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Will New Measures Stop Theft of SASSA Grant Money?

South African authorities say they have implemented stringent safeguards to protect funds managed by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) from criminal exploitation in 2024. Their confidence comes after audits last year revealed staggering theft totaling around R90 million from SASSA’s coffers.

We have implemented robust cybersecurity measures and overhauled procurement and payment systems to close loopholes and prevent future looting,” stated Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Mondli Gungubele.

SASSA Grants: A Lifeline for Millions

Every month, over 18 million impoverished and vulnerable South Africans rely on the vital income support provided by SASSA’s social assistance programs. These include elderly residents receiving old-age grants, those with disabilities getting allowances, and kids benefiting from child welfare stipends.

However, SASSA has persistently struggled to disburse funds accurately and punctually. In 2023, hundreds of thousands of elderly grantees experienced payment delays dismissed as mere “technical glitches” – which later emerged as a cover for syndicated theft siphoning monies.

R90 Million Heist Exposed

Forensic audits by KPMG revealed foul play had drained almost R90 million from SASSA’s accounts in 2023. Flaws in newly instituted payment software enabled unscrupulous officials at Postbank – the state bank tasked with distributing grants – to carry out the plundering.

Postbank’s entire executive team and board were fired for gross negligence. A suspect R140 million contract between the bank and a former IT vendor is also being scrutinized for potential termination.

Costly Cybersecurity Overhaul

To prevent repeat incidents, Gungubele disclosed the government’s multi-million rand investment upgrading SASSA’s digital security apparatus and payment protocols.

We have implemented new systems to monitor transactions, identify anomalies, and blacklist suspicious recipients. Biometric authentication of beneficiaries has also been rolled out to verify identities,the Minister stated.

These remedies aim to seal vulnerabilities that facilitated last year’s large-scale swindling and money laundering of stolen SASSA funds.

SASSA has also tightened procurement policies while onboarding independent auditors to routinely vet contracts with third-party vendors – avoiding corrupt deals like Postbank’s infamous IT contract.

Private Sector Vying for Grant Payout Contract

With Postbank’s reputation in tatters, numerous private firms are jockeying to take over SASSA’s grant payment services when the current contract lapses in 2024. Bidders are touting world-class payment tech and robust anti-fraud controls to secure the lucrative tender.

Gungubele voiced optimism about potential public-private partnerships revamping SASSA’s systems: “Collaborating with cutting-edge private sector players will modernize services benefiting millions of grantees. We’ve shut the door on unstable payouts and leakages.”

After last year’s fiasco, the government appears determined to rectify systemic failings that facilitated pillaging of vital welfare funds. With reinforced security protocols and stringent deal oversight, Gungubele asserts SASSA’s coffers will be corruption-proof come 2024’s transition to a new grant payout contract. But the true test looms when monthly disbursements restart for 18 million beneficiaries under the new arrangement.

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