2 April 2019

Swaziland Auditor General Fears Fraud As Govt Pensions Paid to the Deceased

It looks as if the way elderly grants are distributed by the government in Swaziland / eSwatini is leading to theft and fraud, the kingdom's Auditor General reported.

The Deputy Prime Minister's Office is responsible for the grants (pensions). People aged 60 and over are entitled to E400 (US$30) per month. About 70,000 people are thought to receive the grants which often are the only income a family has.

Timothy Matsebula, the Auditor General, in his report for the year ending March 2018 said E1.7 million was unaccounted for. He said if a person failed to collect the quarterly grant twice in a row, social workers had to investigate to see if that person was still alive. These checks were not being carried out.

When the Auditor General's office conducted its own survey it found many of the people receiving grants were in fact dead or unknown in their local community.

He also said elderly social grants amounting to E130,835.00 were collected by other people on behalf of those who had died.

He reported, 'I am therefore concerned that the uncollected funds are susceptible to misappropriation, theft, and fraud.'

He added, 'The collection of the grants was fraudulent as the rightful beneficiaries were deceased. I am worried that there could have been more unlawful collections since my audit was based on a sample of beneficiaries.'

The Auditor General also found that uncollected grants distributed through Eswatini Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (EPTC) and banks were not sent back to government at the end of each quarter. More than E7.8 million had not been returned.

He reported, 'It concerns me that the unreturned amounts have a negative impact on the Government's cash flow as the funds could have been used beneficially elsewhere. It is also highly probable that these funds were unnecessarily allocated to deceased and unknown beneficiaries.'

He added, 'I am concerned that the accumulation of the funds in these accounts could lead to their loss through theft.'

As recently as November 2018 state radio in Swaziland broadcast that the grants could not be paid on time because the Swazi Government did not have the money.

In 2017, the National Strategy and Action Plan to End Violence in Swaziland: 2017 to 2022 reported more than 80 percent of women aged 60 and over and 70 percent of men lived in poverty.

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