Over the past three financial years, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) paid R140 million to dead beneficiaries.
This was revealed by Minister Lindiwe Zulu in a written reply to a Parliamentary question, saying that across those three years, SASSA paid grants to around 75,000 accounts belonging to dead people.
The Minister reiterated that her department is working hard to fight corruption at SASSA and improve the performance of its systems.
This improvement has been shown in the decreasing number of dead beneficiaries being paid. For example, in the 2023/24 financial year, SASSA paid 15,204 deceased beneficiaries compared to 32,920 in the 2021/22 financial year.
Regarding amounts paid to the deceased, SASSA paid R59 million in the 2020/21 financial year.
In 2022/2023, another R50 million was paid – and, in 2023/2024, it paid R31 million to dead beneficiaries.
SASSA spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi told Newzroom Afrika that it is important to note that it does not pay dead beneficiaries deliberately but is instead subject to an onerous person with the Department of Home Affairs to verify the death of recipients.
He said in most cases, the money is paid into the recipient’s accounts and withdrawn by family members, meaning that it is not completely wasted.
SASSA cannot request the money back once it has been incorrectly paid to a dead beneficiary. All it can do is stop the payments once the death is verified.
It is very dependent on Home Affairs to ensure that the death of recipients is reported and entered into the database, where SASSA can then halt the payments.
However, there is a big issue in rural areas where deaths are not reported timeously and thus, Home Affairs cannot verify the death at the request of SASSA.
“We, as SASSA, cannot act if the death is not verified. We will never know that the person is deceased. It is only after it is added to Home Affairs’ database that we can act,” Letsatsi explained.
He said SASSA is working closely with Home Affairs to improve the system.
However, despite improvements to the system, Minister Zulu said there are still instances where someone is paid as Home Affairs confirms they are alive, but once the payment is made, it is found that the person is dead.
In this case, SASSA freezes the account and then follows up with a letter to the next of kin to return the money to SASSA.
In most cases, the family members have already used the money. Then, SASSA follows a debt recovery process that is onerous and expensive.