Social grants blunder: Technical glitch, under-pressure staff to blame for double paying some beneficiaries and non-payment of 450 000 pensioners

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The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has blamed Monday's glitches with regard to grant payments to the elderly and the disabled on being short-staffed during the processing stages. 

The agency made accidental double payments in some areas and no payments in others, apparently due to glitches in its system as it tried to process payments earlier to avoid overcrowding, News24 reported.

Sassa spokesperson Kgomoco Diseko told News24 that the grant payment cycle was being processed at the same time as the Covid-19 relief grant top-up payment, which was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Under pressure

As a result, staff members were under pressure to split payment files and to ensure the payments were ready in time. 

Diseko said because preparations were under way during the lockdown period, a number of employees were not working and most offices not operating.  

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"Staff members were under severe pressure to split the payment files and to implement the social grant top-ups and effect the payments in time.

"Unfortunately, due to the pressure, some payments were not extracted while others were extracted twice, which resulted in just under 10% of beneficiaries not being paid, and a few others receiving overpayments in KZN and the Western Cape respectively," Diseko told News24.

Earlier on Monday, KwaZulu-Natal Sassa spokesperson Sandy Godlwana said the Western Cape was hit with the double payments. 

"It's the Western Cape that has an issue of double payments. We didn't have an issue of double payments, but we had an issue of people not receiving the payment," she told News24 earlier on Monday.

Apologise

"We apologise, it was an inconvenience for them."

Sassa implemented the system of making payments earlier to the elderly and disabled to avoid having them being exposed to large crowds during the coronavirus pandemic. 

But the system proved to have glitches, which resulted in beneficiaries queuing at payment points for long hours.

eNCA reported that two beneficiaries fainted at a pay point in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape after waiting all day for their money.

Diseko said the agency would now engage with beneficiaries, who were double paid, to arrange a refund. He said due processes would be initiated to conduct refunds. 

The agency could not give statistics of how many beneficiaries were able to receive their money because payments were continuing at the time of the response to News24.

Diseko said Monday's statistics would only be confirmed on Tuesday morning. 

However, in a statement received from the department of social development's spokesperson Lumka Oliphant, Sassa confirmed that its payment system had experienced technical glitches affecting 450 000 Old Age Grant recipients.

"This affects under 10% of beneficiaries who were supposed to be paid today in [KwaZulu-Natal]. Sassa technicians have been working tirelessly since last night to resolve the problem so that these beneficiaries can be able to access their grants," the statement read.

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