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Over 61 000 social grant fraud cases reported on hotline

File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 11, 2021


Johannesburg – The majority of whistle-blower calls made to the National Anti-Corruption Hotline (NACH) relate to social grant fraud, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has revealed.

Launched in 2004, the hotline is a toll-free platform where the public can report government fraud and corruption. It is operated by the PSC.

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The PSC stated in its newly-published annual report that it received 61 490 calls through the NACH during the 2020/21 financial year.

“Over 56% of the cases reported to the NACH in the 2020/21 financial year were reported by anonymous whistle-blowers,” the report said.

“Most of the case reports related to social grant fraud involving pension, disability and child support grant committed by the public and officials.”

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The PSC did not go into detail about the patterns of the reported social grant fraud.

But Dianne Dunkerley, executive manager at the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), revealed some months ago that fraud incidents included false grant beneficiary registrations, fraudulent account openings at the SA Post Office and fraudulent beneficiary account changes.

’’Sassa also revealed last year that some parents continued to collect child grants after the deaths of their infants. It threatened criminal charges over this, while arrests have been made over the years concerning various forms of social grant fraud.

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The PSC urged Sassa to strengthen its internal control system.

“The consequences of social grant fraud are twofold. Not only is there a financial implication when a loss occurs, but the actual beneficiary who qualified to receive such grants suffers,” it said.

“Therefore, Sassa must strengthen its internal controls in the management of social grants.”

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But the hotline through which the PSC received the tip-offs about grants fraud did not perform optimally.

The PSC indicated that the NACH actually only took a portion of whistleblowers’ calls due to its operational challenges.

“The key challenge is that currently the NACH is available five days per week and eight hours per day (from 8am to 4.30pm) due to a lack of funding,” said the PSC’s annual report.

“This arrangement is creating serious challenges as members of the public are calling after hours without the assistance of the call centre agents.

“As the NACH is a designated single hotline through which corruption in the Public Service should be reported, it must be adequately resourced to enable people to report 24/7. This will require additional capacity.”

Another whistle-blowing barrier was that the public incurred airtime charges when calling toll free numbers.

“People are using mobile phones and there is no toll free line with cellphone providers. The government should pursue service providers to contribute to the toll free cellphone line.

“Citizens need to report wrongdoing. The NA is a key instrument in promoting integrity in the Public Service.”

The Star