Social grants recipients queue to collect their their grant money in Soshanguve, near Pretoria, on April 3. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL
Social grants recipients queue to collect their their grant money in Soshanguve, near Pretoria, on April 3. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL

The South African Post Office (Sapo), which took over the payment of social grants in July, has ironed out many of the technical glitches experienced first time around, including laying on more facilities to enable the forgetful to reset their PIN numbers to access their grants.

The number of people who receive their social grant payments in cash has been dramatically reduced from 3.1-million to just less than 305,000 since Sapo took over distribution two months ago.

Payments at cash points cost the state more as they are more expensive to carry out, but also deliver a better margin for the agent making the payments.

Sapo chief operating officer Lindiwe Kwele told parliament’s committee on telecommunications and postal services on Tuesday that among improvements to the system after a difficult first run in July was the provision of better information and where and how to reset PIN numbers as the elderly were prone to forgetfulness.

From September, beneficiaries will be able to withdraw cash at Post Office outlets using ID documents or biometric data.

The operation to take over grants payments is a huge undertaking with more than 10.8-million people swopped from old SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) cards with Grindrod bank to new Sapo-Sassa cards. About another 3-million card swops must be done by the end of December.

Among the more serious technical problems was the Post Office’s inability to process the large number of transactions on the first of the month as millions of people simultaneously attempted to access their funds.

Sapo has now stepped up its processing ability from 15 transactions per second to the banking industry standard of 200. Copper lines had also been replaced by high speed fibre dedicated links.

Kwele said there were fewer problems in August other than the late arrival of some cash at payment points; the limited facilities at Post Offices, such as toilets and chairs; and deductions from grants that should not have happened.

The new Sapo-Sassa card does not allow any deductions for services or goods bought on credit or loans. The previous service provider, Net1’s CPS, had allowed numerous automatic deductions with the result that beneficiaries seldom received their full cash payment.

Deductions that were made off August payments were done in error, Kwele said.

He said CPS had acknowledged that the deductions on August payments were carried over from the Sassa-Grindrod cards and should not have been made. Kwele said CPS had given Sassa an undertaking that all deductions that had been made would be paid back.