6 months of lockdown and thousands still waiting for answers from SASSA over R350 grant

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has learned that the previous Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, spent more than R2.5 million for a technical task team to review the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) business model and make recommendations in reforming how SASSA made its cash payments.

In a reply to a DA parliamentary question, the Department of Social Development (DSD) said that it paid six technical advisers a total of R2 534 831,05 between May and October 2018.

These technical advisors clearly did not fix any of the Agency’s challenges as reports confirm that SASSA is currently drowning under a backlog of 300 000 emails and 4 000 attempted phone calls a day from desperate people needing assistance with the Special Covid-19 Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant of R350.

SASSA now hopes to solve this dire situation by outsourcing the flood of calls and emails to a new call centre that is expected to deal with 90% of the emails and phone calls with an 80% success rate.

While the DA welcomes SASSA’s initiative to address the chaos, we cannot help but wonder why SASSA waited until the end of August to announce such plans. The Agency has been inundated with millions of applications and people desperate to ascertain the success of said applications since the announcement of the grant.

The DA has called for SASSA offices to be fully capacitated with proper Covid-19 health and sanitation processes in place since the start of the lockdown. We have warned that vulnerable people need urgent help and intervention from the DSD and SASSA and begged for them not to be ignored.

Anyone with eyes could see that SASSA and the DSD seemed to have little empathy for the millions of people unable to provide for their families during the Covid-19 lockdown. Anyone with ears would have heard pleas for help from all sectors of society. Instead those mandated to provide this vital intervention have been blind and deaf for these past six months – not just to new applicants of the SRD grant, but to those beneficiaries of other grants that had to suffer due to SASSA’s continued ineptitude in processing new and other claims.

Had SASSA successfully implemented the suggestions for which it paid so dearly in 2018, vulnerable South Africans might have had more of a fighting chance these past six months. Instead, SASSA made a white elephant of the advice and millions of vulnerable people still have no certainty of how they will provide for their families today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future while those without empathy reign supreme as SASSA and DSD.

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