Johannesburg – The SA Social Services Agency (Sassa) has vowed to act harshly against people who make fraudulent social grant claims while holding full-time jobs.
Sassa chief executive Busisiwe Memela-Khambula told the media in Pretoria on Monday that the agency made this shocking discovery while processing applications for people who qualify for the R350 Social Relief Distress fund, commonly known as the “unemployment grant”.
The grant was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month following a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The additional financial relief was also extended to child and foster-care beneficiaries as well as old-age grant recipients for a limited period of six months.
According to Sassa, the alleged fraud was discovered when they included the databases of Home Affairs and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) into Sassa’s network in their bid to ensure that all those who applied for the unemployment grant had supplied the agency with credible information.
Memela-Khambula said their preliminary findings were made in the past weeks when they piloted the payouts.
“Out of 100000 people who applied electronically, we realised that 50% of them were already receiving grants. It was the same case with those who applied through an email.
“A total of 250000 used emails to apply. At least 50% of them were also found to be receiving social grants,” Memela-Khambula said.
Detailing requirements to qualify for the unemployment grants, Memela-Khambula and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu were unanimous when they revealed that potential applicants should be South African citizens and other qualifying foreign nationals who are legitimately in the country.
“The grant will be available to South African citizens, permanent residents or refugees registered on the Home Affairs system who are resident within the borders of the Republic of South Africa,” Zulu said.
She added that all of them must be 18 years old or above, unemployed, not receiving any social grant or UIF benefit or do not qualify for UIF.
The government also revealed that university and college students receiving financial student aid as well as prisoners and homeless people living under the care of the Social Development Department also do not qualify for the grant.
The amount to be paid to qualifying applications will be R350 a month from May to October 2020.
“Let me hasten to add that as we implement this special grant, we will remain vigilant and not tolerate any form of fraud and corruption. We have thus built in strong cybersecurity and strong monitoring mechanisms in this regard. All instances of suspected fraud or corruption will be investigated thoroughly with appropriate action taken where such conduct is found,” Zulu warned.
Zulu and Sassa indicated that prospective applicants would need to provide the compulsory information for processing their applications, including their identity numbers or a Home Affairs permit, specifications of their gender and disability status, their verified banking details as well as proof of address, among other things.
Appealing for patience, Zulu said: “We are mindful that we may have some challenges as we roll out this grant and we appeal to members of the public to exercise patience as we embark upon this journey.”
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By Baldwin Ndaba