As most Capetonians recover from excessive spending these Easter holidays, the NGO Black Sash says the accounts of hundreds of social grant beneficiaries are still being debited illegally by outsourced payment contractors. It says the South African Social Security Agency’s (SASSA) campaign to address the issue has failed. Government is currently reviewing public comments regarding the implementation of the Social Assistance Act of 2004.
A spate of unauthorised, undocumented and illegal debit deductions from the bank accounts or smart cards of beneficiaries of Sassa allegedly by outsourced contactor, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) has been reported since the introduction of the biometric system in 2012.
Black Sash’s Ratula Beukman says the state’s social assistance provides a vital income for millions of South African households trapped in a binary of poverty and inequality, unable to provide for their own needs and those of dependants.
“Over 15 million people benefitting from social grants have become the target of commercially motivated and unscrupulous credit by financial service providers, who use confidential personal information, entrusted to our government,” says Beukman.
Black Sash and partners have began to investigate violations of norms and standards at Sassa pay points, and found increasing evidence of irregular, unauthorised and undocumented third party debit deductions from Sassa beneficiaries’ bank accounts.
“Since 2012 until now, as a result of the service level agreement between Sassa and CPS/Net 1, debit deductions of social grants increased drastically. Furthermore, CPS’s recourse system remains ineffective, adding additional burden and cost to social grant beneficiaries,” says Beukman.
The movement hopes to stop illegal deductions with its Stop Sassa/CPS Debits campaign.
The campaign was launched in 2013 by Black Sash and supported by various civil partnersand draws attention to the crisis of debit deductions from social assistance grants.
Some grant recipients say each month their grant varies.
“Every month the money is different. It’s wrong because they promised us a set amount. They can’t do that,” says Mishkah Hassiem.
“Why is the money different when we draw. They can’t charge us for withdrawals. Its not legal,” says Kashiefah Ashif.
“This is out bread and butter and when the money is less we have less to spend on things we need,” says Toufique Lufiya. VOC