Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH
Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH

A total of 20,787 social grant fraud cases had been registered by the SA Post Office (Sapo) by the end of June, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said in Parliament on Tuesday.

Sapo is involved in the distribution of social grants, which are paid to about 17.6-million beneficiaries. Total social grant payments in 2019 will amount to R162.6bn.

Responding to a question in Parliament by IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe, Zulu said that of the 20,787 reported fraud cases, 12,432 social grant beneficiaries had been reimbursed with R21.8m for the losses they suffered.

“None of the cases can be considered resolved, despite the beneficiaries having been reimbursed, as the criminal investigations are still under way,” Zulu said, adding that no amounts had been recovered, as this would depend on the outcome of the criminal investigation.

Van der Merwe also questioned Zulu about what was being done about reports of instances of fraud related to the card issued by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and about why investigations into these cases took up to six months to finalise.

Zulu explained that both Sassa and Sapo were trying to improve system controls to prevent fraud.  

“As a result of the extensive delays in the investigations, Sapo has agreed to refund beneficiaries within 14 days of the fraud having been reported and the relevant documents having been submitted. The criminal investigation will continue, but should not impact negatively on the beneficiary,” Zulu said, adding that the backlog of cases was being brought down.

The minister cited a number of ways in which fraud was being combated. Those included the roll-out of biometric registration for all new beneficiaries; implementation of a verification process for all changes to the method of payment elected by the beneficiary; and implementation of a daily bank verification system where the details of the beneficiary is confirmed by the banks as matching those of the bank account into which the social grant is paid prior to payment extraction.

This would prevent payments being made into a bank accounts that do not belong to beneficiaries.

Zulu said a working team involving the SA Reserve Bank, Bankserve, Banking Association of SA and SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) had been established to identify trends and weaknesses in the administrative processes. This would inform what additional measures should be implemented.

“Sapo has implemented an automated card management system, which enables them to track each and every Sassa card, from point of receipt at their head office, to issuing to individual beneficiaries. This will enable the immediate blocking of any lost or stolen cards so that these cannot be issued to unsuspecting beneficiaries,” Zulu said.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za