/ 29 January 2008

More than 5 000 public servants convicted for fraud

More than 5 000 public servants have been convicted for defrauding the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said on Tuesday.

”About 5 391 disciplinary case-files of public servants convicted of defrauding the Sassa have been handed over to their respective national and provincial departments for disciplinary action to be taken,” Skweyiya said in a statement released by his department.

The public servants were charged for fraudulently obtaining social grants.

”A total of 6 693 public servants charged with fraudulently obtaining social grants had been brought to court by the end of December 2007.”

In April 2005, Skweyiya tasked the Special Investigating Unit with investigating fraud, corruption and maladministration which then plagued the social-grant system.

The unit was investigating people who had permanent positions in the public service but deliberately misrepresented their positions so as to obtain social grants.

People who received social grants legitimately but failed to cancel the grants after they were permanently appointed in the public service were also charged, said Skweyiya.

”Almost three years ago, there has been a dramatic turnaround in the social-grant system, from one riddled with irregularities and fraud to a system that South Africans can be more proud of,” he said.

Regular audits of the social-pension system were introduced, ensuring that there were no gaps allowing fraud to occur.

”The investigation has primarily focused on public employees. However the focus has broadened to include private beneficiaries.”

A total of 21 588 government employees were found to be on the system irregularly and had since been removed.

Disciplinary action ranged from warnings to dismissals.

”Acknowledgement of debts in the amount of R77,545-million have been signed and a total of R16,6-million has been recovered from disentitled beneficiaries,” said Skweyiya.

A total of 143 485 people had been recommended for removal from the system and 21 587 civil-servant grants had been stopped.

”The investigation has saved the government approximately R7,7-billion,” Skweyiya said. – Sapa