SASSA’s key priority projects have been service delivery improvement; automation of grant management and administration; improvement of payment method; and improved audit report. Key highlights had been the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer which brought about stability, the continuation of SASSA as a major delivery network for government with more than 2 500 service delivery points including 335 local offices, 902 services points and 9 935 pay points, and that by the end of the financial year approximately 10.3 million persons were benefiting from financial assistance, 1.2 million new applications were processed and a new service provider had been appointed to pay out grants. Also discussed was the comparison of achievements against targets in the implementation of the social assistance programme, the number of grant benefits and percentage growth over five years; the impact of the Child Support Grant extension to children 16-17 years. Other matters covered were the Social Relief of Distress grant; the internal reconsideration mechanism; disability management; service delivery improvements and standardisation of the business process; management of dormant accounts and beneficiary records management.
SASSA had focused on human capital management to obtain an improved integrity system. Internal Audit and Risk Management saw the development and implementation of the Integrity policy and the development of the Ethics Programme as well as an integrated Fraud Prevention Strategy. SASSA implemented a legal services framework and it noted the number of litigation cases per annum. In terms of increased access to Social Security, SASSA embarked on Community Outreach programmes targeting 44 wards and Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programmes reached 495 wards.
The Financial Report looked at spending against the budget per line item, SASSA’s revenue and expenditure, reasons for variances on expenditure (for compensation of employees, transfers and subsidies, payment for Capital Assets and Goods & Services). SASSA received an unqualified audit. There had been an emphasis of matter in terms of significant uncertainty regarding the Payment Tender and according to the Auditor General, the outcome of this lawsuit may determine whether there was any non compliance in the procurement process.
Members asked questions about the issue of missing files in provinces, infrastructure, foreign nationals receiving grants, staffing within Internal Audit, filled and funded posts, under spending despite the fulfilment of goals set by the Agency, investigation into fraud cases, pay points, access to offices by disabled people, improvements within rural areas, the employee wellness programme, the lapsing of grants, duplication of IDs, the number of legal cases per annum, shelters for the ageing, the vacancy rate, office improvements and communication about grants. The Chairperson commended SASSA on their financials showing vast improvement.
The re-registration progress report covered the various phases of the process of re-registration, the re-registration statistics per province, the voluntary cancellations, duplicates under investigation, incomplete registrations and replacement cards issued. It outlined the benefits of the new system, saying that to date over 7 460 beneficiaries had voluntarily surrendered their cards during the re-registration process and SASSA was currently investigating 355 beneficiaries who had been receiving their grants outside the borders. SASSA could detect withdrawals that were made from 1:00 am which could be attributed to loan sharks in possession of beneficiary cards. Challenges included micro lenders retaining beneficiary cards as security for loans, exploitation by micro lenders, illegal activity with micro lenders, retention of cards by ATMs, the high request for replacement cards, primary care givers and children not re-registering simultaneously resulting in a large number of incomplete registrations and over crowding at re-registration sites. It also covered the way forward.
Members asked about the loss of cards, the repayment of fraudulent grants, the Special Investigating Unit, children and duplicate grants, those living across the border but receiving grants, voice printing, micro lenders, banks, biometrics and turnaround time, the services provided to the elderly, the recipients of child grants, a system that spoke to Home Affairs and SASSA, children not living with their primary care giver and staff being involved in the investigations of fraud.
South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) Annual Report 2011/12
Ms Virginia Petersen, Chief Executive Officer of SASSA, explained SASSA’s strategic priorities (customer care-centred benefits administration and management system, increased access to social services and systems integrity). SASSA’s key priority projects have been: service delivery improvement; automation of grant management and administration; improvement of payment method; and improved audit report. Key highlights included the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer which brought stability to the Agency, the continuation of SASSA as a major delivery network for government with more than 2500 service delivery points including 335 local offices, 902 services points and 9935 pay points. Highlights also included the fact that by 31 March 2012, approximately 10.3 million persons were benefiting from financial assistance, 1.2 million new applications were processed and a new service provider had been appointed to pay out grants.
▪ Ms Petersen compared targets with achievements in implementing the social assistance programme. She discussed the following topics: the number of grant benefits and percentage growth over five years by grant type, the impact of the Child Support Grants extension to children 16-17 years, the Social Relief of Distress grant, 12 393 requests for internal reconsideration, Disability Grant management leading to a decrease of 20 783 grants, service delivery improvements such as reviewing the grant application form to eliminate that which does not add value, standardisation of business processes and local office infrastructure. Improvements to the payment system included upgrading pay point infrastructure, management of dormant accounts, beneficiary records management, new payment service provider from April 2012.
▪ On an improved integrity system, SASSA had focused on Human Capital Management which included the filling of funded posts as well as an employee wellness programme. Internal Audit and Risk Management saw the development and implementation of the Integrity policy and the development of the Ethics Programme as well as an integrated Fraud Prevention Strategy. SASSA also implemented the legal services frameworks. She also presented on the number of litigation cases per annum.
▪ On increased access to Social Security, SASSA embarked on Community Outreach programmes targeting 44 wards but Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programmes reached 495 wards.
Ms Petersen presented on the Audited Financial Outcomes of 2011/12, looking at the economic classification spending against the budget, SASSA’s revenue and expenditure, reasons for variances on expenditure (compensation of employees, transfers and subsidies, payment for Capital Assets and Goods & Services). The Auditor General Report stated that the financial statements presented fairly well in all material respects and the financial position of SASSA at the 31 March 2012 was in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act and the South African Social Service Agency Act of 2004. There had been an emphasis of matter due to the significant uncertainty regarding the outcome of the Payment Tender and according to the Auditor General, the outcome of this lawsuit may determine whether there was any non compliance in the procurement process. SASSA received an unqualified audit which Ms Petersen was happy with but she said SASSA would strive for an unqualified clean audit.
Ms M Mafolo (ANC) asked about the missing files within provinces What was the status on these files?
Mr Frank Earl, Acting Executive Manager. Grants Administration, said about the missing files that there had been an intervention by making technical improvements in the last quarter whereby previously if a file was processed then SASSA would take six weeks to capture that file within the warehouse. Now the time had been reduced to one week. In most cases the file was not missing but waiting to be captured. There had also been an improvement in the monitoring processes of the local offices and SASSA would search in drawers and wardrobes. It would be safe to say that by the end of the quarter, SASSA would know the number of files that were genuinely missing and after the re-registration then SASSA would attempt to reconstruct those files through the review process which was one of their targets in the last quarter. A great deal of work had been done in that regard and SASSA was more than confident that they had reduced the number of missing files.
Ms M Mafolo said that the Committee had not been happy with the infrastructure. Was there room in the budget for infrastructure improvement?
Ms Thandi Sibanyoni,Executive Manager: Internal Auditing at SASSA, replied that the infrastructure had significantly increased the budget for the current financial year. Over R200 million had been set aside for the refurbishment of offices. This would see 166 offices upgraded within the current financial year – this took SASSA from the 75 offices that were upgraded last year.
Foreign Nationals receiving grants
Ms M Mafolo asked was SASSA doing about the people receiving grants who were not from South Africa and lived outside the borders?
Ms Petersen said that there were foreign nationals who were entitled to services and there were those who ‘lived across the border’. At the moment SASSA could see on their system that 400 people were drawing money from outside the country. There was a programme dealing with the cross border areas that worked with Home Affairs. There had also been a presentation to Cabinet. There was the feeling that the project needed to be ‘lifted’ as there were people with the same surnames and IDs for South Africa and another country. Dual citizenship was a reality and was something that was a challenge. SASSA had struggled and sat down with chiefs. Some people engaged in ‘services tourism’ where they came to use the doctor’s facilities, gain RDP housing and the like and then return to the other country. SASSA would continue to investigate the matter along with all state agencies including International Relations and Cooperation. It was all part of an on-going investigation.
Mr Frank Earl, Executive Director of Grants for SASSA, replied that one needed to recognize that there were different categories of people who came from across the border. Refugees qualified for grants within social development but asylum seekers did not. South Africa had a fair number of asylum seekers and refugees and South Africa provided for those refugees. Communities needed to recognize that refugees did qualify and that needed to be distinguished – as SASSA did not pay asylum seekers. At the moment SASSA provided for approximately 765 grants to refugees that were legal and did have refugee status within the country and were entitled by law. One could thus not qualify them all as ‘foreign nationals’.
Staffing within internal audit
Ms Mafolo asked if internal audit was fully staffed?
Ms Petersen said that the Internal Audit had not, over the years, had the number of staff that was required. Due to the current issues of trying to clean out the organisation it had been decided in the short term to buy in expertise and work with the Department as they too had certain strategies that ran along side this issue – before more people were appointed. For this short period, due to the number of performance issues due to SASSA going through re-registration, a company’s expertise had been brought in till the end of the year. Once this had been done then there could be a decision taken on how many staff were needed. The restructuring and reengineering was a very active process within SASSA.
Ms J Ngubeni- Maluleka (ANC) said there were meant to be 19 000 posts within the entity and currently they were working with almost half of this. Did this not impact on service delivery? When the 19 000 posts had been established, SASSA had been aware that this was the number needed to ensure that service delivery occurred. Why were so few funded? She said that the posts were only filled within the last quarter which surprised her. Service delivery had thus been affected through out the year. What was causing the delays?
Ms Ngubeni- Maluleka said she did not understand how targets were being reached however there was underspending. This seemed to be the case with both the Department and the parastatal. There was a target of say 20 and 20 was reached or even exceeded but there was under spending. This meant there was something wrong in the budget.
Ms Petersen replied that in terms of transactional costs, there had been a saving of R800 million. She had introduced further ways of doing business that reduced transactional costs. The cost to do business had decreased which meant that the budget did not match the delivery. There was thus more delivery with less money as costs such as travel had been reduced. The cost of doing business had been reduced and she planned to do even more delivery with less money.
Mr S Waters (DA) asked about the investigation into fraud cases, he asked if some were public service or SASSA employees? He wanted clarity that the fraud cases were people outside the public service. In terms of the investigations were the 1448 cases individual ones? If they were the ratio was quite high in terms of the total number of employees. He also asked about the vetting process for employees who dealt with applications. How did their vetting process go for potential employees? It was said that those at the lower levels were vetted first as they were more likely to engage in fraud.
Ms Petersen said that the staff coming in were being vetted but there was a base of staff that came with SASSA. The vetting for the new staff had gone well but there was a need to go back and vet all the staff which was a process that had been slow. She had decided to go and buy services in order to speed up the process as she wanted SASSA to be in a better position by the end of the financial year. There was also a move to use biometric enrolment and the tender was currently being adjudicated. After re-registration there would also be biometric enrolment of the staff and this would alleviate the password problem that had created instances of fraud. She had been told that by January next year biometric enrolment would start. That would be the greatest risk reduction tool that SASSA had engaged in its history as it meant that whenever any staff member touched the Oracle (the SASSA financial system) then their identification would be there. The automated intelligence would grow in SASSA.
Ms Thandi Sibanyoni replied that the cases were not necessarily SASSA employees but cases that had been investigated by SASSA investigators. Of those investigated, only 37 were public servants involved in social grant fraud in that financial year. Those who signed the acknowledgment of debt did include public servants and they would pay back the grant with interest but SASSA had been considering looking into other options for those who did not have the means to pay them back. Public servants as a rule had to pay back the money.
Social Relief of Distress grant
Mr Waters asked for the number of people receiving the ‘Social Relief of Distress Grant’. He asked if SASSA had seen the front page of the Cape Argus (on the 30 August 2012) which showed people queuing up to get the grant. He wanted background on what was being done about this as people had been camping out overnight in the cold wanting this grant and had been turned away. Only 75 of these grants were awarded. What was being done in order to make sure these people were treated in a more humane way as they were obviously desperate.
Ms Petersen replied that with the downturn in the economy, social assistance had been the buffer for society. There were people who did not qualify and were desperate. There was also the notion that some people were herded to certain offices more than others. There was a budget allocated through the Department for Social Relief of Distress (SRD). If everyone was to be given this grant then the budget would last a month. This was the reality. There were nine provinces and there was a need to work out the budget and to be clear what the focus was. A great number of the people who had been queuing in Cape Town did not qualify. There was a need for strategy to make it clear what SRD was. Some had already had the three months and thought by going to another office would get another three months as they were desperate. SRD was for three months and when the three months was up people had nowhere to turn. As it was a computerised system, it showed when people last received the SRD. SRD also looked at malnutrition within children and the Minister had been clear that where children were malnourished, they should be provided for.
Mr Waters asked why SASSA was upgrading pay points when the various service providers were meant to do it? Were there not minimum services that were provided? Were there minimum standards set?
Ms Petersen replied that the core function of the service providers had been identified and it was to pay pensions. There was basis infrastructure and, as SASSA moved to not having a service provider in the future, they would continue to meet the areas of need within the maintenance of pay-out points and meet that responsibility as government.
Mr Waters asked when all the SASSA offices would have access to persons with disabilities. The one in Wynberg in the Western Cape did not have access for persons with a wheel chair.
Ms Petersen replied that there had been renovations to put in ramps especially within doctors surgeries. There was also a budget for renovations which would include access. She would personally visit Wynberg to see what plans were to be implemented as it had definitely been on the list of offices to be renovated.
Ms N Makhuba (IFP) asked if more information could be given on the improvements within rural areas as the Committee was soon to do oversight.
Employee wellness programme
Ms Makhuba said that more people needed to be in the Employee Wellness programme, more employees needed to be encouraged to join in.
Ms Petersen said that in terms of the wellness programme, the fact that 28% used the service was quite a good return. SASSA also liked to believe that most of the staff were well adjusted in the workplace. Staff were constantly given the opportunity to use the services. SASSA would continue to encourage their staff.
Lapsing of Grants
Ms Makuhba asked what was the reason given for grants to lapse.
Mr Earl replied that the reasons for lapsing of the grants varied. Some were temporary or if a beneficiary died or if a person left the country longer than the stipulated period. Sometimes it was because financially someone did not qualify or revoked the need for the grant.
Duplication of IDs
Ms Makhuba said that oversight had been done in Durban and it had come out that there had been a problem with the duplication of IDs that was experienced by SASSA. Was there communication with the Department of Home Affairs and was there assistance being provided?
Mr Earl replied that in terms of a relationship with Home Affairs, SASSA had an offline interface that allowed them to confirm whether child or beneficiary was dead. In the case where a person needed to apply for a grant and was sharing a duplicate ID, the interim intervention was to provide the person with what was termed a Quad 7 number which was a temporary access number while an investigation was being conducted at Home Affairs. Three months was given to conclude the investigation when the ID number was available then it was merged with the Quad 7 number. This was to stop the person suffering for three months while the intervention was underway. SASSA system was unable to process duplicate numbers and so in this case social leave was given for three months or it processed the payment for three months.
Ms Khumalo asked if both the people sharing an ID were beneficiaries for three months?
Mr Earl replied one would receive payment and one would receive a Quad 7 which would allow both to get the benefit simultaneously. It was usually the fault of Home Affairs who had issued a wrong number thus SASSA could not be seen to be punitive. It was therefore in most cases not an over payment on the part of SASSA. Usually what was done was the ID number was corrected and the payouts continued, thus no beneficiaries lost out.
Legal cases per annum
Mr N Kganyago (UDM) said he did not understand the arithmetic used when speaking in terms of litigation per annum. He needed more clarification on these numbers.
Ms Busies Mahlobogoane, General Manager of Legal Services for SASSA, replied that the figures for 2006/7 and 2007/8 had not been put in. The error had been noted and the figures before the Committee were from the establishment of SASSA and a document would be supplied to give further explanation.
Shelters for the ageing
Ms Ngubeni- Maluleka said she appreciated the improvement made in terms of shelters for the aged and the erection of new tents. She asked where those came and camped out for the night were accommodated? Were there plans to accommodate them?
Ms Petersen replied that there should not be a need for ‘sleepovers’ (waiting over night at a payout station) any more. There had even be staff who had gone to see what happened at a sleepover. Some had said that it was a social network that was happening as some needed their money first thing in the morning to start their business. SASSA did not support the aged coming at these times and had gone out and looked to see what the issues were. Some sent their children to queue for them (young adults). There should not be a reason anymore for this to happen. There were also various social and other events that happened at pay points that caused this phenomenon. She wanted to reassure the Committee that there would be increasingly less need for the aged to spend nights waiting at pay points.
Ms F Khumalo (ANC) asked about the vacancy rate which had not been mentioned. Did this not affect service delivery?
Ms Petersen replied the staff establishment pre- the establishment of SASSA said that SASSA would be 100% compliant with its mandate thus it did not take out applications and pay out the grants. That was how the figure of 19 000 was involved. When SASSA started, it carried on with the process through contracted payout agents. These agents were paid and had staff that did what SASSA could be doing. Once the contracts ended, then the number could be picked up on. The reality was that SASSA contracted out half of its staff at the moment. When this changed, the vacancy rate would change. Treasury would not give 100% funding until the mandate was met 100%. The reason people only came in the last quarter was because the response to the posts had been overwhelming due to the high rate of unemployment within the country. Thousands of people had applied. The process time in turn had been long.
Three step process
The Chairperson asked about the three step and four step processes for which two provinces mentioned, what was the target in terms of other areas?
Ms Petersen replied that SASSA needed to be fully automated, namely in terms of an ‘end to end’ solution from application to payment. There had been a model step up in the Free State and it was being stress tested before it was rolled out to other areas. There was a company called Notions currently stress testing it and the Committee would know the results.
The Chairperson asked what had been done to improve offices and make sure that people were served with dignity?
Ms Petersen said the East London office had been relocated and the move had been made. In terms of other areas there was a look into leasing and the strategy had been changed in terms of office accommodation. SASSA had looked at having another relationship other than Public Works. SASSA said they would email the 75 plus 3 pay points upgrades in the various areas to the Committee so they could see how the upgrades had gone.
The Chairperson said that the financials showed vast improvement.
The Chairperson asked for an update in terms of the issues that had been raised when the Committee had last gone on oversight in the various provinces.
The Chairperson asked why SASSA had not reached their targets in terms of grant beneficiaries.
Mr R Bhoola (MF) asked what was going to be done with the budget that dealt with fraudulent grants?
Grant in Aid
Mr Bhoola said that certain areas did not administer the Grant in Aid due to challenges. The tender had not been awarded and thus monies had not been paid out, the area in question was within KwaZulu Natal. Had anyone been charged in view of fraud and corruption?
Mr Earl replied that grant in aid was a grant that was unpopular and riddled with corruption. When the grant was marketed, people often qualified. Often when the award was given, it was later found that people did not qualify. There was a high percentage of people who attempted to engage in fraud in terms of this grant. SASSA continued to market it and do their work.
The Chairperson said she wanted the delegation to speak to the communication strategy.
Ms Petersen replied SASSA had been coy in terms of communication. SASSA had not gone on all out communications drive as there were certain initiatives that needed to be highlighted such as the one involving the miners’ wives. She went on to say communications had been a struggle and not enough had been done. There was a need to engage with radios as certain printed media was not being read. Customers also liked face to face discussions. There was a need to use a wide array of sources including banks. Sometimes the community radio stations and newspapers should be the target. The language used also needed to be modified according to the area. In the last quarter, more time would be spent on the communication strategy.
Service Delivery and Savings
Ms Petersen said that the savings would improve service delivery, the corporate image of SASSA and improve the beneficiary experience of customers. There had been conversations with Treasury and SASSA had been able to upgrade more offices as a result of the savings made. Whatever savings were made with the re-registration process and the review would be part of a conversation with the Department and Treasury as to how that money could be put to use.
Re-registration progress report
Ms Petersen presented on the progress of re-registration in terms of its various phases. She stated that nearly 60 percent of beneficiaries had migrated from pay points and had a preference to receive their social grants at their convenient merchant store. She showcased the re-registration statistics per province, the voluntary cancellations, duplicates under investigation (which showed the highest number being in the Eastern Cape), incomplete registrations and replacement cards issued. She outlined the benefits of the new system saying that to date over 7 460 beneficiaries had voluntarily surrendered their cards during the re-registration process and SASSA was currently investigating 355 beneficiaries who had been receiving their grants outside the borders. SASSA could detect withdrawals that were made from 1:00 am which could be attributed to loan sharks in possession of beneficiary cards. Challenges included micro lenders retaining beneficiary cards as security for loans, exploitation by micro lenders, illegal activity with micro lenders, retention of cards by ATMs, high request for replacement cards, primary care givers and children not re-registering simultaneously resulting in a high number of incomplete registrations and over crowding at re-registration sites. She finished off with the way forward and recommended that the Committee note the progress that had occurred with the re-registration progress.
Nationals outside the country
Mr V Magagula (ANC) said it was a nice presentation but it was missing some information such as what happened to those outside the country.
Loss of cards
Mr Magagula said, in terms of people losing their cards, one needed to consider the fact that SASSA was dealing with old people and disabled people. They could thus not be penalised constantly for losing cards.
Ms Makhuba said she agreed that replacement cards needed to have a charge put to them. These cards went to loan sharks and this was why they kept being replaced.
Mr Waters asked how much the replacement of the card would cost.
Mr Earl replied that the replacement fee would be R20, hopefully this would deter people from losing them or giving them away. This was a normal standard price which banks would charge. The amount had also been built into the service agreement with the service provider as replacement of cards could be very costly.
Other countries involved in grant fraud
Ms P Tswhete (ANC) said it was shocking to hear that there were countries involved in grants being paid outside the borders such as Singapore. She agreed there was a need to distinguish between asylum seekers and refugees.
Special Investigation Unit (SIU)
Ms Tswhete asked if there were SASSA people engaged specifically in investigations or were the SIU still assisting?
Ms Petersen said SASSA and the SIU were still working together. Treasury, and not SASSA, now paid the SIU. The SIU had told SASSA that they did not have sufficient funds to accelerate their case and that SASSA should look to a compact of sharing if they wanted acceleration. SASSA had changed their approach to investigation and had said their turnaround needed to be in terms of the workers and syndicates guilty of fraud and then the customers. SASSA had said they would go after a material amount and then try and get the worker charged and arrested. The arrest rate would rise and the arrests that had been done had been without the SIU and had been SASSA’s own work. SASSA did plan to build more capacity in the short term as they did not want to have to ‘give the keys to the safe’ to officials who were vulnerable to fraud. SASSA wanted within the next six months to weed out these officials who were committing fraud. There was a great deal of fraud within disability matters and the banking sector but SASSA was better equipped than they were before.
Ms Tswhete said could ‘incomplete registration’ be changed to ‘re-registration’? When SASSA spoke of incomplete registration it made it seem like they were talking about new people.
Mr Earl replied that this needed to be seen in the context that a beneficiary comes and registers her three children and brings two. The business rule was that if a child could not be brought for registration on one day then there would be provision made for the child to be brought another day. What SASSA was finding was that the child did not live with the mother but in fact lived with the grandmother and that was why the child could not be produced. That number had increased every month to the total it was now. What was now being done was that the business rule was being changed. If allowed to continue it would simply mean that it would allow for more children to get lost in the system and one had to protect the child in this regard. It would allow it to run till the end of the last quarter and if the child had not shown up for whatever reason then the grant for that child in particular would lapse. As of October it would not be allowed to continue.
Children and duplicate grants
Ms Makhuba asked what measures were in place to make sure that children were not used to get duplicate grants. In Home Affairs there was a problem as there were still births that had not been registered. This was especially the case for births in rural areas as the people dealt with traditional leaders and when the child died it was just a given that the child was to be buried there with no documentation processed. She was happy that SASSA called for the child to be brought in when dealing with the issue of duplicates, were the children’s fingerprints being taken so the child could not be used again?
Ms Petersen said that SASSA had found that in the Eastern Cape and other areas, people did not register births or deaths of children. An education process needed to be embarked on, either by SASSA or Home Affairs, as there seemed to be issues of this nature within the country. Home Affairs was glad that SASSA was taking children’s fingerprints as they did not have a database. SASSA’s re-registration was thus assisting the country with some of its problems.
Ms Makhuba said the problem with grants was the same problem that was experienced in terms of South African IDs. People often crossed the border without being accountable and this was a problem area with some people living here and having a business abroad. As long as IDs were still granted to these people who went back and forth on the border the problem would persist with their utilising the grant system.
Mr Earl replied that the asylum seekers within the country were given a piece of paper to confirm their status as asylum seekers. The refugees were given a refugee card which had a beginning date and an end date and was valid for two years. These were the two official documents that the government gave to those two people. The case in question where people were drawing money outside the country were South Africans with South African IDs. As to whether those IDs were genuine or not had been a question of investigation as to how they had been acquired. The ID could be genuine but someone had decided to relocate.
Ms Kganyago asked for verification about how the voice printing worked as this was a foreign concept to him.
Mr Earl replied that SASSA expected a beneficiary to be able to call into a call centre to verify and confirm proof of life. The system was able to recognize your voice even when people had the flu or were not feeling well or their voice was affected in some way by looking at the prints within the voice. It would then allow for funds to be released. If the beneficiary did not call, then proof of life could not be verified. There had been concerns that if someone did not call, then they did not get their money. However, there was still the option of going to a paypoint of a merchant and using the biometrics available in that regard. A beneficiary would then never be disadvantaged if they did not call. It was a form of biometric that used the voice as a means of detection.
Ms Kgonyago asked if one needed to record their voice in order to have voice recognition?
Ms Ngubeni- Maluleka asked what happened if someone recorded someone else’s voice and used this as a form of verification even when they had passed on?
Ms Petersen replied that there was a pre-recorded voice as part of the general biometrics acquired from a beneficiary including fingerprints. One could not have a repetitive line in their response every month as the system would pick it up. One could thus not use a pre-recorded voice to speak to the system more than three times as it would be picked up. She said the voice recording measured the way your voice worked and not the tone. There were elements and inflections that characterised the way someone spoke. This was what was measured – not if it was rough one day or smooth the next. It was certain key words.
Mr Waters said it had been mentioned that micro lenders were illegal and had been arrested. He asked for an indication of how many had been arrested.
Information for users of Banks
Mr Waters asked when the campaign would be rolled out to the people who used the bank and not the post bank?
Repayment in cases of fraud
Ms Khumalo asked how people were going to be made to repay in the cases of fraud. Did this not impeach on their constitutional right – as they would have committed it as there was no other means. These people had no other means of income and when they were discovered to be a part of it they were made to pay the money back, how would they do this? She did not except a response but wanted SASSA to think about it.
Ms Tshwete said the Committee was fighting corruption and what was being fought here was fraud despite the issue that some did not have other means. There were policies to be followed in terms of getting grants and people could not create their own policies.
Biometrics and turnaround time
Mr Bhoola said fraud and corruption was attributed to many factors and the biometric process, once put in place, would deal with such issues. When oversight in KwaZulu Natal had been done the biometric process witnessed had been impressive. He thus wanted to know what was the turnaround time in terms of application?
Ms Petersen said that a grant application could take from 1-21 days. In some offices when people had their paper work and met all the requirements, SASSA could issue a letter of award on the same day. What was important was to make sure all the checks and balances were in place. She had said to the staff that the aim should be bring down the number of days to three. The goal is to have a fully automated system that when an ID is logged in it cross references with SARS, Home Affairs and other parties.
Mr Bhoola asked, in order to deal with fraud and corruption, how was SASSA aligned to other government departments?
Mr Bhoola asked what was the progress in the initiative in which those who were over the age of 70, were visited in their homes?
Ms Petersen replied that for those 75 years of age and above, SASSA did home visits. Communities operated by word of mouth and it did not matter if SASSA told people this was their day to come, the minute one went to re-register, then everyone went, it did not matter whether the re-registration was staggered over three days. SASSA had tended to allow that as they did not want people sent back but sometimes the pressure on the system was too great. However some of the elderly had insisted on coming and it had become a social event. They felt they should be able to come despite the rule.
Mr Bhoola said that he understood that these things could become a social event however there were cases where unforeseen circumstances arose such as people dying. This left SASSA open to a great deal of criticism. There was a need to take cognisance of that. He asked would it not be wise if information was disseminated regarding a particular grant on a particular day rather than having groups of grants tackled?
Ms Petersen replied that they had tried to have it so that each grant was tackled on a certain day but then you had people who came randomly, they too would need to be served. What she had said to the people at re-registration was to try and help the older people first and let the younger ones wait. There was a need for more monitoring at the pay points to make sure those who were frail and infirm were taken care of first but people had found creative ways to jump queues.
Mr Bhoola said there seemed to be some confusion about which banks could be used and sometimes pensioners and other customers were told they could not use certain banks. Could clarification be given on that?
Ms Petersen replied that the money was transferred into a cash pay out point, merchant point or a beneficiary’s account in their name no matter what bank it was. The difficulty people were having is there were bank charges if one had their own bank account but there were no charges if one went straight to a pay point. What had happened was that ABSA had called people to come and open up accounts but they had not been informed that they would have to pay fees like everyone else. When one said that people were not sure what banks to use, it was about people not understanding that one had a bank account attached to certain fee structure but when someone went to a paypoint they got 100% cash back. At a meeting with the Reserve Bank,SASSA would be raising the issue of bank charges for people on social assistance as this was increasing in terms of banking fees.
Bringing together programmes
Mr Bhoola said would it not be wise to bring in the various programmes (such as Distress Relief) under the biometric card system? This would avoid confusion and would mean that one card could be used for all the various programmes.
Ms Petersen replied that SASSA had a card that they used and had spoken to Home Affairs about their cards. However the SASSA card had special features and was not just an identity card, it had a product on the ‘mag strip’ (magnetic strip) that gave various information. SASSA would collaborate with other entities however not at this time as Home Affairs was still in the process of piloting their cards. The Department and SASSA had wanted to work off an integrated platform – and where they were not – then they were happy to engage in that area.
Recipient of child grants
Ms Tshwete asked if it was the person who was the guardian of the child who got the grant or the child? And if the same child was used twice, how had it not been picked up? What system was in place that allowed them to do this?
Ms Petersen said that what happened with child fraud is that people went to Home Affairs with the child and got a new birth certificate so that one chid would have more than one birth certificate.
Home Affairs and Social Development
Ms Tshwete asked if there was a system that spoke to Home Affairs and the Department as well as SASSA that told SASSA that people had passed on?
Ms Petersen said there were regular meetings with Home Affairs as well as system checks within the database of people deceased.
Children who live with another care giver
Ms P Xaba (ANC) asked what happened to children who lived very far due to schooling needs? How was the receiving of grants done? She was asked this in the case of children who lived with people other than their parents due to the great distance they need to travel for school. However the parent was receiving the grant.
Ms Petersen replied that if this was the case then there needed to be an agreement between the parent and the primary care giver. SASSA had found that the children were staying with their grandmother whilst the mother who lived elsewhere got the money for the grant. These were the issues that SASSA wanted to intervene in to say that the money followed the child. SASSA would clearly intervene in those matters. This was why they needed to see the mother with the child. SASSA kept saying that ‘the money followed the child’.
Investigations and fraudulence
Ms Tshwete said there was a serious problem within South Africa of foreign nationals using the services within the country fraudulently. She asked how SASSA made sure that people doing investigations were not part of the fraudulent activities.
Ms Petersen replied she liked to believe that through the SASSA process of vetting, that investigators would be vetted. The old staff were the ones who needed to be vetted as that was where some of the problems lay.
The meeting was adjourned.
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