The Black Sash welcomes the new Auditor-General’s (AG), Tsakani Maluleke, special audit report of 9 December 2020 concerning government’s Covid-19 relief package. It is particularly pleasing that this esteemed office is now headed by a woman leader and we wish her well for her term of office.
The AG’s report finds that the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA) beneficiary validation project for applicants of the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant “has not yet borne fruit” with inappropriate inclusions and exclusions. The AG asked SASSA to investigate the 1 513 beneficiaries, who are directors of companies with government contracts. Those who have unduly benefited from funds meant for the poor, should not only be held to account, but must return these public funds expeditiously.
The report finds that SASSA still makes use of outdated government databases to verify applications. The Black Sash can confirm this troubling finding given our ongoing community monitoring programme. Our national Helpline is inundated with queries from applicants who were unsuccessful in accessing the Covid-19 SRD grant, despite them being unemployed and desperate to receive some relief that the grant can provide. Rejections are primarily due to outdated databases that reflect these applicants as recipients of a social grant or receiving income – claims they deny vehemently. SASSA must urgently ensure that these inadequate verification controls are speedily resolved so that all those in distress receive this grant.
It was further reported that SASSA remains understaffed and under-capacitated to deal with appeals for the Covid-19 SRD grant applications that were rejected. A third of all Covid-19 SRD grant applications are rejected, yet SASSA only has ten officials processing appeals. The Department of Social Development together with SASSA needs to inform the public how and when the Agency intends to bolster its in-house capacity to efficiently process appeals.
The AG found that a second audit of the distribution of food parcels “amplified the concerns” raised in the first report and found “indicators of collusive bidding’ by service providers in the procurement process. A number of administrative oversights – including approved beneficiaries not receiving food parcels – resulted in significant inconsistencies in the distribution of food parcels. It is shocking that during this crisis, the food parcel distribution process is plagued by preventable inefficiencies.
Our current Covid-19 health, humanitarian and economic crisis will not be resolved as early as 31 January 2021. The state is constitutionally obligated to provide for individuals facing social and economic distress, particularly those aged 18 to 59 years, excluded from current social assistance programmes. Basic Income Support can decrease inequality and poverty levels, improve health and education outcomes, increase social cohesion all while stimulating distressed economies. It remains the most affordable poverty alleviating programme at government’s disposal.
Black Sash urgently advocates that the R350 Covid-19 SRD grant be extended beyond the end of January 2021 and that those who received the Caregiver grant, who have no or little income, be eligible to receive the Covid-19 SRD grant.
We encourage all who reside in South Africa to sign and share our petition calling for Basic Income Support for those aged #18-59 years NOW!
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