72 people arrested as Sassa card related fraud soars

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A man stands outside a Sassa office in Cape Town during the coronavirus lockdown.
A man stands outside a Sassa office in Cape Town during the coronavirus lockdown.
Nardus Engelbrecht, Gallo Images
  • Sassa lost more than R50 million to card fraud.
  • Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu revealed close to 20 000 fraud cases were reported to Sassa in 2019.
  • Sassa spent R18 million on investigations to recoup the monies lost to fraud.

South Africa’s troubled SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) social grants payments agency was defrauded of over R50 million in just one year, and it had to spend another R18 million on an investigation to recoup some of the money.

This is according to a response by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu to a written parliamentary question from DA MP Bridget Masango.

Masango wanted details on the close to 20 000 cases of fraud reported to Sassa, the number of cases resolved, total amounts recovered, and if any implicated officials have been suspended or fired.

READ | Sassa loses R282 million to fraud over the past 5 years

Zulu said:

A total of 19 448 cases out of 23 240 Sassa card related fraud cases reported in 2019 have been resolved. The bulk of these cases involved the fraudulent re-issuance of Sassa or South African Post Office cards resulting in genuine grant beneficiaries not receiving their money.

Zulu said in 2019, R54 055 131.70 was lost through Sassa card fraud.

READ | Former cop, post office cleaner arrested for allegedly offering R20 000 for 250 Sassa cards

"[Monies] spent on all fraud investigations in Sassa, including investigations conducted by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) was R18 915 137.00. The money lost during 2019 was reimbursed by the South African Post Office to the value of R45 150 091.32," she said.

The entity is responsible for distributing social grants to more than 16 million South Africans.

Zulu said the fraud occurred in the SAPO environment and 14 post office employees have been dismissed.

The 14 officials were among 72 people who were arrested.

READ HERE | Former cop, post office cleaner arrested for allegedly offering R20 000 for 250 Sassa cards

Last month, News24 reported over the past five years, more than R282 million has been looted from the Sassa.

A grand total of 258 cases were recorded in the last five years in all regions [provinces], read Zulu's answer.

Of these 258 cases, only 76 officials had been fired. Altogether, 156 were placed on precautionary suspensions, and 26 were suspended without pay.

ALSO READ Post Office faces a grant payment crisis as it begs for R1 billion

KwaZulu-Natal recorded the highest number in precautionary and dismissal categories. Overall, the province accounts for 55% which is the highest compared to other regions," read Zulu's answer.

In KwaZulu-Natal, 111 officials were suspended, and 25 were dismissed.

The Northern Cape and Western Cape recorded the lowest cases.

Social grants are also paid to citizens living in neighbouring countries.

Zulu confirmed this last month when she revealed Sassa pays social grants to 579 citizens residing in Namibia as part of a 1994 bilateral agreement.

On 19 April 1994, the governments of South Africa and Namibia signed a bilateral agreement which binds South Africa to continue paying social grants to its citizens who lived in Walvis Bay at the time the agreement was signed.

The agreement has no termination date.

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