Bid to stamp out grant fraud

2009-11-18 00:00

THE South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has embarked on a child support grant review campaign to identify fraudulent applications.

This was brought to the attention of The Witness yesterday by the agency’s spokesman, Vusi Mahaye, after a complaint by a mother of three children who did not receive her children’s grant for last month.

Sassa is an agency dealing with the management, administration and payment of social assistance in the form of grants to the public.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she received a letter from Sassa last month asking her to report to the agency’s offices for review of her grant. She said she went to the offices and re-applied.

“I didn’t receive the grant last month. I had to go the whole month not knowing what to feed three children. To me this came as a surprise with no one offering an explanation on why the grant was withheld,” said the mother.

Mahaye said the agency has been reviewing claims all year to identify fraudulent claims. This process has been going on since early this year.

“I must note that not all grants are under review. Those who get their money through banks had to undergo this review as the agency had discovered that some claims paid through banks are fraudulent,” Mahaye said.

The agency requested information on the status of the accounts into which the grants are paid. “The information we received from other banks, which I cannot divulge at this stage, made us suspicious that the account holders are defrauding the agency. We then sent registered letters to all grant recipients requesting them to come for the review,” he said.

The letters, directed mostly to some 82 000 recipients who have accounts with Ithala Bank, were delivered in September, giving them until October 30 to respond.

Mahaye said all Ithala account holders were summoned for the review because the bank would not provide the required information within the time frame set by the agency.

By mid-October, only 19 000 of the 82 000 contacted had responded. About 10 000 of the letters were returned as the addresses could not be traced.

“Seeing the poor response we extended the deadline to November 13,” Mahaye said. Missing the deadline will result in the grant being paid only in January.

Those accounts identified as fraudulent will be handed over to the police for further investigation.

He wouldn’t say at this stage how much the department has lost through fraudulent claims this year.

DA KZN caucus leader in the legislature John Steenhuisen said the culprits have to be brought to book. “This is one of the most shameful crimes to be committed because it is like taking away a slice of bread from the poor children.

“We receive a lot of reports on this type of fraud, but few of the culprits are brought to book.

“The government must remember that the more fraudulent the awarding of grants, the less money goes to those genuinely in need of the support,” Steenhuisen said.

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