Elderly man's tale of his bid to stop unauthorised Sassa deductions angers MPLs

2016-05-31 22:07

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Cape Town - It took almost a year, and around R500 out of his own pocket, for an 88-year-old pensioner from Langa to stop unauthorised deductions from his Sassa account, the Western Cape Legislature heard on Tuesday.

The Langa man's case had members of the provincial legislature and guests gasping in dismay and anger as the standing committee on social development was given a breakdown of the run-around he was given when he queried an unauthorised deduction of R307.24.

The committee was being briefed by the Department of Social Development, the Black Sash and aggrieved beneficiaries on the problem of unauthorised deductions from the SA Social Security Agency grant.

Those affected said money was coming off for airtime, electricity and other services that they had never signed up for.

Sipho Bani's case was presented by the Black Sash as an example of what it takes to get the deductions to stop.

Lynette Maart, national director of Black Sash, said that Bani was supposed to get R1 400 for his state old age pension, less R394 towards paying off a loan he took to build a wall to keep thieves at bay. But suddenly he noticed that an additional deduction of R307.24 was coming off.

While he tried to stop the deductions, six more went off totalling R1 843.44 in the name of "INFAJ FIN".
To get his money back and stop the deductions, this is what he had to do:

- He went to the Nyanga Sassa office, which said it could not help, and sent him to Gugulethu;

- The Gugulethu office sent him to the Gugulethu Paralegal Advice Office;

- Gugulethu Paralegal Advice Office sent him to Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) in Lansdowne. CPS is contracted by the government to handle beneficiary payments;

- CPS Lansdowne gave him a statement, saying they knew nothing about "INFAJ FIN" and sent him to CPS in Belville.

- CPS Belville said he should go see Finbank in Cape Town.

- He spent the morning looking for Finbank in Cape Town and when he found it, a woman there said they had no record of his details;

- In November 2015, while in Kuilsriver with his son, he decided to lay a charge. He went to the Kuilsriver Police Station, where they took his details and said they would send the case to Nyanga;

- He decided to go to Sassa in Cape Town, which gave him a number in Pretoria to call. This was actually the number for a furniture shop;

- On November 25, 2015, Bani went back to Sassa Cape Town and they gave him a Sassa affidavit form to complete. He had it signed at the Caledon police station and took it back to Sassa.

INFAJ FIN deduction

His case was brought to the attenton of the Ministerial Task Team on unauthorised beneficiary deductions, and the executive manger for grants at Sassa, Dianne Dunkerley, took up his case.

His payment in December was the full amount, without the R307.24 INFAJ FIN deduction.

But in January, when he went to draw his pension, there was only R324 in his account.

He went to the Gugulethu office to ask when he would get all his money back, and they said it would be paid into another bank account, which they named, because it was too much for the Sassa account.

Bani wondered how they got hold of his banking details and because he had withdrawn large amounts before at the supermarket with his SASSA card, he did not believe them.

Two more amounts were deducted and Dunkerley reported back that he was supposed to have contacted Mercantile Bank to stop the EFT debit. He had to do this urgently, otherwise the money would keep going off his account.

In the meantime, it was discovered that the company instructing Mercantile Bank to deduct the money was FAJ Financial Solutions in Uitenhage.

Bani was instructed to call them to stop the debit and, at the same time, two more sets of deductions were made.

Mercantile Bank

Mercantile Bank then told the Black Sash that they could not stop the deductions. A call to Kreevin Solutions was necessary.

On February 10, 2016, FAJ Financial Solutions told Black Sash over the phone that the problem was an incorrect digit in the bank account they were using for a loan taken by a "Petrus".

The payment file was reconciled and Bani still hopes to have a happy ending.

From Wednesday, June 1, the only deduction allowed off a Sassa account will be for one funeral policy, only from a pensioner's account, after it was discovered that these were even being deducted from child care grants.

The deduction may not be more than 10% of the total value of the pensioner's grant.

In the meantime, the Department of Social Development is stepping up its dispute resolution mechanism and working on making most of the beneficiary payment system in-house again to protect beneficiary details.

Read more on:    sassa  |  cape town

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