Fraud clampdown saves billions

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

Since its inception more than two years ago, the Social Development Department's antifraud campaign has stopped more than 21500 government employees receiving grants illegally. This has saved the country more than R7,7billion.

Of the 21500 people, 3657 have been referred for disciplinary action. The actions range from warnings to dismissals said Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya this week.

Skweyiya said more than 5600 people have been arrested and taken to court, raising the conviction rate to more than 80percent.

"A total of R63million has been recovered from unentitled beneficiaries," Skweyiya told the media as he briefed them on progress in investigations into irregular payment of social grants by the special investigating unit (SIU).

He said it was recommended that 143485 people be removed from the system, stopping a total of 165072 grants with annualised value of R424million and a preventative value of R3,2billion.

About 123600 beneficiaries were cancelled due to non-collection or direct requests from beneficiaries.

Skweyiya said the SIU's investigation, vigorous prosecutions and a public awareness campaign had led to an improved culture of legal compliance.

The probe has also detected organised crime syndicates targeting the system.

Syndicates target disability grants and forge medical certificates.

The minister said: "Together with partner agencies, the SIU has started rigorously addressing the problem and plans to bring the cases to court over the next few months."

He said part of the unit's mandate was to review and improve systems as well as to make systemic recommendations to the department and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) on how to close the gaps in the system.

In the past few years Sassa administered the distribution of social security grants to about 12,8million beneficiaries, has already been hit by fraud through staff who paid out R2,6million fraudulently.

The agency's 2006-2007 yearly l report tabled in Parliament recently, revealed that these transactions, including three others amounting to more than R100000 were under investigation by the unit.

Though the amounts were minuscule compared to the R62billion allocated for social grant expenditure for this fiscal year, the report said the cases showed that the new organisation had already been infected by widespread fraud.

Skweyiya said: "I am pleased to announce that Sassa will embark on a national campaign to enforce compliance at pay points."

Call the toll-free number, 0800-60-10-11, to report problems at pay points and to make suggestions about improvements.