18 August 2017

South Africa: SASSA Working to Improve Its Systems

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) says deductions from payments to grant beneficiaries will be a thing of the past as it makes major improvements to its systems.

The agency tasked with the provision of social grants to over 17 million poor South Africans on Thursday held an information sharing session in Polokwane, Limpopo.

"[We want] compliance that will prevent deductions and reduce fraud... We will have an improved biometric system," said Warwick Metcalfe, the Head of Workstreams at SASSA.

Metcalfe spoke to SAnews on the sidelines of the session, which was hosted by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

In the past, beneficiaries often complained about illegal deductions from their social grants. SASSA wants to put a stop to this by improving their security systems.

In the March Constitutional Court ruling -- which saw the contract of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) being extended by a year -- the court had ordered that adequate safeguards must be put in place to ensure the personal data of grant beneficiaries remains private and may not be used for any purpose other than the payment of grants.

The CPS grant payment contract, which was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2014, would have come to an end on 31 March 2017. The court, however, suspended the invalidity so grants could continue to be paid while SASSA made another plan.

The court further ordered CPS to permit auditors appointed by SASSA to have access to its financial information, and that the Minister of Social Development and SASSA must file a report on affidavits with the court every three months. The report must set out how they plan to ensure the payment of social grants after the contract expires, what steps they have taken in that regard, what further steps they will take and when they will take future steps to ensure that the payment of social grants are made.

Metcalfe said as they work towards carrying out the instructions of the Constitutional Court, they have prioritised improving security systems. SASSA will also work on a cybersecurity strategy to avoid being taken advantage of by cybercriminals.

"SASSA wants to have the ability to not only own the [grant beneficiaries] data but to protect it better."

Metcalfe said going forward, they want to reduce the costs of transacting for SASSA.

The South African Post Office (SAPO), through Postbank, has declared its readiness to be the service provider for the payment of grants.

Minister Dlamini said they will deliberate on SAPO's submission to be considered as a service provider.

"They are going to give us space to do due diligence on their proposals. There are other government departments that we are working with, such as Home Affairs... to double check people that are enrolled for grants.

"We are also working with the Department of Science and Technology, through the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR). They have been able to put together a biometrics [system] that will take us forward. We have given them the responsibility of coming up with a card with good features so that our card is made in South Africa [to] create jobs," Minister Dlamini said.

After the court judgment, Minister Dlamini had made a commitment that social grants must be used to uplift local economies and women. The Minister said opportunities will be created for small service providers, small businesses and cooperatives.

Minister Dlamini said all role players are hard at work to ensure the continued payment of grants. She said SASSA has reregistered all grant recipients and it is busy with the migration of people that have been reregistered through the current service provider.

The process of re-registration has saved government about R2 billion because all those who did not qualify, but were on the system, have been removed.

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