330000 cheated grants scheme
The Department of Social Development had removed 333233 fraudulent social grant "beneficiaries" from its database, Minister Zola Skweyiya said in Pretoria yesterday.
"It has come to light that the grants most affected by the syndicates are disability and child support grants," he said.
Syndicates were believed to be selling falsified medical certificates for a fee of between R300 and R1000 each and false clinic cards that people use to apply for child support grants for non-existent children.
He said he would not tolerate fraud and his department had spent R60million since 2005 to root out corruption.
"Those who steal from this fund need to reconsider their actions or face the consequences of those actions."
He said "substantial" progress had been made since the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was appointed to investigate irregularities.
SIU deputy head Faiek Davids said a total of 49335 files were examined and of these 9551 were found to be irregular beneficiaries. They were criminally prosecuted and 7786 of them were convicted.
Disciplinary action has been recommended in 17010 cases.
Davids said most irregular grants were in KwaZulu-Natal which has 25 percent of the country's total grants.
Interviews with offenders had shown that they realised their actions were wrong and it was "phenomenal" that the rate of repeat offences was zero.
He said R29,5million out of R114million had been repaid.
"The repayments show that people are taking accountability for their illegal benefits," he said.
Skweyiya said the estimated R1.5 billion that was lost to fraud and corruption every year could be used to help needy South Africans.
About nine million people and more than 12,6 million grants are registered on the system.