DA calls for an independent audit of social grant recipient databases

Issued by Bridget Masango MP – DA Shadow Minister of Social Development
13 Jan 2024 in News

Note to Editors: Find attached soundbites in English and Zulu from the DA Shadow Minister of Social Development, Bridget Masango MP

Following recent revelations of irregular and improper payments of social grants to undeserving beneficiaries, in violation of Section 21 of the Social Assistance Act, the DA is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to commission an independent audit of all social grant recipient databases as a matter of urgency.

The purpose of the independent audit will be to review the integrity of the data, weed out undeserving recipients and institute processes to recoup money that has been irregularly disbursed.

A response to a DA Parliamentary question by the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, revealed that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) paid out R140 million to 75 000 deceased beneficiaries over the past three financial years.

In a separate case, a response to another DA parliamentary question by the Minister of Minister of Public Service and Administration, Sizwe Mchunu, revealed that 5,812 Covid-19 social relief of distress grants and 33,833 social grants – paid to undeserving public servants, were cancelled after it was discovered that the applicants or beneficiaries had contravened the Social Assistance Act by furnishing false information.

These two responses provide clear evidence that the integrity of the databases used to pay out social grants is severely compromised and could be costing the taxpayer tens of millions of rand in payments to undeserving individuals. To continue using these databases, despite these glaring shortcomings, would be grossly irresponsible and an unacceptable neglect of assigned responsibility on the part Ramaphosa as the head of the Executive.

Of serious concern, is that there appears to be no sustained effort to recoup money that has been irregularly paid out to undeserving recipients despite clear evidence of a violation of the law. Despite violations amounting to 40 000, the public service system has only instituted 42 disciplinary proceedings against implicated public servants for improper behaviour. This is just a drop in the ocean considering the scale of the fraud that took place.

In addition to recouping the monies fraudulently lost, the DA is of the view that criminal investigations must be instituted against all the implicated individuals. This is in line with Section 21(1)(a) of the Social Assistance Act which provides that “a person is guilty of an offence if such person, when applying for social assistance, furnishes information which he or she knows to be untrue or misleading in a material respect or makes a representation which to his or her knowledge is false, in order that he or she or another person may obtain or retain social assistance to which he or she is not entitled…”. Disciplinary action cannot be pursued in a case where the law has clearly been violated.

Revelations of substantial payments to deceased individuals and undeserving beneficiaries highlight a severe compromise in the integrity of the social grant recipient databases, putting an undue burden on the South African taxpayer. It is imperative to restore public confidence and uphold the rule of law in the administration of social grants.