Sassa grant upset

PHIRI CAWE

Unauthorised deductions from social grant beneficiaries’ bank accounts have raised the ire of residents who accused the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) of violating their right to their monies.

But Sassa has denied any wrongdoing, saying it was investigating the issue.

The scam reportedly hit more people in the province sincethe start of the year.

Vukani has been inundated with calls from beneficiaries accusing the agency of wrongdoing.

They claimed every month, money wasdeducted from the accounts without their permission.

Sassa said it was aware of numerous electronic funds transfer (EFT) debits that affected beneficiaries and, with the Department of Social Development, had instituted action.

A ministerial task team has been appointed by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini to investigate and make recommendations on how to protect beneficiaries.

A livid Nomvuyo Ntoyanto, from Philippi, accused Sassa of having a hand in matter, saying she found that she had no money when she went to do grocery shopping on Wednesday February 10.

She said she was told at the till that she had R1.69 in her account. “You can understand my pain and disappointment. It was pay day, but I had nothing. That is why I suspect Sassa knows about the scam. How could these people know our details? I am still not convinced that Sassa is not part of the scam,” she told Vukani.

Ms Ntoyanto said she was concerned about other people, especially senior citizens. “When I asked Sassa officials at the Gugulethu branch, they told me I am not the only one. They said it was a scam that has been happening. I was shocked because it was my first experience. I never had this problem before. But you ask yourself how are seniors doing with this problem,” she said.

Ms Ntoyanto had to spend the month without food, relying on the goodwill of neighbours. She also could not even pay her child’s school transport fees. “I believe Sassa should have a way to reverse our monies when we complain. If Sassa pays us, I do not see why it cannot refund us,” she said.

Nowethu Mntshayi, from Site C, who called Vukani said the matter should be dealt with immediately.

“This is absolutely nonsense. Old people were suffering before and now they are still suffering. This has to come to an end. The government needs to deal with this,” said the concerned mother.

She said Sassa should prevent any unauthorised deductions from elderly people’s accounts. She said she has seen many living without food.

Sassa confirmed they have received complaints from social grant beneficiaries.

Sassa spokeswoman in the Western Cape, Shivani Wahab, said in 2012, Sassa awarded a contract for the payment of social grants to Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

She said the system brought many advantages to social grant beneficiaries, in that they were in a position to withdraw their money from the first day of each month, through multiple channels. However, she said, it also brought with it unintended consequences, primarily that EFT debits could take place.

Ms Wahab condemned the actions as immoral and not supported in any way by either the Department of Social Development or Sassa.

She said the agency has also developed and implemented a dispute resolution mechanism, which sets out the processes to be followed by Sassa staff when assisting beneficiaries to resolve problems they may experience with EFT debits off their social grants.

“We have received numerous complaints from care-givers too, who receive the child support grant, who have also experienced this challenge.

“Sassa is doing everything it can to ensure that any social grant beneficiary who complains about EFT debits off their social grant is promptly assisted. All social grant beneficiaries who experience this challenge are requested to call the Sassa help line, and not to go directly to the payment contractor or to Grindrod Bank. Sassa staff will then guide them through the process of resolving the dispute,” she said.

She called on everyone, including the media, to spread the message to social grant beneficiaries not to make any financial commitments which impact negatively on their social grants.

Ms Wahab said Sassa is committed to ensuring that the poor and vulnerable in society access their constitutional entitlements with dignity.

The toll-free Sassa help line number is 0800 60 10 11.