SA’s so­cial grants un­der threat

MAY­HEM: GOV­ERN­MENT DE­PART­MENT AL­MOST BROKE Mil­lions of poor peo­ple at risk if SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency can’t meet obli­ga­tions.

The Citizen (KZN) - - Front Page - Eric Naki –er­icn@cit­i­

Mil­lions of poor peo­ple at risk if So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency can’t meet its obli­ga­tions.

So­cial jus­tice or­gan­i­sa­tions fear that the poor could be worse off as the de­part­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment en­ters the dan­ger zone of tech­ni­cal in­sol­vency, and will likely to be un­able to de­liver ser­vices.

One wor­ried or­gan­i­sa­tion, Pi­eter­mar­itzburg Eco­nomic Jus­tice and Dig­nity group, said should the de­part­ment be un­able to meet its con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions – such as the pay­ment of so­cial grants – it would cre­ate may­hem and mas­sive hard­ship for the poor.

The poor de­pend on so­cial grants for food and other ba­sic ser­vices, the body said.

The pre­car­i­ous state of af­fairs at the de­part­ment was re­vealed re­cently to the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on so­cial de­vel­op­ment by the of­fice of the au­di­tor-gen­eral (AG). The AG said the sit­u­a­tion may cause the de­part­ment to be un­able to pay its sup­pli­ers and, ul­ti­mately, cause a break­down in service de­liv­ery.

The AG said the de­part­ment’s cur­rent li­a­bil­i­ties ex­ceeded its cur­rent as­sets, a sit­u­a­tion that could ren­der it un­able to de­liver ser­vices. Its fruit­less and waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture in­creased to R78 mil­lion and an amount of R2 bil­lion in ac­cu­mu­lated ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture. This has to be re­cov­ered or writ­ten off.

Most of the fruit­less, waste­ful and ir­reg­u­lar ex­pend­ing was by the South African So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa), which is en­trusted with pay­ing state so­cial grants to more than 17 mil­lion ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

So­cial jus­tice groups are sound­ing an ur­gent alarm, with the pos­si­bil­ity of so­cial grant pay­ments be­ing af­fected, say­ing the sit­u­a­tion must be ad­dressed timeously.

Pi­eter­mar­itzburg Eco­nomic Jus­tice and Dig­nity pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tor Mervyn Abra­hams said although he had not seen the AG re­port, his or­gan­i­sa­tion was wor­ried about the sit­u­a­tion.

“A sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of South Africans to­tally de­pend on so­cial grants. There­fore, if they are not paid out, it would make it im­pos­si­ble for the poor to sur­vive.

“It will also im­pact on our econ­omy be­cause the poor also spend those grants in our stores,” Abra­hams said.

South African Na­tional Civics Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Sanco) spokesper­son Dono­van Williams said it ex­pected gov­ern­ment to ad­dress the prob­lems.

“As Sanco, we want to as­sist the gov­ern­ment to en­sure that so­cial grants and so­cial as­sis­tance do not suf­fer,” Williams said.

Usu­ally, fi­nan­cially strapped gov­ern­ment de­part­ments re­ceive a bailout from the na­tional Trea­sury.

Al­ter­na­tively, the de­part­ment could be placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion, or a bud­get ad­just­ment made, or ad­di­tional funds availed in the medium-term bud­get to be tabled in par­lia­ment by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tito Mboweni on Oc­to­ber 30.

The com­mit­tee heard that fruit­less and waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture in­creased from R2 mil­lion in 2017-18 to R78 mil­lion in 2018-19. This was at­trib­uted to service de­liv­ery fail­ures, rental dam­ages and late can­cel­la­tions.

The largest part of the R78 mil­lion can be at­trib­uted to Sassa pay­ing con­trac­tor in­voices for ser­vices that were never de­liv­ered.

Sassa con­trac­tor fi­asco is the main rea­son

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