SASSA is Failing the Poor
Media Statement by Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Albert Fritz
The recent and ever growing spate of SASSA’s administrative disasters that leave countless vulnerable and poor persons destitute has to be addressed and fixed with immediate effect.
My office is inundated with calls, letters and even walk-in visitors who out of sheer desperation and frustration, turn to the Western Cape Government for assistance with the lack of services on the part of SASSA.
While at provincial level we have no executive powers over the state agency, we have to be the voice of the thousands of older persons who speak but are not heard or are simply ignored.
I have engaged with scores of older persons in various communities, and the complaints are all of a similar nature:
- Electricity deductions for a prepaid meter that does not belong to the grant recipient.
- Multiple airtime deductions – in some cases the person does not even possess a mobile phone.
- Funds not loaded onto the new card on the day that grants are paid.
- Grants suspended without an explanation.
The list goes on. Wherever I go, I am accosted by people wanting answers, explanations and ultimately their money.
The problem of unlawful deductions is clearly so massive, that a special call centre has been set up, where grant recipients can report their cases and have the transactions reversed so that the funds appear back in their accounts. According to SASSA, this should be done in a matter of 24 hours. In theory, this sounds good.
However, the reality, paints a very different picture. In the most extreme case I came across, a husband and wife were left with R16 and R1 respectively in their accounts on the day that they expect to receive a pension of R1350 each. A statement of their account revealed numerous MTN and Vodacom airtime deductions, all on one day, even though none of them subscribe to either of those networks. They received a letter from SASSA referring them to the toll-free number for unlawful deductions.
The staff in my office, have this week called the toll-free number on numerous occasions and at different times of the day. After listening to the on-hold music for anything from 20 to 45 minutes, we eventually gave up trying to get through to a representative from CPS, who manages the payments.
With many of the older persons not having a LAN line but rather using a cellphone, this process can be incredibly costly, as the call is only free from a LAN line.
SASSA is unable to explain to us how this abuse of people’s accounts is even allowed to happen. They seem to have no idea who is behind it, how people’s accounts are being compromised or how to stop it altogether.
A R10 Billion contract was given to CPS to manage the payment of grants and we have seen nothing but disasters in the administration process. The inaction on the part of SASSA and CPS is tantamount to victimisation and abuse of the poor and vulnerable. The very people they are meant to serve.
I will pursue every available channel, including seeking legal advice on how the Western Cape Government can intervene to help the poor and vulnerable who are being failed by SASSA and the National Government.
Spokesperson for Minister Fritz
Cell: 083 280 9199