Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu elaborates on Covid-19 socioeconomic relief interventions during a media briefing in Pretoria on April 29 2020. Picture: GCIS/JAIRUS MMUTLE
Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu elaborates on Covid-19 socioeconomic relief interventions during a media briefing in Pretoria on April 29 2020. Picture: GCIS/JAIRUS MMUTLE

The SA Social Security agency of SA (Sassa) has so far paid out a little more than R1.2bn for the temporary Covid-19 relief grant to about 3.4-million people.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu on Monday said these payments were made to those who applied for the R350 grant in May.

The temporary grant 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 in May and would be available for six months.

There have been delays in the payment of the grant.

Zulu said to date Sassa has received more than 7.5-million applications for the grant, of which just over 4.4-million were approved.

She said about 2.1-million applications, which were declined, were either receiving social grants, UIF benefits, or appeared on the active UIF database, or are receiving a National Student Financial Aid Scheme stipend, and those found on the government employees' database.

We acknowledge the public’s frustration with regards to the administration and payment of this grant. However, let me hasten to add that the system is dependent on the verification of the applicant’s information by other stakeholders to reduce the margin of error and avoid paying ineligible applicants. Given the limited financial resources available, we have to ensure that the money only reaches those who qualify for this support,” Zulu said.

She said Sassa will on a monthly basis reassess all applications  to ensure that where circumstances have changed and income was received from any other source the grant would not continue to be paid. The reassessment of all applications had already started and the applicants are being reassessed against databases in preparation for batch release of June payments from this week.

Zulu said the initial delays in the payment of the grant were largely due to a number of reasons including systems development, the need for multiple data verification sources, and slow response to requests to provide banking details by successful applicants.

She said Sassa had enhanced its systems to improve the validation processes.  

A high number of applicants failed the bank accounts verification process largely due to errors in the capturing of banking information and some applicants attempting to use other people’s bank accounts.

At the beginning of the month, Sassa decided to review the declined applications for temporary Covid-19 grant applications and get to the bottom of the reasons.

Zulu said she instructed the agency to conduct the review because of the high number of rejections, especially because many of those who were rejected were  as a result of their details appearing on the UIF database.

Sassa was reconsidering these applications after receiving updated UIF database information from the department of employment & labour & employment.  

Zulu said the number of declined applications as a result of  IDs  appearing  on the UIF database had fallen significantly. About 900,000 validated applications were found to potentially qualify for temporary relief grant from May.

The minister said to address further exclusion errors, Sassa was implementing a recourse mechanism for applicants who have been declined and wish to review the decision. This would have to be done electronically to cope with the numbers.

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