Being a victim of corruption 'part of being South African'

More than 1,500 business directors benefit from Covid-19 social grants

Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke briefs the media on the Covid-19 relief funds audit.
Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke briefs the media on the Covid-19 relief funds audit.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

As revelations emerged yesterday that welfare relief grants meant for the poor lined the pockets of company directors doing business with the state, an unemployed man who battled to get the money says he had made peace with being a victim of corruption.

Moegseen Mohamed, 26, who has never worked a day in his life, applied for the funds meant for social relief of the distressed during lockdown but never received a cent. Instead, Mohamed told Sowetan yesterday that he had given up because “I know our country is messed up and therefore I have made peace with it. I know that I will probably will never see that money.”

Auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke revealed yesterday that more than 1,500 directors of companies that do business with the state benefited from the state's welfare grants meant for the poor.

She said inadequate verification controls led to a situation where people who were not in distress received the funds while those who desperately needed them were sometimes unfairly rejected.

“The matter requires further investigation and hopefully recovery from the people who benefited inappropriately,” said Maluleke. 

“Although Sassa [SA Social Security Agency] had embarked on a project to improve beneficiary validation this has not borne fruit and the auditors continue to identify beneficiaries that are potentially receiving income from other sources. These sources include government pensions, social grants, UIF [Unemployment Insurance Fund] payments, National Student Financial Aid Scheme bursaries and benefits from other Covid-19 relief funds.”

But the comments were cold comfort for Mohamed, who said it was part of “being South African that you're exposed to being a victim of corrupt officials who benefit from funds meant for us”.

“I'm the unfortunate one because everyone else around me received the money, although some only got half,” he said.

Karabo Ozah, director of the Centre for Child Law, said she agreed with the decision to investigate the directors. “If these grants directly affect children then the directors must be investigated,” she said.

The AG's other findings include that:

  • R95.84bn (65%) of the R148.06bn her office is auditing had been spent by September 30, with most initiatives completed or close to completion, while some had been abandoned or redirected.
  • The Unemployment Insurance Fund has recovered about R3.4bn of the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) funds that may have been disbursed incorrectly.
  • More than 67,000 people benefited inappropriately from Sassa grants. By  the end of August, just under 1m of the 2.95m people who were rejected for the special Covid-19 grant had been approved and received the grants, backdated from the date from which they were entitled to the benefit.
  • Sassa spent R31bn up to the end of September delivering benefits to vulnerable households in communities throughout SA.
  • 5.26m people benefited from the special relief grant while 11.8m people and their families benefited from the top-up grant and a number of their families benefited from food parcels.

Maluleke highlighted that there have been improvements in the distribution of some relief packages, especially when compared to the findings of the first audit report published by her predecessor Kimi Makwetu in September.

She highlighted the UIF as using the first audit report as a critical tool to reflect on its overall control environment and identify areas for improvement.

“Where there is responsiveness after the audit by the auditor-general, we do see some benefit,” she said.

“At the end of the first report, we shared with the executive authority responsible for the UIF – labour and employment minister Thulas Nxesi – our key findings and observations and concerns relating to inappropriate payments to people who should not have benefited from the Ters benefit.

“When we shared those findings, what was pleasing is that there was some responsiveness,” she said.

Another beneficiary, Derek Mohamed, said he only received the money for four months and thereafter it was declined despite the relief funds being initially extended by a further three months.

“I got the money in bits and pieces after applying in May. But now it has declined me since October,” he said.

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