Social grant fraud: Too many guilty officials stay in the system

The Special Investigating Unit has found 25 255 cases of abuse of the social grant system by public officials since the inception of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) in 2005. An additional 183 SASSA officials have been implicated for social grant fraud.

This was revealed today by the Minister of Social Development, Bathobile Dlamini, in a reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question.

Of the 183 cases relating to SASSA officials, 112 officials have been found guilty, representing 61% of the total cases. Outcomes of these cases include:

59 dismissals (53% of cases);
32 written warnings (28.5% of cases);
17 suspensions without pay for varying periods (15% of cases); and
in the Free State, an assistant manager was going to be demoted and suspended without pay, but the sanction was set aside by the MEC.

A written warning seems to be no more than a slap on the wrist. And suspensions mean that guilty parties return to the system. Approximately 45% of guilty officials stay in the system.

Given the high number of guilty findings, it is important to know what action, if any, has been taken in the 25 255 cases against other public servants implicated in social grant fraud.

SASSA CEO Virginia Peterson must explain what steps SASSA will be taking to ensure that all staff members are vetted as a matter of urgency. Vetting is the first line of defence against social grant fraud and corruption.

In addition, the DA will be asking Minister Dlamini to clarify how her department follows up on the cases referred to other national and provincial departments. At this stage, it is not clear whether due process is being followed with regard to the other 25 255 public servants who have been implicated in social grant fraud.

Social grants provide an indispensable safety net to the most vulnerable people in our country. For many, it is the only means through which they maintain even the most basic standard of living. It is time for the Minister to demonstrate her commitment to the poor by taking decisive action to ensure that the grants administration process is free of fraud and corruption.

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