SASSA kisses over R50 million goodbye

 ·9 Oct 2023

Corruption is rife in the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), but officials face little to no consequences for theft, and the government can’t collect any misappropriated funds.

Responding to a parliamentary Q&A, Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu said that there were approximately 701 suspected cases of fraud that were investigated over the last two years, which involved, but was not limited to, 40 SASSA officials.

This amounted to a potential loss of just over R50.5 million.

“It is important to note that this figure represents a cumulative potential loss documented for the period involving various other parties not limited to SASSA officials,” the minister said.

“These cases ranged from fraudulent collection of grant funds intended for deceased individuals, the submission of disability grant applications with falsified medical information, and the illicit collection of child support grants.”

Of the 701 suspected cases of fraud, 698 cases were completed, whilst three are still under investigation.

Overall, 37 cases were referred to law enforcement agencies for criminal investigation and prosecution.

“The notable surge in detection of fraudulent cases can be attributed to SASSA’s anti-corruption strategy,” Zulu added.

She said that disciplinary processes could be instituted against those involved in corrupt practices as per Chapter 7 of the SMS Handbook (March 2021) and the Disciplinary Code (Resolution 1 of 2003), which includes warning letters, suspension, demotion, etc.

“However, the regulations preclude financial recovery of a loss which occurred as a result of fraud that may have arisen through the conduct of the official,” she added.

A slap on the wrist

In the same Q&A, Zulu detailed consequence management instituted against officials implicated in corrupt practices, showing that it is doubtful that any corruption-linked officials will face any consequences.

In total, she said that there have been 84 officials that have faced disciplinary investigations across the country.

However, of the 62 cases that have been finalised, only two have lost their jobs. In comparison, 19 officials were given a final written warning.

Hence, it is improbable that any investigations into corruption at SASSA have severe consequences for those involved.

“It should also be noted that some fraud cases are being investigated or handled by external or third parties like SIU, Public Protector, National Treasury and SAPS,” Zulu added.

The table below looks at the consequence management of corruption-investigated officials.

RegionNo. of casesConsequences for Implicated Officials
Eastern Cape194 x Withdrawn
3 x Pending
1 x Not Guilty
1 x Demotion + Final Written Warning
2 x Suspension without pay + Final Written Warning
8 x Written Warning
Mpumalanga171 x Written warning
9 x Final Written Warning
7x pending
KwaZulu Natal1510 x Pending
2 x Final Written Warning
1 x Dismissal
1 x Written Warning
1 x Not Guilty
Limpopo101 x Withdrawn
5 x Suspension without pay + Final Written
1 x Dismissal
1 x Demotion + Final Written Warning
1 x Not Guilty
1 x Resigned
Western Cape101 x Written Warning
9 x Pending
North West51 x Withdrawn
1 x Written Warning
2 x Financial Written Warning + Counseling
1 x Suspension without pay + Final Written Warning
Free State32 x Pending
1 x Written Warning + Referral to Employee Assistance Programme
Gauteng32 x Dismissal
1 x Written Warning (Informal discipline)
Northern Cape22 x Suspension without pay + Final Written Warning

Grant payment failures

This theft is especially egregious as SASSA grants are essential to millions of poor South Africans.

According to the latest General Household Survey by Stats SA, grants are the primary source of income for roughly 25% of South African households.

They are also the second most important source of income for close to 50% of the South African population after salaries.

SASSA has also faced significant inefficiencies over the last several weeks.

In September, Postbank said it was experiencing major technical issues, limiting the ability of close to 500,000 people to access their funds from ATMs and retailers.

There have also been several issues at the start of October, with News24 reporting that several Postbank outlets in KZN ran out of cash. City Press said that beneficiaries who could not access their funds in September were not paid the outstanding amount.

Read: Warning for interest rates in South Africa

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