More than 1,700 South African Post Office workers received social grants for which they did not qualify last year, costing the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) around R1.5 million per month.
This was revealed by Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu in a response to a question from Democratic Alliance MP Bridget Masango in Parliament.
Masango asked the minister what the total amount paid by SASSA was to recipients who did not qualify for all types of grants in 2020.
In her reply, the minister said that SASSA detected possible fraud involving 1,768 SAPO employees who were receiving social grants for which they did not qualify.
“The grants were suspended, saving SASSA approximately R1.5 million per month,” she stated.
The minister said that while normal practice at SASSA did not allow for such occurrences, the agency may “under exceptional circumstances” end up paying people who did not qualify for the grants, where there was misrepresentation from grant applicants.
The Post Office took over South Africa’s grant payments after government’s contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CSP) was declared unlawful by the Constitutional Court in 2014, because the proper procurement processes were not followed when it was awarded.
Delays in finding an alternative service provider forced the court to repeatedly extend the deadline by which the system needed to be migrated, lest the payment of millions of grant beneficiaries be jeopardised.
The Post Office finally took over grant payments in 2018, but it has been anything but smooth sailing since then.
Post Office branches have been targeted by robbers who steal SASSA cards which they supposedly use to clone cards of legitimate grant beneficiaries.
This past week, for example, Post Offices in Durban, Howick, and Glencoe were broken into and robbed of SASSA cards and computers.
The Post Office itself has also been blamed for fraudulent deductions of more than R17.2 million on the accounts of pension grant receivers between February 2020 and January 2021.
Despite assurances that the new SASSA-SAPO gold cards could not be duplicated, the social development department has claimed the majority of money lost was due to cards being fraudulently re-issued by the Post Office.
In addition to the fraud suspected to be committed by Post Office workers, the minister said that 105 prisoners had also been paid grants illegally.
Cancelling these saved SASSA around R196,000 per month.
There were also 4,726 grant beneficiaries who transacted outside South Africa during the lockdown period when international borders were closed.
These had cost the agency around R7 million per month.
The Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) further identified incidents of double-dipping – where grant beneficiaries were incorrectly paid for more than one grant – relating to the COVID-19 special relief of distress grant.
AGSA initially identified a total of 80,117 cases within the first three months of the grant being available.
Upon confirming information, 25,088 people were found to have been paid the R350 grant to which they were not entitled, to a total value of R8,780,800.
The minister said that debts were being raised for these citizens.