An amount of R13.5 billion has been disbursed through the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant to more than six million eligible beneficiaries.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu on Friday said of the 9.5 million applications processed in November, over 6.9 million were approved and paid.
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) is currently processing applications for December and is intending to process payments before the last week of December.
“Of these payments, SAPO (South African Police Office) accounts for four million [payments], with 1.6 million paid through personal accounts and 100 000 through the mobile money or cash send platforms,” Zulu said at a briefing in Tshwane on Friday.
The Minister acknowledged that there is still a relatively small number of applications approved but not yet paid for the period between May and October 2020.
“This is due to a number of issues, including information verification and banking details verification, while in other cases, SASSA is struggling to locate the applicants, as the contact numbers used during applications are no longer in use.
“The remaining one percent of the outstanding applications will be processed for payment as soon as we have completed the verification.
“We are aware of the current challenges experienced by applicants at SAPO offices. I am working jointly with Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, to address current challenges experienced by applicants at SAPO offices,” Zulu said.
Over 40 000 unclaimed benefits
The Minister reported that SASSA is experiencing challenges with regard to a number of approved but unclaimed benefits.
According to Zulu, there are 40 584 unclaimed benefits, mainly from the cash send or mobile payment option.
“The majority of applicants who opted for this payment channel have failed the cell phone verification process and this raises questions regarding compliance with RICA (SIM card registration) requirements. We have tried to reach out to applicants, with very little success,” Zulu said.
She called on applicants to collect their grants, as “this is intended to assist them to meet their basic needs.”
Zulu warned that the department will be instituting recovery measures for persons, who may have illegally received the special COVID-19 SRD grant meant for the most vulnerable.
She said that over three million applicants, who despite their ineligibility, knowingly applied for the special COVID-19 SRD grant to defraud the system.
Further, 6 712 482 people were found to be already receiving social grants, while 605 466 were registered for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and 168 920 were receiving funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“Of major concern is that over 8 000 applicants were found to be using the personal particulars of deceased persons. This is not only illegal, but criminal.
“Thanks to our investment in fraud prevention and detection, we are now able to act speedily to deal with suspicious cases and fight fraud by working with other government entities and law enforcement agencies,” Zulu said.
Online grant applications
Meanwhile, Zulu announced that SASSA is currently piloting the automation of grant applications to enable applicants to apply online without leaving home.
Zulu said the pilot is limited to applications for older persons, foster child and child support grants.
She said disability related grants will be added at a later stage once the necessary links with the medical assessments have been resolved.
“The pilot commenced in September and has been running for a period of three months, with checks and balances consistently being built into the system to ensure the protection of personal information.
“COVID-19 has sparked considerable shifts and has opened a new era of digitising our services. This is the first of many initiatives in the pipeline.
“It is important that we do not forget the key lessons we have learnt as we adapt to the new normal,” Zulu said. – SAnews.gov.za