Sassa boss in jobs for pals scandal

Cape Town - South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) boss Virginia Petersen is embroiled in yet another scandal – this time for giving jobs to pals.

According to the Sunday Times, Petersen ensured that Faig Majiet, the son of a friend, was paid R9 000 per month as an intern when interns only received R4 500. Petersen also personally approved Majiet’s appointment to a six-month contract position once his internship had ended.

Majiet’s mother is Shanaaz Majiet, a deputy director-general at the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and once worked closely with Petersen in the Western Cape government under former premier Ebrahim Rasool.

The newspaper reported that Petersen also appointed Rasool’s sister, Naziema, as inter-governmental and stakeholder relations manager for Sassa despite her not having the required qualification.

Petersen reportedly bumped up her salary and granted her extra perks. The advertisement for the job stated the salary would be an all inclusive package of R434 505 to R511 827 per annum. But Petersen approved a per annum salary of R606 579 plus a ministerial allowance of R4 245 per month and a once-off clothing allowance of R4 805. It is reported that Naziema also shares a house with Petersen.

This development comes after reports emerged recently that Sassa allegedly blew more than R10m on bodyguards for social development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant and other senior officials.

Tender process bypassed

A little-known security company, Vuco Security Solutions, based in KwaMashu outside Durban, was allegedly awarded the multi-million rand deal – without it having been put out on tender.

Among the payments made to Vuco were R1.1m for protection services for Oliphant and her family, R2.9m for protection for Petersen and Renay Ogle, general manager for fraud management and compliance, R95 460 a month since October last year to protect a whistle-blower from KwaZulu-Natal and R206 000 for a luxury Range Rover for Andile Khanyile, who is head of operations for Vuco.

Documents state that Petersen instructed that most of the contracts bypass the tender process and be funded from her own office.

However, in response to the allegations, Oliphant said that death threats and intimidation were some of the reasons why millions of rands had been spent on security protection services for top personnel at Sassa.

Controversy

The agency has been embroiled in controversy of late, with fraud charges being brought against a number of officials.

In November, it was reported that communications head Paseka Letsatsi went on voluntary special leave prior to his arrest on fraud charges.

Sassa head Petersen had been made aware of the pending arrest Letsatsi himself, spokesperson Kgomoco Diseko said at the time.

Diseko said Petersen agreed with his voluntary request for a special leave, whilst awaiting the full report from the anti-corruption task team.

Letsatsi was arrested along with ANC national executive committee member Pule Mabe and Kabedi Ramosa.

They were facing charges of theft, fraud, and money laundering.

Letsatsi allegedly illegally solicited funds from the agency and gave these to companies owned by Mabe and Ramosa, eNCA reported.

Majavu said the charges against Letsatsi were from 2008 when Fezile Makiwane was the agency's chief executive.

Whatever allegedly happened was done within the scope of his employment as head of communications, Majavu said.

Makiwane was dismissed amid allegations of fraud and corruption.

Petersen would await the outcome of the investigations against Letsatsi before deciding on what action to take, Diseko said at the time.

Corruption

In September, it was reported that three Sassa officials were arrested for corruption in Piet Retief.

Police spokesperson Selvy Mohlala said they gave unactivated, fraudulent grant payment cards to a woman who posed as an official and visited beneficiaries' homes on the pretext of verifying them as beneficiaries.

"In the process, she will ask for their Sassa cards and the pin code. She then exchanges the cards and gives the beneficiary the card that is not activated," he said.

Mohlala said a woman, Thembeni Nene, 48, was arrested in Piet Retief on 6 September after allegedly trying to swap cards at an ATM.

Mohlala said grant payment cards and birth certificates had been seized from the three officials' offices.

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