Make war on the fraudsters

WE WELCOME the announcement by Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini of measures to weed out fraud and corruption in the social welfare system.

The minister said on Tuesday that all recipients of social grants will as of April be required to register with the department to ensure that the state was paying deserving recipients and not fraudsters.

The extent of corruption in many spheres of public life in South Africa has reached intolerable levels.

So it is encouraging to hear the right kind of noises from those charged with seeing to it that the government meets its mandate and responsibility without hindrance.

Almost without exception newspapers and other media publish stories of graft, often public sector corruption, daily.

Though the exposure of such practices is most welcome, what becomes of vital importance is what befalls those fingered as wrongdoers in any of these criminal deeds.

It is no less a crime to deny a legitimate recipient a social grant because some corrupt government functionary have their own designs on the money.

In a country battling with huge inequalities a few rands could be the difference between life and death.

But often those found guilty of looting are given a little more than a slap on the wrist. Many are saved by the type of party political membership card they have in their back pocket.

As noble as Dlamini's intentions might be, it would render the entire exercise futile if those found to have cheated or to be cheating the system are left off the hook.

The minister's anti-fraud campaign should cast the net wider. The consequences for those found to be in the wrong should be far-reaching.

But once the exercise is completed the government will have to craft a corruption-proof system. The extent of the corruption in the welfare system is a policy lesson for the government that it should lay a proper foundation before implementing policies that require huge expenditure.

The social grants budget has grown to billions, catering for 15 million recipients. Disconcertingly, this figure includes people who have reasonable incomes.

There are services meant for "all" people. There should be healthcare for "all". There should be education for "all". But there should be social grants and RDP houses only for "some" - that is the poor.