As the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) continues to investigate the source of unauthorised deductions, the Ministerial Task Team on Deductions established by the National Department of Social Development has made progress, which has resulted in the introduction of new regulations that is aimed at preventing unauthorised deductions.
National Advocacy manager of Black Sash Trust Elroy Paulus explained that while SASSA grants were intended for people to have their basic needs met, it was not intended for third parties to provide services without the permission of the beneficiaries.
“Like any citizen, we would expect a level of protection and written consent for financial services to come off our bank accounts.”
He said that many organizations reported alarming deductions since Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), which is the company that is responsible for paying the grants, won the tender to pay the grants
In 2009, to support the Social Assistance Act, minister of social development Bathabile Dlamini made the 26(a) regulations, which says:
“A grant can have no deduction, other than one deduction per month, not exceeding 10 per cent of the value of the grant.”
Paulus said that despite the regulation, all kinds of deductions have been reported.
“If deductions are not less than 10 per cent, then it is in violation of the Social Assistance Act. We have seen deductions for loans, electricity, and water – even in areas that have no water metres.”
He further noted that since the 2009 amendments were not detailed, on May 6, 2016, the minister promulgated amendments to the Act that confirm that the deductions are unlawful.
The deductions that are stipulated in the Act specify that deductions are only allowed to be made by funeral and cover schemes.
In addition, grants can now be paid directly into the accounts of beneficiaries; who may now do as they wish with the cash.
Beneficiaries will, therefore, need to go to the offices of SASSA to authorise funeral deductions, while all other deductions will be contested.
In a recent media briefing, Dlamini said that the main cause of deductions appears to be made by cell phone companies; Vodacom, Cell C, and MTN.
“Ma Grace lives in the small rural town Makwassie in the North West and receives an old age grant. She does not possess a cell phone yet was plagued for months with unauthorised advanced airtime deductions from her SASSA branded beneficiary bank account. When we learnt of her case, I instructed that she be refunded immediately and that these deductions must be stopped,” Dlamini further noted.
Paulus noted that the current prevalence of unauthorised deductions is infringing on the life support of the most impoverished members of society.
“One in 20 deductions has been disputed as having no mandate. [But] I think that those who are making these deductions will argue in court that it is legal. I want these service providers who are deducting to say to the faces of the beneficiaries that they are lying. The hardship that they have caused is immoral and fraudulent.”
He further explained that micro-lenders or loan sharks can be charged in terms of criminal law.
“SASSA and the South African Police Service, if someone takes your ID, other documentation, or Hands out cash as interest loans, the police has the right to retrieve all property on the premises where the documentation is being kept and arrest those who are providing these services,” Paulus said.