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Zulu expresses fury at civil servants defrauding Sassa of R350 social relief grants

Zulu expresses fury at civil servants defrauding Sassa of R350 social relief grants

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If Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu had it her way, she would barge into the offices of civil servants who defrauded the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) of the R350 social relief of distress grants.

“If I could, I could walk into offices of those who have taken the money and demand that they give the money back, but that is not how it works,” Zulu said.

She made the comment when she was answering questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday whether she foresaw monies defrauded by civil servants recovered and what the time-frames were to recoup the monies.

Zulu said the problem was that the government systems took very long.

“I indicated to Sassa that I am not accepting these long processes because members (of Parliament) want answers. I want answers and the people of South Africa also want answers,” she said, adding that she could not give time-frames.

She said it would be easy to recoup the monies if the fraudster civil servants were employed by her department.

“The challenge is that many are in other departments,” she said.

Zulu also said some of the civil servants did qualify for grants because of their low salaries, but not for the R350 grants.

“I hope the engagements with other departments, in particular the Department of public Service and Administration, will be able to speed up the process,” she said, with reference to disciplinary proceedings.

Asked if she could blacklist the implicated civil servants, Zulu said Sassa didn’t have legislative powers to blacklist any individual who had been found defrauding the social grant system.

“The Social Assistance Act makes provision for Sassa to review suspected cases and refer them to SAPS for criminal investigation,” she said.

Zulu noted with concern that civil servants applying for the social grants did so knowing that they didn’t qualify.

“I don’t know what happens to their conscience because many are civil servants, and they work in government and get their salaries,” she said.

According to the minister, Sassa compared data in the personnel and salaries management system and social pension payments made to 165 297 civil servants who were receiving social grants last year.

Sassa thereafter reviewed all these grants to ascertain the eligibility of identified beneficiaries.

“By July 31, 2022, Sassa had conducted 80 626 reviews and the remaining 84 671 were suspended.

“The CEO has written to all directors-general and heads of concerned departments requesting their assistance to finalise reviews of the civil servants.

“This includes recovery of debt and appropriate disciplinary action,” she said.

However, Zulu said the process of recovering the monies and the disciplinary proceedings took a lot of time.

“I indicated to Sassa and the department that we won’t allow this anymore. We have to quicken the system so that members can feel the comfort that ‘here are the people who paid back the money’ and disciplinary action has been taken against them,” Zulu said.

She also said they had sought the assistance of the Public Service and Administration Department and the Public Service Commission to assist in monitoring the loss recovery and disciplinary action.

Zulu added that Sassa was implementing various measures to detect and prevent fraud and corruption.

This included application programmes that interface with databases, bank accounts and the implementation of biometric identification for Sassa employees.

“Plans are under way to work jointly with Home Affairs to harvest and validate facial recognition as an alternative to biometric identification.

“Technology is going to help us a lot in reducing these cases of fraud,” she said.

Original Article

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