SASSA officials are defrauding the system by bypassing capturing biometric data of beneficiaries

The Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) has ordered its employees to essentially defraud its own application system by claiming that biometric testing and identification has been done for new applicants, when in fact no such information has been captured.

By not capturing biometric data, SASSA is exposing itself and beneficiaries to potential fraud by opportunistic criminals, and worse, the possibility of new applicants being swindled of their grants.

The DA will request that Social Development Minister, Susan Shabangu, urgently confirm if this is the case and if so, what action will be taken to ensure that beneficiaries and SASSA will not be defrauded.

The Minister has essentially thrown SASSA and SAPO’s plans into disarray and left officials to deal with this mess while she is out of the country in Geneva, Switzerland.

Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) previously carried out biometric testing and identification for new applicants – a service which they were paid for. However, after the CPS contract was declared invalid and SASSA migrated to the South African Post Office (SAPO), SASSA employees were meant to carry out biometric testing.

When SASSA employees demanded payment for the biometric enrolment, as it is an extra function, SASSA refused. As a result, trade union, Public Servants Association (PSA), ordered a brief suspension in the processing of new applications as the two parties could not come to an agreement on extra pay for employees.

The agreement between SASSA and the PSA has been slow. In the meantime, in a memo to its employees on 21 August 2018, SASSA instructed employees to bypass biometric testing and identification when processing new applicants.

In essence, in an attempt to save face and get the new applications processed without having to negotiate with the PSA, SASSA is requiring its employees to lie about capturing biometric data and defraud its own system.

The Minister must also clarify her remarks that all pay points will be open beyond the 30 September 2018 deadline. This seems to be in contravention of the Constitutional Court judgement and in contradiction of what SASSA has been communicating to beneficiaries about the closure of some pay points.

This means that beneficiaries could once again see the payment of grants delayed in October and beneficiaries face yet more confusion.

The DA will continue to expose dodgy processes at SASSA, especially when it puts the payment of grants to beneficiaries at risk. Biometric testing does not only protect SASSA from fraud, it also protects grants beneficiaries. The absence of biometric information creates an environment in which fraudsters can rob the disadvantaged of their only source of income.

President Ramaphosa must not protect Shabangu like Zuma protected Dlamini

The time has come for President Cyril Ramaphosa to personally intervene in the ongoing social grants fiasco.

This is after CPS submitted an affidavit to the Constitutional Court stating that it does not have enough money to distribute cash grants to beneficiaries in July. CPS claims to not have enough money because they are demanding a higher administration fee than what has been recommended, approved and paid in full by National Treasury and SASSA.

Essentially, CPS is attempting to create yet another crisis, risking the wellbeing of 2.8 million social grant recipients, to force government’s hand to pay them more money.

By threatening to not pay cash grants, CPS is clearly holding the Department of Social Development, the Constitutional Court and the beneficiaries to ransom.

This is further proof of CPS’s parasitic nature and that they are willing to toy with the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable for their own financial gain.

In 2014, the Constitutional Court declared the CPS contract unlawful. In March this year, the Court was forced to grant yet another extension of this contract which is set to come to an end in September this year.

The President has to intervene with urgency, as he too is accountable for this mess.

Instead of ensuring that he prioritised the lives of the poor and vulnerable by appointing a competent Minister to replace Dodging Dlamini, he simply swapped like for like.

On Wednesday, the new Minister of Social Development, Susan Shabangu, appeared before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development where she had ample opportunity to divulge this information. However, she did not. This means that she either chose to keep quiet or she was completely in the dark about the impending crisis at CPS. Both scenarios are equally inexcusable.

President Ramaphosa cannot protect Minister Shabangu the way President Jacob Zuma protected Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

On Wednesday, the DA wrote to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development to request that the Minister and the SASSA CEO account to Parliament on the decision to cancel the tender process for another service provider to distribute grants. The Minister must answer for this mess and why SASSA decided to cancel the cash grants tender process. It is now clear that CPS is grossly unsuitable to distribute social grants to our people.

The DA will not be deterred from ensuring that SASSA, CPS and the Minister is held accountable for once again placing the lives of vulnerable social grants recipients at risk.

This ongoing crisis must be dealt with urgently, once and for all for sake of the millions who rely on social grants just to get by.

DA requests record of decision on SASSA cash grants tender cancellation

The DA has written to the Minister of Social Development, Susan Shabangu, and the Acting SASSA CEO, Abraham Mahlangu, to request the Record of Decision on SASSA’s decision to cancel the bidding process to find an alternative service provider to CPS, for the distribution of cash grants.

The public has a right to know the rationale behind the decision to cancel the tender process and that this is not yet another attempt to hold a gun to the head of the Constitutional Court to extend the illegal CPS contract.

The DA maintains that this move by SASSA is not only reckless but also utterly negligent given that no information has been provided about an alternative service provider to pay out cash grants to 2.8 million beneficiaries.

To this end, we have also requested that the Minister make public any contingency plans that have been put in place to ensure that grant beneficiaries are able to receive cash payments without interruption after the current extension of the CPS contract comes to an end in September.

The reality is that the Constitutional Court declared the initial CPS contract invalid in 2014. The Department and SASSA have had two years to find a suitable alternative. Instead, under the leadership of then Social Development Minister, Bathabile ‘Dodging’ Dlamini, they have consistently delayed the process.

It is now time for the new Minister to play open cards.

If Minister Shabangu has nothing to hide, she will make all documents and opinions on which the decision was based public.

The DA will continue to keep a close eye on the developments of the cash payment process. The 2.8 million vulnerable South Africans who depend on cash grants every month cannot continue to be kept guessing about whether or not they will receive their grants.

Bathabile Dlamini and Pearl Bhengu must be held personally liable for SASSA waste

The Democratic Alliance will write to the new Minister of Social Development, Susan Shabangu, to request that her Department take urgent action to hold her predecessor, Bathabile Dlamini, and former South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) CEO, Pearl Bhengu, personally liable for gross irregular expenditure at the Department during their tenure, including the R16 million spent on dubious “education meetings”.

In a presentation to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) in Parliament today, SASSA revealed Bhengu signed off R16 million in December 2017 for “education meetings” in Kwazulu-Natal without following standard procurement procedures.

Today, Bhengu was the only Provincial manager absent, conveniently “unwell”.

It is alleged that Bhengu, within a day of receiving the request, approved inter alia:

• A marque for R485 000;
• Flooring for R482 000;
• Chairs and ‘decor’ for R487 000;
• Catering for R493 000;
• Transport for R493 000;
• A sound system for R492 000; and
• Gifts and promotions worth R480 000

Dlamini and Bhengu cannot escape accountability for their complicity in turning SASSA into their personal piggy bank while diverting money to vanity projects that did not improve the material welfare of grant recipients. While we welcome the commitments by the new acting SASSA CEO, Abraham Mahlangu to conduct further investigations, parliament must still exercise its oversight responsibilities and therefore Dlamini and Bhengu should be summoned to urgently appear before SCOPA to account for their actions.

Shipping Bhengu off to Kwazulu-Natal will also not atone for the financial damage she did while she was the CEO at SASSA. She must immediately be suspended pending an investigation and, if found guilty, made to pay back all the SASSA money that was wasted. The same is true for Dlamini; the fact she is now the Minister of Women despite her demonstrated poor leadership is an indictment on the ANC government and sends a clear message that accountability is not a priority for them.

The real tragedy is that while grant recipients are struggling with the rise in food prices triggered by the VAT increase to 15%, SASSA continues to lose money without any sense of responsibility to the millions of poor South Africans it is meant to serve. The DA will not sit idly and allow this blatant misuse of state coffers to continue.

SASSA: Bhengu’s redeployment does not absolve her from accountability

In today’s Portfolio Committee Meeting on Social Development, Minister Susan Shabangu confirmed reports that Abraham Mahlangu has been appointed as Acting SASSA CEO following the redeployment of Pearl Bhengu to KwaZulu-Natal.

While the DA welcomes Bhengu’s exit from SASSA, her redeployment does not absolve her from accountability nor does it entitle her to a severance package.

Past experiences have taught us that ineffective CEO’s often get rewarded for poor performance and enabling corruption to fester in our parastatals.

Bhengu was at the helm of SASSA when the agency was on the verge of yet another social grants crisis and she was believed to have been very close to former Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, who was set on ensuring the continuation of the illegal CPS contract.

The reality is that Bhengu has to be held accountable for her hand in the many crises that SASSA continues to suffer and her role in the social grants mess must be investigated.

The new SASSA CEO has a responsibility to remain politically independent and to ensure that he always acts in the best interest of the 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans, who depend on social grants every month to just get by.

The DA will continue to keep an eye on the developments at SASSA and we will ensure that Parliament exercises its oversight and hold Shabangu and Mahlangu accountable.

No ‘New Dawn’ for SASSA under Shabangu as millions may not receive their grants

Confusion seems to be the order of the day, as SASSA told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development that new service provider for cash payment would only be ready in July. The agency also admitted today that it still does not have any feasible contingency plans in place in the event the Constitutional Court declines an extension of the illegal CPS contract.
This completely contradicts announcements made at a press conference last week by SASSA CEO, Pearl Bhengu, that there were in fact plans in place for cash payments come the April 1st deadline.
It is now clear, however, that there are no plans in place and that Bhengu was less than truthful when she addressed the nation.
The reality is that there are two weeks left until the illegal CPS contract expires and SASSA, the agency responsible for social security, have no plans in place to ensure that the 2.8 million grants recipients who receive cash payments every month receive their grants without interruptions.
What’s even more concerning is that Social Development Minister, Susan Shabangu, has not said a single word regarding this impending debacle. This points to her not having the political will, nor the appetite, to sort out the mess left behind by her predecessor, Minister Bathabile Dlamini.
Her silence speaks volumes about her interest in the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable.
It is evident that no one at SASSA and at the Department of Social Development seems to know what they are doing and how to prevent another social grants fiasco.
The public, and most importantly the 2.8 million grant recipients who depend on cash payment every month, needs answers as time is rapidly running out.
SASSA is once again holding a gun to the heads of the Constitutional Court and the South African public to push this illegal CPS contract down our throats.

DA shows that R410 child grant is not enough to give poor children proper nutrition

Please find attached isiZulu and English soundbites by the DA Shadow Minister of Social Development, Bridget Masango MP. Please also find pictures here, here, here and here.  
Today, the DA went shopping in Tembisa to determine whether the R410 child grant is truly enough to provide poor children with the basic nutritional foods they need for a month.
This follows the announcement last week by the former Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, that VAT will increase from 14% to 15%. It was also announced that the child support grant would increase from R380 to R400 on 1 April, and to R410 on 1 October.
The DA has opposed this VAT increase because it is anti-poor. Minister Gigaba’s absurd argument that the vulnerable would be protected through “zero-rating basic food items and above average increases in grants” proves that he has no idea how poor people in our country struggle each and every day just to put food on the table.
According to the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PASCA) basket, poor mothers tend to buy 38 items of food which include more Vatable goods than zero-rated foods. This essentially means that the above-inflation grants increases to supposedly ‘combat’ the VAT increase, is just not enough.
The DA showed that the R410 child grant is not sustainable, as we were only able to buy some items, including, 1kg chicken, 5kg maize meal, 250g tea, 2 packets of soup, 2.5kg sugar, 2.5kg cake flour, 2l cooking oil, 2kg rice, 2 cans pilchards, 2 of mixed vegetables, 2.5kg samp and 1kg brown beans. This is not even enough to fill young tummies for a month, let alone fill a trolley, and it excluded some basic essentials children need.
The reality is that in many cases, the child support grant is not only needed to fill a child’s basic dietary needs alone but is also used to fund transport fees, school expenses, clothing and other household essentials.
South Africa’s child malnutrition level currently stands at an alarming 27% and every day 4 children die due to severe acute malnutrition-related causes.
Our social services require urgent intervention and that would require decisive leadership from the new Minister of Social Development, Susan Shabangu. Currently, there is still a lot of chaos and confusion regarding the distribution of social grants.
Shabangu’s first order of business must be to call an urgent meeting between all the role-players involved in the social grants crisis to find a solution to this crisis. The Minister must now step up to fix the mess left by her predecessor, Bathabile “Dodging” Dlamini.
Instead of politicking with the livelihoods of the 17 million poor South Africans who depend on social grants every month, the DA urges the Minister to make the vulnerable the first priority of government.

DA condemns Fikile Mbalula’s comments encouraging police brutality and impunity

The DA strongly condemns comments made by Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, at the Pretoria West Police Academy today. Addressing the police’s specialised Tactical Response Team, Mbalula both encouraged police brutality and assured those in attendance that he would help them avoid the repercussions.
Mbalula is quoted as saying: “We must squeeze them. When they’ve got balls‚ we must crush them.” He is also encouraged impunity by saying: “Even if you do not have a warrant of arrest‚ slap them. Break the law progressively and let me worry about court cases.”
It is deeply concerning and irresponsible for the minister tasked with overseeing the South African Police Service (SAPS) to encourage impunity, especially when addressing SAPS personnel in his official capacity.
Mbalula is the latest Police Minister to encourage violent conduct and follows in the footsteps of his disgraced predecessors, Susan Shabangu and Bheki Cele, both of whom promoted violence during their tenure.
His comments are even more disgraceful considering the findings contained in StatsSA’s Victims of Crime Survey, released earlier this week, which pointed to a distinct distrust of the SAPS by victims of crime.
The DA calls on Mbalula to apologise for his inappropriate, juvenile comments and demand that he takes a strong line against police brutality.

DA’s urgent debate on Violence Against Women scheduled for Thursday

The DA welcomes Parliament acceding to our request for an urgent debate of national importance on violence against women, which will go ahead in the National Assembly, on Thursday 01 June 2017.
I publicly call today for Ministers Fikile Mbalula, Susan Shabangu and Michael Masutha to address this debate. Their portfolios of Police, Women and Justice are key to protecting women in South Africa and the people of our country deserve that they come before Parliament and account. They must address the nation on their plans and emergency responses to the spate of violence across our nation.
The scourge of violence against women has been highlighted recently by the string of publicised horrific attacks and murders of Karabo Mokoena, Lerato Moloi, Bongeka Phungula, Popi Qwabe, Courtney Pieters and Sasha Arendse, among many others.
The fact is that violence against women and children occurs on a daily basis, and without focussed government intervention is only increasing.
The ANC government has entirely abandoned its responsibility to make our country safe for women by not properly addressing issues of gender violence and patriarchy. But on Thursday, the Ministers who are mandated to ensure safety and increasing empowerment of women, have a chance to take the nation into their confidence. Ministers Mbalula, Shabangu and Masutha have a lot of answering to do, and the DA fully expects that they will engage this debate with the seriousness it demands.
The fact is that often ANC Ministers also actively contribute to the perpetuation of undermining women, such as the Minister of Women, Susan Shabangu’s, comments that Karabo Mokoena was “weak” and therefore became a victim of abuse which ended in her murder. Worse still was the Minister’s refusal to apologise and retract her statements, but only to clarify them with equally dangerous adjectives.
Mbalula, Shabangu and Masutha need to account to the National Assembly and to the country as to why they have failed on this issue and state what government policies, strategies and programmes are in place to end this suffering. Empty promises and failed plans of action have done nothing to keep our women safe to date.
Thursday’s debate is fundamentally important for addressing the nation on this critical issue. Parliament, and the implicated Ministers in particular, must use this opportunity to seek and implement effective solutions and to rise in defence of women and children who far too often fall victim to violence.

Shabangu fails to retract ‘Karabo was weak’ comments and must now be fired

After the DA demanded that the Minister Susan Shabangu retract and apologise for calling gender violence victim, Karabo Mokoena, “weak” and seemed to blame Karabo for her own death, the Minister appeared at a press conference this afternoon and failed to apologise for or retract her callous comments.
Even despite being prompted to apologise by journalists, the Minister still failed to apologise unreservedly.
It is horrific that Minister Shabangu continues to blame the victims of abuse and violence for the fate they face. She is setting a terrible example for South Africa, and must be roundly condemned.
If Minister Shabangu represents the views of the ANC, then her performance today shows that the ANC simply does not care about violence against women.
But if Minister Shabangu’s callous and inhumane views are not those of the ANC, she must be fired immediately.