I will never run away from responsibility, says Lindiwe Zulu on Sassa corruption

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Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu.
Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu.
  • Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says she does not run away from her responsibilities.
  • This was after MPs questioned her commitment to root out Sassa grant corruption.
  • Sassa is working to improve its system, and action will be taken against those found to be in the wrong.

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has refuted claims that her department does not deal with corruption.

On Wednesday morning, News24 reported on Zulu's response to a written question from IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe, which revealed 5 812 government employees were found to have received the R350 Covid-19 social relief grant.

Yet, only 242 cases are being investigated, and none have thus far made it to the police or National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Furthermore, none of these officials has been suspended.

The grants were introduced last year to provide relief for people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the conditions is that the recipient must be unemployed. The grants are administered by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa).

READ | 5 812 govt employees received Covid-19 relief grants, only 242 are being investigated

During a question session with the social cluster in the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon, Van der Merwe referred to Zulu's response to her written question.

"It is clear, therefore minister, that your department has no intention to deal decisively with corruption to deal with those who steal from taxpayers and from the poor," said Van der Merwe.

"How is it that you were not aware that government officials were collecting grants that were not due to them?

"So, clearly your system is rotten, it's broken, there's corruption and your department, and you as leadership is not dealing with it decisively," she added.

In response, Zulu said: 

I do want to make it straight, I do want to make it as a fact, that we do everything we can to make sure that any moneys that have been unlawfully taken by anybody in our system, that money has to be returned.

She added the department had a debt book it used to try and recover money.  

"Secondly, also as fact, there is no way that the department or me as minister will stand in the way or tolerate any form of corruption that is being uncovered or that is being discovered in the system."

Zulu said if any official in the department colluded with people who have defrauded the system, action would be taken against them.

She conceded there were problems with system to ensure the information provided was correct and with its checks and balances, adding a process was underway to improve Sassa's database.

READ | Government fleeced out of R8m given to people not entitled to R350 Covid-19 grant - Zulu

EFF MP Laetitia Arries said Sassa had a lack of control as well as defective systems.

She asked what measures Zulu was taking to tighten controls and ensure there was no corruption.

"When do you take accountability for all this embarrassing corruption?"

Zulu said: "The one thing I can assure you, honourable Arries and honourable members, is that I will never run away from responsibility. I have always said, at all times, that when there are faults that are being found in my system, I take responsibility upfront by ensuring that I do what needs to be done in terms of ensuring that there is adequate checking of our system."

She added a minority of Sassa employees were involved in malfeasance, and when they came across them, the law took its course.

"There is no way that I as a minister can cover up for a Sassa official who is corrupt, I have no intention of doing that, and I have told the members over and over again, even in the portfolio committee, that I don't run away from responsibility."  

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