Is SASSA Wasting Millions Paying Grants to the Dead?

Is SASSA Wasting Millions Paying Grants to the Dead?

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By Anele Zulu

Turns out even the dead can cash in on South Africa’s generous social grants these days.

The South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) has reportedly paid out over R31 million in social grants to deceased beneficiaries between 2023 and 2024, raising questions about oversight and effective monitoring of grant payments. This revelation came to light in a recent written parliamentary reply from Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu to the opposition DA.

Irregular Payments After Proof of Life

Minister Zulu confirmed that Sassa has made these types of irregular payments to dead recipients over the past three years. She explained that this happens in cases where a beneficiary passes away after submitting their annual proof of life to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), but before Sassa completes the payment run into their bank account for that month.

Over R140 Million in 3 Years

According to the figures provided by Minister Zulu, the total value of these incorrect payments to deceased individuals amounted to R59 million in 2021/2022, R50 million in 2022/2023, and over R31 million between April 2023 and January 2024. That’s a combined R140 million in the past three years that was paid out to people who have died.

Freezing Accounts and Recovery Efforts

To prevent further abuse of funds, Sassa freezes the bank accounts of deceased grant recipients when they are notified of their passing. The agency also contacts the next of kin in these cases, requesting that the misdirected money gets returned to Sassa.

Cooperation With Home Affairs on Verification

In her response, Minister Zulu highlighted that Sassa works closely with the DHA to continually verify and validate the status of social grant beneficiaries before payments are made each month. This includes conducting monthly checks between Sassa’s system and DHA’s national population register to confirm beneficiaries are still alive. Only those with up-to-date proof of life receive their grant money.

Calls for Better Oversight

Still, opposition parties such as the African Transformation Movement (ATM) have expressed outrage at what they deem ineffective oversight and significant wastage of taxpayer funds through these incorrect payments. The ATM said the scale of irregular Sassa grants points to serious deficiencies in South Africa’s oversight mechanisms – unacceptable given the country’s stark inequality and unemployment crisis.

The issue of payments to deceased grant recipients adds to other allegations of misuse of social development funds meant for poverty relief and gender-based violence programs. Minister Zulu was recently accused of bungling over R100 million that was budgeted for GBV causes.

So while processes may exist to clamp down on grants going to the dead, opposition voices believe SASSA and the DSD need robust improvements in monitoring and governance to optimize every rand spent on social assistance.

With growing public frustration over allegations of corruption and wasted funds across all spheres of government, a key question is whether existing oversight mechanisms and accuracy checks provide adequate public accountability.


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