Sassa opens criminal cases against officials who defrauded State of R350 Covid-19 grant
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Cape Town - The South African Social Security Agency is busy opening criminal cases for each of the public servants who received the R350 social relief distress grants for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu revealed this when she was responding in writing to parliamentary questions from IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe.
Van der Merwe enquired about the status of the investigation taken against civil servants who defrauded Sassa by applying for the special grant and the total number of officials being suspended pending investigation as well as any matters referred to the National Prosecuting Authority for prosecution.
The auditor-general identified 5 812 civil servants who applied for and received the social relief grant to the value of R5 498 500.
Zulu said out of the affected civil servants, 242 were prioritised in line with a resolution taken with other stakeholders at the Fusion Centre.
She said Sassa opened one criminal case for all the prioritised government employees at Sunnyside Police Station, but SAPS recommended that the agency open a criminal case for each of the individuals on the prioritised list.
Zulu said a series of meetings were held at the Fusion Centre to further discuss the prosecution-led investigation.
“Working with the Fusion Centre, Sassa is currently in the process of opening such individual cases, and this process is envisaged to be concluded on or before the end of December 2021,” she said.
Zulu also said no government employee was suspended currently.
“Sassa has concluded its internal investigation of the 242 government employees. An internal investigation report was shared with the DPSA (Department of Public Service and Administration) for the purpose of coordinating and monitoring disciplinary hearings as well as facilitating acknowledgement of debts (recovery) with relevant government employees through their respective departments,” she said.
The minister also said the department of public service has since advised that of 242 government employees on the priority list, and 198 were confirmed to have been actual government employees in the period of the social relief of distress grant pay-outs.
This means, Zulu said, 44 officials were to be removed from the initial priority list of affected officials.
She also said in a meeting held by the department of public service and administration and Sassa last month, it was resolved that the agency should submit evidence files for each of the individual government employees.
“Sassa is expected to compile evidence files, while DPSA is expected to coordinate and monitor the processes of disciplinary hearings and acknowledgement of debts with relevant departments,” she said.
“As and when Sassa submits individual criminal cases to SAPS, SAPS will hand over the cases to the NPA for criminal prosecution.”
Zulu also said the officials who refused to sign the acknowledgement of debt forms would be charged criminally.
“Disciplinary hearing and criminal prosecution processes will run concurrently,” she said.