6 April 2005
About 37 000 public servants are being probed for allegedly acquiring state social grants fraudulently, either individually or through syndicates.
This follows a successful campaign which saw about 30 000 ordinary South Africans owning up to receiving grants they were not entitled to – translating into about R120-million a year in savings for the state.
Speaking to journalists in Cape Town on Tuesday, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said drastic measures would be taken to smash syndicates and bring public servants guilty of fraud to book.
“We are currently working closely with various law enforcement agencies such as the Special Investigations Unit, the Scorpions and the SAPS to investigate fraud and corruption related to public servants and syndicates”, Skweyiya said.
Since the government announced an amnesty for illegal recipients of social grants in December 2004, approximately 30 000 people came forward to request indemnity from prosecution; many others stopped claiming grants without applying for indemnity. The amnesty period ended on 31 March.
Taking into account only those who applied for indemnity, Skweyiya estimated that the campaign would save the state in the region of R120-million a year.
The amnesty excluded public servants and syndicates. “The syndicates and public servants will just have to bring back our money”, Skweyiya said.
It is estimated that the government loses more than R1.5-billion a year due to fraud and corruption in the process of delivering social grants.
The state pays out more than R50-billion a year in basic social protection to more than nine million South Africans.
Reducing dependency levels
Tabling his department’s budget vote in Parliament on Tuesday, Skweyiya said that South Africa had made significant progress towards alleviating poverty and enhancing social cohesion.
However, more still needed to be done, he said, to develop South Africa’s economy and reduce the level of dependency on social grants.
“One of the most significant achievements we have made was the reduction of poverty through the provision of social assistance to the most vulnerable sectors of society – the elderly, people with disabilities and, most importantly, children”, the minister said.
Over 5.5-million South African children currently benefit from social grants. Child support grants have now been extended to 1.9-million children under 11 years, and an estimated 1.2-million children between 11 and 14 years will be registered for grants by March 2006. R6.4-billion has been set aside for this purpose.
“As we register these children, we will pay even more attention on ensuring that children who receive social grants attend school”, Skweyiya said.
“We will be working closely with the Department of Education and the education fraternity in this regard.”
As April, all categories of social grants have been increased above the inflation rate.