"The Black Sash has criticised the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) for its handling of the Easy Pay Everywhere accounts that are marketed to social grant recipients.

And in its review of Sassa’s latest monthly report to the Constitutional Court, the Black Sash also questioned Sassa’s ability to manage the vast majority of payments without Net1 subsidiary Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) after March 31.

The Black Sash did not believe the South African Post Office was ready to assume a significant role and noted that much of its planned involvement was at the testing stage."

Read morehttps://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2018-03-14-sassas-payment-capacity-questioned/

Monday 29 January 2018

The Constitutional Court direction of 07 November 2017 ordered SASSA to report on how payment of social grants will be made to grant beneficiaries when Cash Payment Services (CPS) will no longer be responsible for the national payment of social grants from 01 April 2018.

In December 2017, the IMC announced that SASSA had reached an agreement with the South African Post Office (SAPO) to pay social grants to a category of grant beneficiaries.  We remain concerned by the lack of clarity around the proposed ‘Hybrid’ payment model, in particular how cash payments will be made, as well as the transfer of beneficiaries to commercial bank accounts.  Both these options present an opportunity for CPS and Net1 to continue the payment of social grants beyond 31 March 2018.

There are an estimated 17 million social grant beneficiaries serviced currently by approximately R10.5 bank accounts. SASSA has identified approximate 2 million beneficiaries that have their social grant paid into a private bank account. Grant beneficiaries will not receive their social grant in full and be saddled with the banking fees that they can barely afford and unauthorised, illegal and unlawful deductions and debit orders.

We would like to draw attention to some aspects of SASSA’s 4th Report released on 8 January:

Special Disbursement Account and Beneficiary Bank Accounts

The SASSA SAPO Agreement provides for the creation of a special disbursement account into which social grants will be paid. It is crucial that the SAPO Agreement contains the Terms and Conditions of this account, including the functionalities and the recourse mechanism. Grant beneficiaries must receive upfront a copy of these Terms and Conditions, and SAPO and SASSA must roll out an educational process.

While the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) indicated a willingness to offer a low-cost banking account with a “suite of services” the Terms and Conditions, including the functionalities, cost and the recourse mechanism, must be agreed to upfront.  SARB should also play an oversight role and deal decisively with any unethical conduct. Social grants are meagre, and beneficiary bank accounts must be protected from unauthorised, fraudulent and unlawful deductions and debit orders. Child support grants (currently R380 per child per month) and temporary grants need special protection.

The government must cover the banking costs so that beneficiaries can receive the full cash value of the grant. The bank account(s) should include some free services such as no cost for cash withdrawals from ATMs and at least one free bank statement a month. Grant beneficiaries must be able to navigate the recourse system independently, at no cost and refunds, which is currently almost impossible.

Included in the grants paid from the special disbursements account, are the beneficiaries using EasyPay Everywhere (EPE), better known as the green card.  This is a bank account operated by Grindrod Bank and the Net 1 subsidiary, Moneyline.  Grant beneficiaries say they switched to the EPE bank account as agents told them that it is a SASSA replacement card. In our ongoing community monitoring work, we have discovered that grant beneficiaries with EPE accounts experience many suspicious deductions.  We have observed that is almost impossible for beneficiaries to close their EPE accounts and revert to the ‘SASSA branded’ bank account.

The Black Sash wishes to caution against the unilateral transfer of beneficiaries' accounts to EPE.  Thus, it is crucial that SASSA address this issue and provide clarity on how these beneficiaries will be assisted and the transfer of beneficiaries' accounts to EPE ceases immediately.

The Protection of Personal and Confidential information

In regards to Biometric Authentication and Card Body Production, the Black Sash is particularly concerned about the protection of personal and confidential information.

While we note that biometric data of existing beneficiaries has been extracted and is ready for transfer to SAPO, there is no agreement yet in place of how the private and confidential data of beneficiaries will be protected to avoid a repeat of the CPS/Net1 fiasco. When will this agreement be developed and how will it be enforced?

What plans does SASSA have in place to ensure that the personal and confidential data in possession of CPS, Net1 and Grindrod Bank (encrypted onto the bank card) is returned to SASSA and will not be used in the future by Net1 subsidiaries when the CPS contract ends on 31 March 2018.

The Communication and Marketing Plan

SASSA, in its 4th Report to the Constitutional Court, reports on its communications and marketing plan titled “SASSA Care Drive” working jointly with Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).  The Plan appears confusing and does not specifically outline the social grant payment options or the transition process step-by-step for grant beneficiaries to understand how they will be affected.

Grant beneficiaries have expressed concern about having to pay bank banking fees particularly exorbitant cash withdrawal fees.  We urge SASSA and GCIS to modify the Communication and Marketing Plan to help beneficiaries better understand the implications of the payment options and transition processes.


For media queries and interview requests, please contact:

  • Angie Richardson
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

"The South African Post Office, scheduled to partner with Sassa in the payment of social grants come April 2018, as well as lobby group the Black Sash, have sounded the alarm, claiming that the agency is delaying the process and that Sassa’s reports to the Constitutional Court lacked detail and specifics. All of this is taking place in the slipstream of Treasury’s refusal to approve a deviation for R11-million, requested by Sassa, to reappoint a workstream found irregular in the first place."

Read More: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-01-30-sassagate-reloaded-again-black-sash-and-sapo-sound-the-alarm-on-social-grants/#.WpWax66Wa1v

"While an Inter-ministerial Committee headed by Jeff Radebe, Minister in the Presidency, has overseen the signing of an implementation protocol between South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the South African Post Office (SAPO) for the payment of social grants, Sassa and Department of Social Development officials might find themselves facing criminal action for malpractice. A panel of experts appointed by the Constitutional Court in March has also asked that the court ensure that remedial action is taken to end Sassa’s lack of proper institutional governance, capacity and oversight."

Read More: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-11-22-sassagate-reloaded-officials-should-be-probed-for-possible-malpractice-court-panel/#.WhZuIFWWa1u

"A panel of experts appointed by the Constitutional Court has sounded another urgent alarm with regard to Sassa’s ability to make cash payouts to some two million social grant recipients after 31 March 2018. In a scathing special report, the panel called out Sassa and former Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini for their lack of appreciation of “the crisis ahead and the need for urgent singular focus”. Incoming Minister of Social Development, Susan Shabangu, has the unpleasant job of cleaning up Dlamini’s terrifying mess. Even more crucial, she needs to urgently attend to the well-being of social grant beneficiaries before the deadline next month."

Read Morehttps://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-02-27-sassagate-reloaded-susan-shabangu-steps-into-ring-of-fire-as-expert-panel-again-warns-of-impending-national-crisis/#.Wrd3li5ua1u

"A three-phase hybrid model of payments for social grants between the South African Post Office and Sassa announced on Sunday will hopefully make it harder for private corporate interests and a connected political coterie to benefit from one of government’s largest programmes – the R10-BILLION monthly payout of social grants. The “landmark” agreement could only be reached by cauterising the influence of Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, and Sassa officials. There were many casualties along the way."

Read more: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-12-12-sassagate-reloaded-three-steps-towards-payments-for-social-grants-revealed-by-post-office-and-sassa/#.WjFFRlWWa1t

"In January, Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini will have to explain why she should not be personally liable for legal costs of the Black Sash and Freedom Under Law application to the Constitutional Court with regard to the extension of the illegal CPS contract in March this year. In her witness statement Dlamini denies that work streams she set up at the cost of R47-million and which were declared irregular by treasury, had acted as a parallel structure to Sassa and undermined the agency's work. Dlamini, unsurprisingly also takes no responsibility for her role in the mess."

Read More: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2017-12-20-sassagate-dlamini-costs-affidavit-inadvertently-sets-out-chaos-under-her-leadership/

"Did a Constitutional Court decision earlier this week to reserve judgment in the urgent application by Sassa to extend CPS’s unlawful contract for a further six months serve to shock the habitually tardy agency out of its torpor? On Thursday Sassa and SAPO called a press conference and did a Gigaba, telling the nation “we gon’ be alright” come 1 April."

Read more: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-03-09-sassagate-the-inconvenient-plan-b-did-concourt-call-sassas-bluff/#.WreCDS5ua1v

 

"The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) appreciates the deal struck between the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the South African Post Office (Sapo), which brings to an end the uncertainty and anxiety of grant recipients and the nation at large.

The Committee condemns Sassa’s incompetence and obfuscation in this matter, and notes that time is short. This means that the Post Office must work hard and quickly to ensure that there is a seamless transition, so that grant recipients receive their grants on time in 2018."

Read More: https://www.parliament.gov.za/press-releases/scopa-appreciates-social-grants-deal-between-sapo-and-sassa

The Black Sash, its civil society partners and grant beneficiaries will be hosting a service at St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town on Wednesday 12 October 2016 at 14h00 which will be followed by a Silent Stand on the steps until 15h30. We will pray for justice for thousands of beneficiaries plagued by unauthorized, unlawful and fraudulent debit deductions from their SASSA bank account. We are also praying for guidance and wisdom in the four court cases to be heard on the 17th and 18th October 2016 in the High Court in Pretoria.

In response to pressure from civil society, the Department of Social Development published new regulations to the Social Assistance Act in May 2016, to stop the flood of unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent deductions from the SASSA bank accounts and protect social grants from exploitation. Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and Grindrod Bank were instructed to remove the debit order facility and stop all deductions from the SASSA bank accounts.

However, in June 2016 Net1 (parent company of CPS), some of its subsidiaries (Moneyline, Manje Mobile and Smartlife) as well as a few other companies initiated four legal cases against SASSA and the Department of Social Development. These companies question government’s interpretation of the new regulations, particularly the protected ring fenced bank account. They furthermore ask the court to declare the new regulations unconstitutional.

Black Sash and six co- applicants have asked the High Court for the right to intervene in the four cases against SASSA and the Department of Social Development. It is asking the court to order that the Minister publish regulations to protect social grants from exploitation if: (a) DSD and SASSA’s interpretation is correct; and (b) that if the interpretation renders the new regulations unconstitutional - government should be given the opportunity to fix the new regulations, and if defective, to protect vulnerable beneficiaries from predatory and unscrupulous financial and other third party service providers.

The Black Sash and partners have supported many beneficiaries to secure recourse and refunds for deductions from the bank accounts into which their social grants are paid. We salute Mr Bani, Mrs Hendricks, Mrs Saptoe, Mrs Nkosi, Mrs Nthite and Mrs Bezuidenhout for their brave stand as co-applicants in the upcoming court cases. Join us as we support in prayer, our co-applicants, the Black Sash and countless other social grant beneficiaries who are seeking justice.

  

Please note:

  • Please make alternative parking arrangements as the Cathedral’s parking is pre-booked.
  • Please observe the St. George’s Cathedral photography policy - no flash photography of any kind is allowed during religious ceremonies and services.
  • The photographer should not be in full view of the congregation and should not move between the congregations or across the front of the Nave.

For further information contact:

  • Elroy Paulus (Black Sash Advocacy Manager) – 082 748 5621 / 021 686 6952  
  • Colleen Ryan (Black Sash Western Cape Regional Manager) – 082 663 3364 / 021 686 6952
  • Ghalib Galant (R2K WC Provincial Coordinator) – 082 320 8609
  • Esley Philander (Black Sash Communications and Media) – 073 468 2909 / 021 686 6952

"One of the spin-offs of the relationship between Sassa, Net1 and its subsidiary, Cash Paymaster Services, has been the easy and lucrative access the US-listed company has had to some 17-million South Africans who receive social grants. Net1 subsidiary, Moneyline, offers grant recipients loans, often without requesting proof of income and on condition that they open an EasyPay Everywhere Account and use this card instead of the Sassa card. A shocking survey among grant recipients last year highlighted several problematic practices."

Read morehttps://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-02-28-sitting-bucks-damning-survey-explains-how-net1-benefits-from-close-proximity-to-social-grant-recipients/#.Wrd4Vi5ua1u

Press Release
  
As directed by the Constitutional Court, SASSA has released its sixth monthly report.  The Black Sash is encouraged by the progress SASSA has made with its partner SAPO. We would like to draw attention to some aspects of SASSA Report released on 07 March 2018.
 
Slow progress on Cash Payments front
 
The procurement of a service provider for cash payments is worrying, for two reasons.  Firstly, despite SASSA reporting in February that progress had been made and that all bids would be in by 28 February 2018, but this deadline was not met.  This is due to bidders requesting an extension as they are still to receive critical technical information from SASSA.  It would appear from SASSA’s letter dated 08 March 2018 that it is still waiting for this information from Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). It is puzzling how SASSA could issue a tender without this crucial information. 
 
Secondly, SASSA has requested the Constitutional Court to extend the CPS Cash Payment contract for six months, until September 2018. However, any delay in the bidding process will negatively impact on the six-month extension. For example bids for the cash tender was to be submitted to SASSA by 28 February. This deadline has been changed to 12 March, and the likelihood that the deadline may be extended to 30 March 2018 is very real. The appointment could be further delayed if the procurement procedure comes under attack. We are working with shifting deadlines yet again, as it is unclear when SASSA will appoint a new provider. SASSA does not have a contingency plan for cash payment and the plan in the Report is unworkable.
 
SASSA/SAPO Agreement
 
The Black Sash is encouraged by the progress made by SASSA and the South African Post Office (SAPO).  The rollout plan is premised on successful testing of the new card with the Payment Association of South Africa (PASA) and the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). As much of the activity is still in the testing stages, the implementation plan for the card swop may be rendered unrealistic.  Furthermore, the communication of the SAPO/SASSA rollout regarding the opening of bank accounts and the production and issuing cards needs to be more explicit.
 
EPE Accounts remain deeply problematic
 
We acknowledge that SASSA has begun to tackle the challenges surrounding the Easy Pay Everywhere (EPE) accounts.  In particular, it has issued a circular that Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) staff are only to concentrate on functions for which they have been contracted – enrolment and payment – anything else is considered a breach of contract.  Only SASSA branded cards are to be issued by CPS enrolment officers. No marketing of products may take place at any SASSA office or pay point. Black Sash remains concerned about how this directive is going to be enforced and monitored.  Our community partners on the ground and callers to our Helpline are indicating that this directive is not being adhered to. 
 
SASSA Acting CEO, Pearl Bengu, states that CPS has not responded to any of SASSA’s requests to provide mandates by beneficiaries who allegedly opted to receive their grants directly into EPE accounts. SASSA has sent out individual letters on 08 February 2018 to approximately 1.9 million EPE cardholders, requesting that they confirm that they wish to receive their grant in this account. Beneficiaries were asked to complete the bank payment form, which complies with Regulation 21(1)(a)of the Social Assistance Act, 2004.  SASSA gave no indication of how many mandate forms it has received to date in respect of the EPE account. Progress in the return of these mandates will have to be closely monitored.
 
In this report, SASSA acknowledged the criticisms around the existing dispute mechanisms in place for EPE cardholders and indicated that this is under review. As the grant paymaster, SASSA is responsible for managing this process and ensuring that grant beneficiaries received proper assistance. The Black Sash remains firm in our position that the EPE cards, commonly known as the Green Card, are deeply problematic.  Our investigations reveal that desperate grant beneficiaries have been duped into signing up for an EPE account. The recourse system is inaccessible and costly for social grant beneficiaries who can ill afford it.

Grant beneficiaries have a constitutional right to receive the full cash value of their grant. Furthermore, the EPE account has allowed unscrupulous and unethical loan sharks into the banking system.  This has contributed to indebtedness amongst grant beneficiaries and has negatively impacted on their human dignity. We again call on SASSA to insist that all EPE cardholders without mandate must revert to the SASSA (new SAPO/SASSA) card by a specified date. 

-ends-
 
We have created a google drive folder for all the “Social Grant Matter” court documents and monthly reports.  This folder will be kept up to date and accessible to media. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Z2j6J7meGZ4qtQvu4OZRyv_jM3iKuza3?usp=sharing
 
For media queries and interview requests, please contact Angie Richardson:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 
 

"South Africa’s National Treasury should investigate the conduct of officials at the welfare agency and the Social Development department for possible prosecution, according to a panel appointed by the Constitutional Court. It should probe all actions by the South Africa Social Security Agency since 2016 to issue contracts to service providers and all documents should be handed over without delay, the group which also includes the country’s auditor-general, said in court documents dated Nov. 16."

Read More: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-20/s-africa-panel-asks-treasury-to-probe-conduct-of-welfare-agency

"Department of Social Development and South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) officials, who have been at the centre of the social grants fiasco that puts the livelihoods of the poor at risk, could face sanctions including fines or imprisonment of up to five years"

Read More: https://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/sassa-officials-may-face-sanctions-for-social-grants-crisis/?utm_content=buffer23741&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Dear Editors, News editors and Journalist

Earlier this week Corruption Watch, Black Sash and Equal Education filed a complaint with the Compliance Advisor / Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) regarding the circumstances under which the IFC made a combined equity investment of $107-million in Net1 UEPS Technologies Inc. (Net1) and its subsidiary, Cash Paymaster Services (Pty) Ltd (CPS).

The complainants filed this complaint as interested and affected parties and in the public interest.

The three NGOs requested that the CAO conduct a compliance appraisal and investigation in respect of the investment, stating that this was made despite the existence of overwhelming evidence of unlawful and unethical practices involving Net1 and its subsidiaries. These include other CPS and Net1 subsidiaries that offer and provide financial services and financial products to those living in South Africa.

In this regard, the following issues have arisen in respect of the conduct of Net1 subsidiaries, including CPS:

  • Unauthorised and fraudulent deductions from the social grants of beneficiaries to the benefit of Net1 subsidiaries as well as unlawful and unethical use of social grant beneficiary data and information;
  • Persistent allegations of corruption and other unethical business practices concerning CPS and other Net1 beneficiaries;
  • Findings by the Constitutional Court of South Africa implicating Net1 subsidiaries in unethical business practices; and
  • A legal challenge by Corruption Watch to a decision taken by a state entity in relation to and involving CPS, a Net1 subsidiary.

It is clear that evidence of unethical and potentially unlawful conduct by CPS existed at the time at which the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, made its investment and that the lack of due diligence in respect of the investment is in breach of several provisions of the IFC Policy on Environment and Social Sustainability. We have also submitted that the IFC has not taken sufficient steps to supervise and monitor the conduct of Net1 and its subsidiaries or to put measures in place to address and rectify impugned conduct.

The CAO is empowered to investigate and monitor the IFC regarding a lack of compliance, and publicise the outcome of all investigations. The CAO investigation into the IFC’s compliance and due diligence is designed to ensure transparency and accountability in respect of investments and we have received a letter from the CAO indicating that we will be informed of the eligibility of our complaint by 21 September 2017.


Contact: 

Phemelo Khaas:                               
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..      
083 763 3472

"Earlier this week Corruption Watch, Black Sash and Equal Education filed a complaint with the Compliance Advisor / Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) regarding the circumstances under which the IFC made a combined equity investment of $107-million in Net1 UEPS Technologies Inc. and its subsidiary, Cash Paymaster Services (Pty) Ltd."

Read more: http://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/south-african-ngos-question-ifcs-investment-net1/

"The South African Post Office could have a full state bank licence before it starts distributing social grants in April next year. This was revealed by ANC national executive committee subcommittee on communication head Jackson Mthembu yesterday, noting that they would push government institutions to use Post Bank for their banking services. The ANC is holding briefings on policy matters in the run-up to its 54th national conference next week."

Read More: https://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/state-bank-licence-for-post-office-12283570

6 May 2016

Special Advisor to the Minister, Mr Zane Dangor;

Members of the Ministerial Task Team;

Senior Managers from the Department of Social Development and SASSA;

Ladies and gentlemen of the media;

Good Morning.

Ma Grace lives in the small rural town Makwassie in the North West and receives an old age grant. She does not possess a cell phone yet was plagued for months with unauthorised advanced airtime deductions from her SASSA branded beneficiary bank account. When we learnt of her case, I instructed that she be refunded immediately and that these deductions must be stopped.

Similarly, Mr and Mrs Saptoe, both pensioners from Port Elizabeth, experienced multiple unauthorised R5 advanced airtime deductions from cellphone companies including Vodacom, MTN and Cell C all around grant pay day for several months. It took knocking on many doors for several months to stop these deductions. Advanced airtime is the main cause of deduction disputes, and is on the increase.

Doreen and Jacobus Juries from the Western Cape brought to our attention questionable marketing and sale of funeral insurance cases in Franschoek and Paarl. This was for funeral policies sold by Emerald Wealth Management for, underwritten by 1 Life. At the core of the Juries and other cases is the claim by funeral insurance brokers and salespersons that it was mandatory for grant beneficiaries to take out funeral policies.

With the support of civil society, the Juries family eventually got their paid premiums refunded alongside 16 others. We are told that Emerald Wealth no longer sell 1 Life policies. Emerald Wealth (now called Emerald Life) is now selling policies underwritten by Lion of Africa.

Ms Mlambo of Tweefontein, Mpumalanga will go down in history for exposing the phenomenon of an R800 deduction for water from the SASSA branded account, in an area with no itemised billing for water and in a township with free water provision. A plausible explanation of this deduction has yet to be offered.

Mr. Bani is an 88 year old pensioner from Nyanga in Cape Town. His bank statements exposed three sets of unauthorised and alleged fraudulent loan deductions from credit service provider, FAJ Financial Solutions. Mr Bani was expected to cancel a debit order he never authorised via a telephone to a number in Uitenhage. After months of hardship Mr. Bani eventually found relief. The explanation offered by FAJ Financial Solutions was that one digit in the credit reference was wrong, and as a result he was inadvertently paying someone else's loan. There are worrying questions of how this company obtained Mr Bani's personal confidential data and banking details and how they were able to make monthly debit deductions from his grant.

Mrs Gxabela receives a Child Support Grant of R350 per month. For the past three months she received no grant payout and was instead billed with advanced airtime and electricity she never purchased or authorised. She was told that in order to secure a Moneyline loan she had to sign up for an Easy Pay Everywhere bank account; a product of Grindrod bank and Moneyline.

She agreed to open up an Easy Pay account to get her loan paid into it. However, in practice this meant that her monthly grant payments were automatically diverted from her SASSA account to her Easy Pay account. No one pointed her to the fine print in the agreement that automatically allows for her money to be transferred from her SASSA branded card to her Easy Pay account, nor did anyone get her explicit consent for this. When she wanted to cancel the Easy Pay account, a Moneyline official told Mrs Gxabela that local branches do not cancel the Easy Pay Everywhere bank account.

They only issue these cards and that she, who lives in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, must phone their office number in Gauteng if she wants to cancel the account. Mrs Gxabela's husband tried to call this number but the number was seldom answered and if it was answered they constantly kept him on hold until he ran out of airtime. Mrs Gxabela and several other beneficiaries found it near impossible to cancel the Easy Pay accounts.

Earlier this year, we published a set of Regulations for public comments aimed at clarifying existing legislation in terms of what is legally permissible and the level of consent required for a deduction from a social grant. We received a flood of comments from the financial services industry asking us why we are doing this. Why do we want to restrict people's rights to choice? Why are we going against the goals of financial inclusion and creating access to financial products for low income earners?

My answer is simple. We are doing it for Ma Grace, for the Saptoe and Juries families, for Ms. Mlambo, Mr. Bani, Mrs Gxabela, and the thousands of others like them, who have become victims of predatory practices which seek to exploit the gaps in the current regulatory framework for the financial services sector. South Africans have a Constitutional right to social security, and the primary goal of social assistance is to alleviate poverty. The beneficiaries should receive the full value of the grant unencumbered. It is very easy to take the money of social grant beneficiaries without proper consent and controls. However, it's very difficult for them to get their money back.

Last year, of the 13 thousand plus disputes recorded and investigated 77% were resolved in the beneficiaries' favour. Unfortunately, we are being overwhelmed by disputes and many are not even recorded. In February alone, SASSA got more than 40 thousand queries.

We aim to stop this practice, by ensuring that third parties can't simply take someone's grant. We appalled that the industry doesn't see this as a problem. We are also deeply disappointed in Cash Paymaster Services, the service provider appointed by SASSA to pay social grants. Instead of carrying out their 'organ of state' function as clarified by the Constitutional Court to implement the applicable laws and control these deductions, CPS seems to be profitably participating in these questionable activities through subsidiary companies, under the umbrella of their parent company Net 1.

Today, after consideration was given to all the public comments, we are glad to announce the publication of the revised Regulations to the Social Assistance Act. This will put an end to the tide of unauthorised and unlawful deductions and ensure better control of Sections 21 and 26A which deals with the payment environment.

We have been in consultation with the National Treasury, the South African Reserve Bank and the Financial Services Board and believe that there is an in-principle support for these regulations.

The revised Regulations firstly seek to clarify aspects of the existing regulations, which the industry have found ways to bypass. It now makes it clear that a beneficiary must in person provide written permission to SASSA for a deduction. Where they cannot do this in person, SASSA will assist the beneficiary either through a home visit or other means in accordance to their policies.

The amendments to the Regulations now accurately reflect the fact that only insurers registered under the Long-term Insurance Act of 1998 may offer funeral policies. This is important in facilitating access to funeral policies by social grant beneficiaries in a way that offers adequate consumer protection and ensures that funeral benefits are indeed made available to the beneficiaries when a death occurs.

Further, payments for funeral policy premiums will now only be made directly to the insurer that is responsible for providing benefits under the policy. No payments to brokers will be allowed.

This will ensure a direct relationship between the insurer and the social grant recipient, and ensure that insurers have direct access to policyholder information. This will go a long way in ensuring that funeral benefits are paid timeously and directly to the beneficiaries. We have also noticed that some brokers, when faced with a case of misrepresentation, often refund premiums paid from their own funds. This is probably because they know if the case goes to the insurance underwriter and they are found guilty they will forfeit their licence.

These amendments will also assist SASSA to work with the Financial Services Board to ensure that social grant recipients and their beneficiaries are treated fairly.

Funeral deductions from children's grants will not be allowed. Regulation 26A was intended for adult grant beneficiaries. The amended Regulations seek to clarify this original intent by limiting funeral policy deductions to adult grants only. Lastly, these Regulations will also clarify the payment options that are in existence for social grant beneficiaries. There have always been two options; either the beneficiary's own personal bank account or through the SASSA payment mechanism.

The Agency's use of banking facilities is not equivalent to a beneficiary's personal bank account. Thus this payment method is subject to the provisions of the Social Assistance Act and its regulations. Today the CEO of SASSA will send an instruction to CPS to remove the debit order facility from the SASSA branded card.

We have consulted with the South African Reserve Bank and the Payment Association of South Africa and together we believe this is a necessary intervention to stop deductions.

I have approved the recommendation for a SASSA owned and controlled recourse system to be in place and for beneficiaries to be refunded back dated to 2012. We are pleased to report that a recourse system is in place. We want to accelerate our progress and have agreed to further improvements to the system through:

· A 24-hour, seven days a week, toll free number including calls from cell phone numbers which will be in place shortly;

· On-site SASSA Commissioners of Oath will commission affidavits so that beneficiaries are not sent from pillar to post to complete the necessary dispute forms. We thank the SAPS for their support and request that they continue to assist SASSA with the commissioning of affidavits as we manage the transition;

· Each SASSA facility has a dedicated team to deal with deduction disputes and will do everything possible to provide a dignified service, with a quick turnaround time. Ongoing training is in place to ensure that all SASSA staff are familiar with the disputes procedures and can support beneficiaries in a professional manner;

· There is a plan in place to fast track cash refunds including via the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme (ICROP) and Project Mikondzo;

· SASSA has launched a specific communication strategy targeting beneficiaries to ensure that they know how to lodge and follow-up on debit deductions disputes;

· Furthermore, SASSA now has uniforms and name tags to distinguish staff from other service providers. Beneficiaries have to make sure they deal with bona fide SASSA officials and not those who claim to represent SASSA.

To grant beneficiaries, we would like to encourage them to monitor their SASSA branded account statements carefully, continue to register any deductions and follow-up on the resolution of their dispute.

A new challenge has emerged called Easy Pay Everywhere (also referred to as the Green Card). It is a bank account issued by Grindrod Bank (on behalf of Moneyline, another subsidiary company of Net 1). We are currently investigating cases where sales staff have allegedly told beneficiaries they needed an Easy Pay bank account to receive social grants, as their SASSA branded cards are invalid. They all pay a R10 monthly service fees and a fee for all cash withdrawals. Services on the SASSA branded card are free in the SASSA network.

Another cohort were told that they needed an Easy Pay account to receive a loan from Moneyline, only to subsequently discover that funds on their SASSA card are automatically transferred to the Easy Pay card. Attempts to cancel the Easy Pay account are near impossible. It appears as if you need to pay R150 to cancel the card. You can also only cancel the card via a Johannesburg call centre number as Moneyline offices or agents around the country only open the bank accounts. Grant beneficiaries need to be careful of who they open bank accounts with, and that they are able to establish a relationship with a bank, if they wish to go that route. We strongly discourage banking with institutions that cannot provide such a service.

In November 2015, SASSA submitted to the Constitutional Court a timetable with milestones for the in-sourcing of the national payment of social grants. SASSA has various work streams in place to ensure take over by 1 April 2017. The Ministerial Task Team is engaging a range of stakeholders including the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), National Treasury and the Payment Association of South Africa (PASA) that support the intention to create a ring-fenced bank account to protect social grant beneficiaries from unauthorised, unlawful and fraudulent deductions.

The Ministerial Task Team to stop deductions was established in February 2014 and comprised of officials from the Department of Social Development, SASSA and civil society led by the Black Sash. The work of the Task Team will continue to ensure that the legislation and the recommendations that I approved, are implemented and that social grant beneficiaries get recourse.

We are indebted to people who volunteered their cases and experiences through our civil society partners. These cases are helping tremendously to fix the recourse system and identify legislation, policy and systemic gaps. All deduction cases big and small are an affront, but we want to thank particularly: Ma Grace, the Saptoe family, the Juries family, Ms Mlambo, Mr. Bani and Ms. Gxabela, some of whom are with us here today.

We urge all to support our efforts in ensuring that this scourge is rooted out and that justice prevails.

-Ends-

ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Media inquiries: Lumka Oliphant 083 484 8067 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The most effective method for recourse is to visit a SASSA branch.

Beneficiaries will need to fill out a BENEFICIARY DISPUTE FORM which captures the details of the dispute. 

The affidavit can be completed with a SASSA appointed Commissioner of Oaths at a local SASSA office or at a local Police Station. 

The beneficiary dispute form must be handed in together with the affidavit. 

The affidavit is crucial if the beneficiary would like to request a refund for monies deducted from their account. 

Once this is completed, a reference number is issued and the follow up process should be explained. 

Beneficiaries can call a SASSA toll free helpline for assistance. 

Social grant beneficiaries are also welcome to contact the Black Sash National Helpline for FREE paralegal services.

 

SASSA CallCentre

Beneficiaries can also contact the SASSA callcentre on 0800601011.

 

Black Sash HelpLine

Alternatively, please contact the Black Sash National toll free Help Line for free paralegal assistance on 072 66 33 739 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  You can also send a text or send a please call me and a paralegal will be in touch shortly. 

16 November 2017

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