Minister Bathabile Dlamini: Media briefing on the 2nd SASSA Anti-corruption Conference

Media statement by the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, MP, on the occasion of the media briefing on the 2nd SASSA Anti-corruption Conference, Cape Town

Programme Director;
Deputy Minister of Social Development, Mme Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu;
Social Development Acting Director-General, Mr Thokozani Magwaza;
SASSA CEO, Ms Virginia Petersen;
Dr Vuyelwa Nhlapo, the CEO of the National Development Agency (NDA);
Senior managers from Social Development, SASSA and NDA present here;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen;

Good morning!

From tomorrow until 31 March, we will host our second Anti-corruption Conference under the theme: Ensuring human rights for all through a fraud free social grants system. Since 2009 our government has taken a strong stance in the fight against fraud and corruption. During his 2009 State of the Nation Address, President Zuma said:

“We have repeatedly stated our commitment to fight corruption in the public service. We will pay particular attention to combating corruption and fraud in procurement and tender processes, application for drivers’ licences, social grants, IDs, and theft of police case dockets.”

Taking our cue from this statement of intent, the Social Sector has taken a radical approach to address fraud and corruption within its area of operation. During 2012 we embarked on a process of re-registering grant beneficiaries in order to root out ‘ghost’ beneficiaries and ensure that grants are paid out only to existing and deserving South Africans.

Through the re-registration process, we eliminated fraud and corruption and created a conducive environment for SASSA to have a solid database of all beneficiaries which enables it to pay the right grant, to the right person, and at the right place.

Today we can confidently say that through the re-registration process and the introduction of the biometric-based payment systems, SASSA has a credible database of beneficiaries, and that fraud in our social security system has been cut down by billions of Rands.

Our Fraud Prevention Strategy has been premised on a number of key initiatives and interventions, including tools to identify red flags, appropriate reporting mechanisms, and whistle-blowing to help us detect fraud and corruption. We have also made great strides to foster an ethical organisational culture in all our institutions, increase cooperation with other agencies as well as improve policies, procedures and internal controls as a means to prevention.

We have also reinforced our investigative capacity and methods; and where fraud and corruption have been found to have occurred, we have ensured that disciplinary measures are taken against perpetrators, the losses are recovered, and criminal prosecution is pursued where applicable.

Ladies and gentlemen, we continue to work through the backlog of cases pending from the 2012/13 financial year. Nearly eight thousand fraud and corruption cases had been received for the financial year 2012/13. These cases include investigations of prior years that were not previously captured on the Fraud Case Management System. Of these, as at 31 January 2015, about two thousand (1,919) had been closed and just over five thousand (5,145) investigations had been finalised. A total of 670 cases are still outstanding. The monetary value of the finalised investigations is nearly eighty seven million five hundred thousand rand (R87,490,444) and an amount of over one million two hundred rand (R1,207,833) has been recovered by the respective regions.

Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014, more than three thousand five hundred (3,571) cases were captured on the Fraud Case Management System as being received by the respective regions. More than one thousand five hundred (1,508) of these had been closed, while three thousand one hundred (3,100) had been finalised. The finalised cases have a value of about thirty eight million five hundred thousand rand (R38,422,760); six hundred and sixty thousand rand (R660,174) of which has been recovered.

Further, between 1 April and 31 January 2015, just over a thousand (1,072) cases have been captured on the Fraud Case Management System as being received by the respective regions. During the same period, a more than one thousand five hundred (1,522) cases have been closed and nearly five hundred (486) have been finalised. The monetary value of the finalised cases is just over eighteen million rand (R18,092,347), of which more than four hundred and fifty five hundred rand (R455,054) has been recovered.

Between 1 April 2014 and 31 January 2015 we have also finalised ten complex investigations with a combined value of over twenty two million rand (R22,061,532,56).

The drop in the number of cases recorded in 2013/14 and 2014/15 is a clear indication that our Fraud Prevention Strategy is having a positive impact.

Since 2010, as a result of all these cases, two hundred and sixty one (261) officials have been suspended; fifty three (53) have been dismissed; and five (5) convictions have been secured. Twelve (12) officials resigned before disciplinary hearings.

For the financial year 2013/14, a total of thirty (30) fraud cases have been referred to Law Enforcement Agencies, involving eighty four (84) officials, with a combined value of just over fifteen million rand (R15,091,076). Also, for the current financial year 2014/15, a total of eleven (11) fraud cases have been referred to Law Enforcement Agencies, involving ninety (90) SASSA officials and three (3) CPS officials, with a combined value of nearly twenty one million rand (R20, 950, 255.91).

As at 31 January 2015, out of the eighty seven (87) investigations registered, forty six (46) are in progress with a monetary value of over eighty eight million rand (R88, 563, 500,12). The status indicates that nearly five thousand five hundred (5,437) grants and eighty six (86) SASSA employees are involved.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, all these efforts are geared towards ensuring that the poor and vulnerable in our society indeed access their constitutional entitlements. By putting in place all these detection, investigative and prevention measures, we aim to ensure that our system is geared towards closing the leakages associated with the old cash-based payment system and rooting out fraud and corruption. We are convinced that we have made significant gains in all of these areas. Since our 1st Anti-corruption Conference in November 2013, a total of 160 arrests have been made comprising of SASSA officials, CPS officials, beneficiaries and illegal money lenders.

I must highlight that while we have made progress in pushing back on blatant fraud and corruption, we are also finding ourselves having to deal with a new frontier of exploitation of the most vulnerable members of our society as a result of the entrance of the SASSA payment card into the open loop banking system. The growing national phenomenon of unlawful and immoral debit deductions that we now see is unacceptable. While some of these deductions may be technically legal, they remain immoral as they serve to rob the poor from the resources that we as South Africans provide for them, to meet their basic needs.

The social assistance grants provide poor households with the means to meet their basic needs, especially food, and we cannot allow these solidarity funds to be eroded by unscrupulous business people and a few greedy criminals parading as public service officials who are in cohorts with criminal elements that have only one objective: to enrich themselves.

We are winning the fight against fraud and corruption and we will continue to learn and improve our systems in order that we are not only reactive, but also a step ahead of criminals who want to feed off the poor. We urge all South Africans not to keep quiet when they observe suspicious behaviour and to report it to us in order that it can be looked into. All of us have a role to play in fighting fraud and corruption. Let us speak out wherever we see it occurring.

I thank you.