A total of 4 424 720 applications for Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant have been approved.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said that the department has to date, received 7 558 555 applications through the various electronic application platforms, including Supplementary Service Data (USSD), Website, WhatsApp and email.
"A total of 2 174 046 applications were found to be active on various databases, including those who are currently receiving social grants, receiving Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits or are appearing on the active database of UIF contributors, those who are receiving National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) stipends, [and] those who are found on government employee's databases (Persal and persol)," Zulu said.
The Minister was speaking at the Social Cluster media briefing on socio-economic measures under the enhanced level 3 of the risk-adjusted strategy, held on Monday.
R1 billion paid for May applications
In line with the department's commitment to pay successful applications from May 2020, Zulu said that 3 429 808 of the approved applications were paid as at 12 July 2020.
"We have so far disbursed R1 200 432 800. These payments are all for applicants who applied in May 2020. South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will on a monthly basis, re-assess all applications to ensure that, where circumstances have changed and income is received from any other source, the grant will not continue to be paid.
"The re-assessment of all applications has already commenced and the applicants are being re-assessed against SOCPEN (Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens), UIF, NSFAS, Persal and Persol, in preparation for batch release of June payments from this week," Zulu explained.
The Minister also acknowledged that the department is currently experiencing challenges in relation to the speedy administration and payment of the Special COVID-19 SRD Grant.
Among the challenges include slow processing of the special COVID-19 SRD Grant, bank accounts that failed the verification process, as well as a high number of declined applications.
Zulu explained that the initial delays in processing have been largely due to systems development which has been custom developed for the special COVID-19 SRD Grant alone, the need for multiple data verification sources, and slow response to requests to provide banking details by successful applicants, amongst others.
She said SASSA has enhanced its systems to improve the validation processes.
123 000 failed bank accounts verification
Zulu said that a high number of applicants failed the bank accounts verification process largely due to errors in the capturing of banking information and some applicants attempting to use other people's bank accounts.
"Approximately 123 000 failed bank account verification which is facilitated through the National Treasury, prior to crediting of accounts. In this regard, SASSA has requested Post Bank to open accounts for the clients to enable payment without delay. Clients will be able to update their banking details and preferences in future should they wish to make use of different bank accounts or even the cash send option and not continue receiving the money through the post office," the Minister said.
Reconsideration of previously declined applications
Zulu said SASSA has undertaken an internal reconsideration of previously declined applications due to UIF, after having received an updated database from the Department of Labour and Employment.
"The number of declined applications as a result of the ID having been found on the UIF database has declined significantly. Approximately 900 000 validated applications were found to potentially qualify for payment from May 2020 following the reconsideration process.
"SMS messages were sent to all these applicants indicating that they have been provisionally approved and must provide SASSA with their banking details. SASSA is currently processing payments to these applicants," Zulu said.
Recourse mechanism for declined applicants
In order to address further exclusion errors, Zulu said, SASSA is implementing a recourse mechanism for applicants who have been declined and wish to review the decision.
She said that applicants can now direct their appeals for review to firstname.lastname@example.org
"This facility will have dedicated staff to respond timeously to all emails. I would like to point out that applicants requesting recourse need not upload documents - the recourse process will be electronic. Work is currently underway to develop a recourse mechanism which will attend to the complaints and disputes raised, while not extending the life span of this intervention.
"In addition, any recourse mechanism will have to be electronic in order to cope with the numbers involved - manual processes are not a viable option at all. The recourse process will be gazetted in due course. This will provide the legal framework within which the reassessments will take place," the Minister said.