an effort to expedite the investigations.

In her written response, Zulu said R11 175 950 was irregularly paid to ineligible beneficiaries.

She also said the auditor-general had identified a total of 67 670 irregular payments.

“Most of these exceptions were mainly as a result of Sassa not having access to the databases that the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) had. Sassa immediately stopped payments to all the cases flagged by the AGSA,” Zulu said.

She also said the agency has started recovering money form 15 711 public servants who had received the R350 grants.

“In addition, Sassa has referred the implicated officials to the relevant departments for disciplinary action. The Fusion Centre is working with the Department of Public Service and Administration to ensure that all implicated public servants are pursued.”

The minister also said 15 069 people who benefited form the special grant and the Unemployment Insurance Fund were referred to the Fusion Centre for further investigation.

The 2 119 people who benefited form the Covid-19 grant and UIF were also referred to the Fusion Centre for further investigation.

In terms of other categories of people, Zulu said Sassa had stopped 10 358 grants paid to those who also benefited from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, 6 562 payments made to those in government internships, 111 artists, 332 prisoners, and other people who benefited from other government support programmes during the pandemic.

Zulu said it should be noted that the Covid-19 SRD grant applications were processed electronically by matching information from various databases and systems.

“There is thus no consequence management that needs to be pursued on officials. However, Sassa has commenced the process of recovering money paid to the implicated government employees.

“Sassa has, in addition, referred the implicated government employees to their departments for disciplinary action,” she said.

Zulu said Sassa wrote to the heads of the affected 19 departments in April 2021, asking them to assist with the recovery of the monies that were paid and the disciplinary process.

“Sassa has also elicited the assistance of the Department of Public Service and Administration. The matter of government employees who benefited from Covid-19 relief funds is also being investigated by the Fusion Centre,” she added.

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Political Bureau

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