In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed on the extended Special Covid-19 SRD Grant of R350 per month by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
The Committee heard that applications had been received through multiple channels such as WhatsApp, USSD, email and the website, and only one complete application had to be received per citizen. The applications were checked against Home Affairs data to ensure that personal details were correct. Members were keen to hear what the challenges were: many recipients of the social grant were applying for the Covid-19 grant as well; validation of applicants details has proven to be often; there were delays in providing bank account details by applicants; applicants often did not know the difference between savings and current accounts; applicants wanting to use other peoples’ accounts; some clients were not responding to SMS notifications; some clients expecting to get their money after the first notification and some clients visiting the post offices prior to receiving SMSes. SASSA informed Members about the reasons applications were rejected: age outside the rage; people receiving social grants; IRP5 registered people; failed identity verifications, and NSFAS registered people were the main problems.
Members asked what the communication strategy of the SASSA was because people did not get the information about their (SASSA) plans; at which point during the day the post office informs people when it has run out of money; if the Department of Social Development has got a programme that would benefit from the R100 billion announced by the President for job creation and protection; if there has been any impact assessment that has been done to determine the usefulness of the grant to its beneficiaries; and for an explanation why people have been rejected and not able to get their money in time. SASSA informed Members that volunteers were having difficulty communicating with the intended beneficiaries because they are unable to understand the technical process of how the grant was being managed by SASSA or a technical team. Members heard that the SAPO was the chosen payment point especially because it was more convenient for people in rural areas.
The Committee was pleased to hear that the communication strategy - which was one area especially in the rural areas of the Western Cape - was being improved upon, and an impact assessment study was being undertaken to inform decisions going forward.
The Committee resolved that it would like to see an operational plan for the December/January period to ensure all beneficiaries get what was due to them. The contact details of the SASSA representatives/officials/district managers of the offices should be sent to the Committee; and a communication strategy aimed at the beneficiaries should also be forwarded to the Committee. The Chairperson further informed the Committee that he had gotten no response from the National Department to engage with the Minister regarding irregular expenditure by the SASSA Western Cape
SASSA Presentation on Special COVID19 SRD Grant (R350)
Ms Dianne Dunkerley, Executive Manager for Grants Administration, SASSA, took the Committee through the qualification criteria for the special Covid-19 Social Relief Distress Grant of R350 per month.
She informed the Committee that the applications have been received through multiple channels such as WhatsApp, USSD, email and the website. The applications were being de-duplicated to ensure that only one complete application is received per citizen. Applications run through the qualifier database prepared by the SARS (total population data taken excluding those under 18 or over 60). The applications were being checked against Home Affairs data to ensure that personal details were correct. For example, people applied using nicknames; previous surnames, etc. The description on the status bar indicated “identity verification failed”. The applicant had to correct the details first so that there was a match with Home Affairs data before validations could be done. Once it was confirmed to be in the population, it was then run against various databases to ensure that the applicant could be described as distressed and not in receipt of any COVID-19 support from government.
Ms Dunkerly cited many challenges. It has been found that many recipients of the social grant were applying for the Covid-19 grant as well. On correctional services, the database is straightforward and no enquiries have been received to date, but some applications have been received. Regarding the National Population Register, the challenge was on how the applicants supplied information. Validation has proven to be often difficult. As a result a risk based approach has to be followed. Concerning the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the database seemed to have some inclusions as well as exclusions. The SASSA requested a refreshed database.
She also reported that there have been delays in providing bank account details by applicants. They want to use other peoples’ accounts. They do not know the difference between savings and current accounts. They have been changing payment options several times in one session. With regard to responses to SMS notifications, some clients are not responding when to SMS to the number on SASSA’s records. Applicants change mobile numbers frequently, and that makes it difficult for the SASSA to trace them.
With regard to personal details and post office visits, she indicated the personal details of the applicants do not match their identification documents (ID), names are spelt incorrectly and they provided only one name or “call-by” names. Furthermore, the applicants visit the post offices prior to receiving SMSes. About UIF, she reported that various challenges have been experienced. As a consequence, a refreshed database has been requested, and a re-consideration has been performed. A means test with banks would be used only for appeal cases.
Ms Dunkerly gave a list of reasons for applications that have been rejected in the Western Cape, mainly citing age outside the rage, people receiving social grants, IRP5 registered people, failed identity verifications, and NSFAS registered people as the main problem.
Mr Bandile Maqetuka, Regional Executive Manager: Western Cape, SASSA, added that challenges have been observed on the ground and these had to do with long queues at SAPO outlets; capacity challenges on the side of SAPO; lack of observation of social distancing; and rudeness of grant recipients. Despite these challenges he said there have been interventions put in place. SASSA has identified hotspots outlets with long queues nationwide and where people were not getting their money. SASSA has come up with a booking system where people have to produce a guarantee or evidence received that they would be paid on the said date. SASSA has engaged with SAPS to assist with crowd management and control at the outlets. Certain NGOs have been approached to assist with volunteer services to monitor social distancing and queue management. SASSA has also ensured the deployment of its own staff members to assist on-site. Lastly, SASSA has ensured that adequate cash is made available to the outlets, and that outlets that have been closed due to Covid-19 were opened two days after cleansing.
(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate current national statistics as at 2 November 2020 and Western Cape statistics, and the list of reasons for rejected applications)
Mr R Mackenzie (DA) wanted to know what the communication strategy of SASSA was because people did not get the information about the plans at play. He stated that people go to the post office only to be told there is no money. He asked at which point during the day the post office informs people when it has run out of money. He further wanted to find out what SASSA was doing with individuals who got rejections for the grant because they do not have IDs or are registered for UIF. He then asked for clarity on the Western Cape statistics, saying that it appears that there was no work done during September and October.
Mr Henry De Grass, Sassa Western Cape Grants Administration manager, stated that the communication strategy is one area they could improve on, especially in the rural areas of the Western Cape. He said the main problem starts when people receive an SMS indicating they have been approved for the grant. But they do not wait for the second SMS which tells them to come for money collection. Unfortunately, when they get to the post office, they are told there is not enough money for them. They are then told to wait for the second SMS. Regarding insufficient money, he stated that money gets dropped in the morning and afternoon. But if it does not arrive, there is nothing SAPO can do about this. At the same time, SAPO does not want to sit with a lot of money to avoid robberies. Discussions with SAPO on this matter are on-going with regard to the distribution of money. On declines, he mentioned that they continue to make efforts to communicate with individual’s reasons for rejections. He said that SASSA has got information about where that has taken place and the people rejected.
Ms Dunkerley stated that the Western Cape figures reflected the applications received during September and October. The figures were being validated. Some have been processed and single payments for the two months have been made. She said more information would be sent to the Committee and this would include figures comparing the Eastern and the Western Cape.
Ms R Windvogel (ANC) remarked there are no SASSA offices in rural areas and that was making communication with grant beneficiaries very difficult. She said it was important to maintain communication with people because the grant was bread and butter to them, even though it is small. She wanted to know if the Department of Social Development has got a programme that would benefit from the R100 billion announced by the President for job creation and protection. She said departments are going to get a slice from the amount of money.
Mr De Graas said they have tried to deploy many volunteers to the rural areas to assist with registration and communication. In some rural areas there are SASSA offices to communicate information to people. A lot of information has been communicated to district municipalities, heads of departments and Members of Parliament in terms of distributing information to their constituencies.
Ms Dunkerly stated that the Department does not have a specific programme aimed at job creation. Its programmes have to fit with what the national government wants to be done.
Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) remarked she was concerned about those receiving the grant from the mobile SASSA because there have been many challenges that have been encountered. She wanted to find out about the initial time for the stoppage of the grant. Also she wanted to establish if there has been any impact assessment that has been done to determine the usefulness of the grant to its beneficiaries going forward. She further mentioned she was concerned about volunteers that could not assist. She said the volunteers were having difficulties in communicating with the intended beneficiaries because they are unable to explain why people have been rejected and not able to get their money in time. She said the volunteers should be empowered to be able to help the intended grant beneficiaries.
Ms Dunkerly informed the Committee that the grant would come to an end at the end of January 2021. The decision has not been taken by SASSA, but by national government. She further stated that an impact assessment study was being undertaken to inform decisions going forward.
Mr Maqetuka said that capacity challenges have been taken up with SAPO. Covid 19 has also contributed to the challenge. Whenever a staff member is affected, somebody has to be found to replace the one affected. He also indicated that community radio stations have been used to share information with intended beneficiaries on a regular basis.
The Chairperson wanted to know if the technical process of the grant was being managed by SASSA or a technical team.
Ms Dunkerly replied that the process of receiving applications was being dealt with by SASSA. The process is totally different from the social grant. The system in use is owned and supported by the SASSA.
Mr De Graas added that SASSA transfers money to SAPO. It is SAPO that delays the distribution of money to its outlets.
Mr Mackenzie stated that he did not understand why an individual would get the money on one occasion and on the second occasion the person does not get the money. He asked SASSA to forward its communication plan regarding the distribution of grants during the December holidays - especially for those who have not yet received their money - to the Committee,.
Mr Maqetuka said validation and eligibility are done every month and it is confirmed if one is still eligible or not.
Ms Windvogel enquired if beneficiaries would need to re-apply seeing that the grant has been extended.
Ms Dunkerly said people who are in the system already do not need to re-apply.
The Chairperson wanted to establish why SAPO has been chosen as the payment point.
Ms Dunkerly said this was a default option because they ended up choosing SAPO as SASSA already has got a contract with SAPO for social grants. She said they engaged with banks, but banks only considered people with bank accounts. People were encouraged to open bank accounts, but they wanted cash payments. She said all payments will be made at the end of November for the festive season.
Mr Maqetuka added that most of their clients do not have bank accounts. That is why it was decided to use SAPO. Some people have chosen e-wallet, but they have not been withdrawing their money.
Mr De Graas informed the Committee that SASSA tries to be accessible at all times. When a person is approved, the beneficiary gets told. A second SMS will be sent to the beneficiary to say the money is ready for collection, but people choose not to wait for the second SMS. He said this is what they (SASSA) needed to discuss with SAPO. He said the main challenge is in the delay in the coming of the second SMS. He further indicated that rejected individuals are advised to do an appeal. The outcomes of the appeals are communicated to the people.
The Committee resolved that it would like to see an operational plan for the December/January period to ensure all beneficiaries get what was due to them. The contact details of SASSA representatives/officials/district managers of the offices should be sent to the Committee; and a communication strategy aimed at the beneficiaries should also be forwarded to the Committee. The Chairperson further informed the Committee that he had gotten no response from the National Department to engage with the Minister regarding irregular expenditure by the SASSA Western Cape.
Adoption of minutes
Minutes dated 13 October 2020
The Chairperson went through the document, page by page.
Mr Mackenzie moved for the adoption of the minutes.
Ms Windvogel seconded the proposition.
The 13 October 2020 minutes were adopted with no amendments.
Consideration of the Draft Committee Programme
The Chairperson took the Members through the draft document.
The Committee considered the Draft Committee Programme with no amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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