NEWS & ANALYSIS

When will SASSA implement biometric system to stop fraud? – Bridget Masango

DA MP says this system is crucial in safeguarding vulnerable grant recipients

DA calls on Minister Zulu to provide timelines on when SASSA will implement biometric system to stop fraud

10 September 2020

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to give account to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the prospective timeline the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will employ to implement the Biometric Identification System to ensure that fraud related to social grant payments are brought to a halt.

This Biometric Identification System is crucial in safeguarding vulnerable grant recipients against the flood of fraud and corruption connected with social grants in South Africa.

Between March 2018 and December 2019 alone there were more 25 000 fraudulent transactions involving accounts of SASSA recipients recorded at Postbank. More than R56 million was stolen due to a digital master key that was stolen and exposed that personal details of millions of South Africans. More than 12 million SASSA beneficiaries now need to have their bank cards replaced as the risk of being defrauded looms over their lives.

In a recent reply to a parliamentary question from the DA, the Minister said that biometric access to the social grant payment system, Socpen, has already been tested on 300 SASSA beneficiaries and that the Covid-19 pandemic has postponed roll-out of this to the millions of other beneficiaries to the end of this financial year.

Minister Zulu also stated in her reply that biometric enrollment of beneficiaries would be pursued sometime in the 20/21 financial year, while no clear indication of biometric validation prior to payments was given at all.

The DA will submit follow-up questions regarding a timeline for full implementation of all aspects of the system; the cost of the system; and to ascertain how many of the 12 million cards have been replaced to date.

The little money grant recipients receive every month ensures not only their own survival but is often the only income for whole families. Without this money many of them and their dependents will starve. We know the Minister should know this by now. Yet there seems to be no urgency from her, the Department of Social Development (DSD) or SASSA to address the ongoing issues of fraud with payments at the agency.

And while those mandated to serve vulnerable citizens only have to suffer questions – to which the answers are almost always unsatisfactory or not forthcoming, the grant beneficiaries are facing the brunt of the calamity. They are left wondering month after month if they will get paid on time, if at all.

The Biometric Identification System is a wonderful initiative. It would have a positive impact on millions of lives. The only thing standing in the way of full implementation seems to be political will.

Issued by Bridget Masango, DA Shadow Minister of Social Development, 10 September 2020