SASSA queues persist despite R2.1 million on a new ticket queue management system at 16 local offices

Issued by Alexandra Abrahams MP – DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Social Development
19 May 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Alexandra Abrahams MP. See pictures of the oversight visit here, here and here.

Outside every South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) office there will be a long queue in which South Africa’s most vulnerable would have either slept over in a desperate attempt to receive assistance or stand all day only to be turned away when the office closes. Queues have become synonymous with SASSA.

In an attempt to ease the burden of long queues and clients sleeping overnight, SASSA piloted a new ticket queue management system (QMS) in two local offices in eight provinces, with the exception of the Western Cape’s Gugulethu and Athlone offices as the procurement process is yet to be finalised.

The envisioned benefits of the new QMS as well as details surrounding function, cost and operational status were confirmed in a written reply by the Minister for Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to question 1863 on 30 May 2022 and question 599 on the 14th April 2023.

To date SASSA has spent over R2.1 million on this new QMS but still queues persist at SASSA local offices.

On an unannounced oversight visit to the East London local SASSA office earlier this month, which Minster Zulu indicated in her response to be “100% complete – system live” at a cost of R171 918.91, we learnt that no new QMS system was in place.

Despite it being load-shedding at the time of the oversight visit, the SASSA official confirmed there was no new machine to print tickets and therefore could not show me the machine. The customer care official still writes the number on the ticket as previously done. The two monitors on which ticket numbers are displayed is said to have always been at the office. What exactly was procured for R171 918.91?

Load-shedding brought the East London local SASSA office to a standstill. The entire office space is rendered unworkable as there are no windows for natural light, and no alternative power supply. Many seniors in the queue indicated it was their third time visiting SASSA with little hope they will be assisted.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Regional office located at the BKB Building, Cnr Fitzpatrick and Merino Road, which is a 5-minute drive or 20-minute walk, from the local office, housing SASSA management is lit up and operational thanks to a generator powering the entire massive building, but renders no direct services to vulnerable SASSA clients. If the East London local office is not going to be prioritised for a generator timeously, surely this regional office down the road must be utilised during this time of national load-shedding crisis?

When querying the new QMS at the East London Office in the social development portfolio committee meeting, I was informed that on that specific day, the system was not working with a later response that “the kind of paper to print tickets was not available in the local market” and it will be delivered the following week. This response is all too coincidental and convenient and raises more questions about the overall reliability and functioning of the new R2.1 million QMS.

The DA will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development in order to obtain clarity on the overall QMS’s functionality and expenditure.

The DA will continue with our oversight visits to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent ethically and the interventions by national government are more than meaningless words on paper and in fact, delivers relief to vulnerable SASSA clients.