SA urged to fight welfare fraud
Johannesburg - Social development minister Zola Skweyiya on Monday urged churches, civil society bodies, traditional leaders and community-based organisations to fight fraud in the distribution of welfare grants.
"This is unacceptable. Those grants are for the poorest of the poor," Skweyiya told reporters in Sandton.
The minister said the government lost R1.5 billion annually due to fraud and corruption in the distribution of grants.
In some cases, a large number of former public servants were involved. They received their normal pension, and a welfare grant as well, Skweyiya said.
Retired teachers and nurses who received pensions ranging from R2000 and R3000 were receiving grants, especially in the former homelands, he said.
"What we are saying is that you are not entitled to that. For the past two or three months we have asked them to withdraw from it. We don't want to embarrass you.
"We are appealing to your organisations, to your churches, to your communities to (help you) withdraw from this," he said at the National Consultative Forum.
Skweyiya said the indemnity campaign to end fraud and corruption in the grants system would end next month.
The number of people receiving "social protection" has risen to more than nine million so far, and was expected to increase further to 11 million in the next financial year.
A total of 5.5 million of the people currently receiving grants were children, Skweyiya said.
"Between 1 April this year and March 2006 we are expected to register an additional 1.2 million vulnerable children between the ages of 11 and 14," he said.
Skweyiya said "big business crooks" and "syndicates from Soweto --Senoane, Mapetla, Meadowlands" were the ones who defrauded the government.
In some cases, "people own shops, they pay tax" but still received a grant.
"There are dead people whose pensions still go through the banks". The banks were quite uncooperative, he said.
"Very organised, systematic thieves" were responsible for lost money in the Eastern Cape's Mdantsane area, he said.
"Mthatha (in the Eastern Cape) is basically the capital of this fraud."
The "thieves" boast about the money, and "even move around in Mercedes Benzes (and) BMWs".
"Even in my family, some people don't want to see me since I told them that they are not entitled to grants," Skweyiya said.
He said he would be concerned if national police commissioner Jackie Selebi and Vusi Pikoli, the National Prosecuting Authority boss, did not arrest these "crooks".
Those who were inadvertently receiving the money -- like elderly people -- would be forgiven if they came forward.
"We must resist from arresting elderly people. It's not our culture. So we don't want to embarrass you," Skweyiya said, calling on illegitimate beneficiaries to stop getting the money. 28/02/2005, News24)
37 000 probed for grants fraud
Johannesburg - South African police are investigating a multimillion-rand child grant scam involving 37 000 public servants who allegedly approved false claims for the assistance, an official said on Wednesday.
The first arrests in the case are expected soon, said a spokesperson for the national prosecuting authority, Makhosini Nkosi.
"We are ready in the Eastern Cape to make arrests within a week. We have conducted our investigation to a point where we are ready to effect arrests, it is just a question of logistics, like obtaining arrest warrants," said Nkosi.
Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya was quoted as telling parliament that more than 37 000 public servants were being investigated for fraud and corruption involving child grants.
The public servants were being investigated for embezzling funds intended for children and also assisting in approving fraudulent claims for the grant.
Amnesty granted to 300 000
South Africa has already granted amnesty to more than 300 000 people who were illegally accessing social security.
According to SAPA, the minister told parliament that the fraud was costing tax payers up to R1.5bn a year.
"Already we have the names of over 37 000 people who are being or will be investigated," said Skweyiya.
"We are investigating some of these cases, we are investigating cases that are complicated and seem to be part of a syndicate," Nkosi told AFP by phone.
On Tuesday Skweyiya named the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal as the regions with the highest number of fraud cases, they are also the poorer regions in the country.
Illegal state grants axed
Pretoria - South African State grants illegally accessed by 41 000 public servants have now been stopped, but the government won't say whether those found guilty of fraud would be axed from the bureaucracy.
Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya told journalists at the Union Buildings on Tuesday that 41 000 public servants had had their grants "stopped".
His department was working with police and the justice department in probing fraud.
He did not say what mechanisms would be employed for the money to be paid back.
He also declined to be drawn on whether those successfully prosecuted for fraud would face the axe from the public service in line with the recent axing of members of parliament who had been found guilty of defrauding the parliamentary travel voucher scheme.
He said that 85 000 people had also applied for amnesty for the illegal accessing of grants - which takes the total to about 126 000 who were illegally receiving state grants of various kinds.
Meanwhile, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi told another briefing on Tuesday that corruption in the public service would not be tolerated.
She said: "As part of government's drive to build the capability of the state to take forward our development and freedom, we also have to ensure that we prevent corruption eating away at our gains as a young democracy.
Corruption endangers key elements of our capability, such as confidence in the rule of law and the institutions that uphold this rule, confidence in the integrity of governance systems, equal and easy access to quality services."
She noted that the National Anti-Corruption Forum adopted its action programme on Friday - June 24 - at the CSIR in Pretoria.
"The forum reconfirmed the appointment of an implementation committee of the national anti-corruption programme.
"This implementation committee will translate the programme into practical implementation projects," she pledged.
"This committee consists of the director general of Public Service and Administration, Professor RM Levin, the CEO of Business Against Crime, K Fihla, and the Convenor of the Civil Society Network against corruption, JG February."
(Donwald Pressly, 28/06/2005, News 24)