More than 40,000 approved Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grants for unemployed people remain uncollected, the social development department announced on Friday as it struggled to track down the applicants.
Most of the unclaimed grants are those who opted for their grants to be distributed in the form of cash-send, minister Lindiwe Zulu said in Pretoria.
“We are experiencing challenges with regards to a number of unclaimed benefits despite the fact that they have been approved.
“There are 40,584 unclaimed benefits, mainly from cash-send or mobile pay options. Most who opted for these payment channels have failed the cellphone verification process, and this has raised questions regarding compliance with the Rica requirements.
“We have tried to reach these applicants with very little success, but we will keep on trying with the help of volunteers.
“We call on applicants to collect their grants as this is intended for them to meet their basic needs,” said Zulu.
The minister said there were also people hell-bent on defrauding the system, revealing that more than 8,000 applications had been made on behalf of people who had died.
“We remain concerned by the large number of applicants who, despite their ineligibility, apply for the grant to defraud the system. More than 3 million such applications were found to have other sources income, including those receiving social grants, those registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
More than 8,000 applicants were found to be using the personal particulars of dead people. This is not only illegal but criminal too.
Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu
“A major concern is that more than 8,000 applicants were found to be using the personal particulars of dead people. This is not only illegal but criminal too,” said Zulu.
She vowed such perpetrators would not get away with fraud as the department had mechanisms in place to fight and deal with the cases. Action would be taken against those who received the grants unlawfully.
“We will be instituting recovery measures for persons who may have received grants meant for the most vulnerable.”
Zulu said the SA Social Agency (Sassa) had made significant strides in the distribution of grants despite earlier hurdles.
“We have to date distributed R13.5bn to more than six million eligible beneficiaries,” she said.
“Of the 9.5 million applications processed in November, more than 6.9 million appmillionns were approved and already paid. We are processing applications for December and intend to process payments before the last week of the month.”
The R350 grant was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April as part of the R500bn economic and social relief measures to support citizens during the pandemic.
It was expected qualifying individuals would receive the grant from May until October, but was later extended until January 2021.
While some people complained they have either received one, two or no payments at all, Zulu said only a handful of these cases existed.
“There is still a relatively small number of applications approved but not yet paid for the period between May and October. This is due to [factors] including information verification [or] 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.
“We have made a commitment to say for those who have not been able to receive their money, but qualified, we are working very hard to make sure they get their money. We are also working very hard to ensure we improve payments made at post offices,” said Zulu.
Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela-Khambula said efforts to trace and track approved applicants had been intensified, and their names were forwarded to their regions.
It was unclear what would happened to the money if it remained uncollected.
“At the end of the financial period, because we need to make sure we are able to account to national treasury, we will consult with the minister to engage what needs to be done,” said Memela-Khambula.
Sassa announced on Tuesday that applicants for grants have until February to appeal the rejection of their applications.
On Monday, the agency said appellants must be individuals who applied between November and January 2021.
Appeals must be submitted online before February 28.
Sassa said applicants need to indicate reasons for their appeal or provide motivation when lodging their complaints.
TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)