Pensioners queue to collect their grants at a Sassa pay point in Jeppes Reef, Mpumalanga. File photo: SOWETAN/SANDILE NDLOVU
Pensioners queue to collect their grants at a Sassa pay point in Jeppes Reef, Mpumalanga. File photo: SOWETAN/SANDILE NDLOVU

More than half of the almost five-million applications for the Covid-19 temporary relief grant did not meet the criteria required by the government, saving the fiscus R14m, SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Busisiwe Memela said on Monday.

The temporary grant of R350 a month was introduced as part of the government's economic and social support package, and is meant to provide some relief for those who are unemployed and not receiving any form of financial assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The applications were officially opened on May 11 and the first payments made on May 15.

“Up to now, we have eliminated a number of undeserving applicants and this has saved the fiscus close to R14m which could have skyrocketed to over R81m by October,” Memela said.

“As soon as the vetting of applications is completed, the payments will start rolling in at an even faster pace,” she said.

Only nine people have been paid so far.

Sassa said 10 people were used a sample group to test the efficacy of the payment mechanism, and nine were successfully paid. One applicant had captured his banking details incorrectly, but this had since been corrected.

Memela said Sassa had to compare the information provided by applicants with other government databases and private databases to ensure that people with an income and recipients of other social grants were not included in these applications.

She said Sassa had to remove duplicated and incomplete applications, which accounted for nearly 50% of all applications received.

The agency said much progress had been made in preparing for the payment of large numbers of the Covid-19 social relief of distress grants.

Sassa started using WhatsApp for applications but had to move to other platforms. This was after the WhatsApp system was flooded with unprecedented numbers of applications per hour, which it struggled to cope with, it said.

Sassa said all application channels had been stabilised and the application process was now significantly smoother.

Memela apologised to those inconvenienced by the slower-than-expected process.

The agency also welcomed the announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the country would move to level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown, which would allow Sassa to accelerate the pace of paying out the social relief of distress grant.

At the moment Sassa is operating with a third of its staff but from June 1 it will increase its capacity so that payments are made quicker.

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