More than 39,000 public service employees applied for the COVID-19 R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has revealed, citing a written parliamentary reply by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.
The government introduced the SRD grant in April 2020 to cushion society’s most vulnerable from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is meant to help people who are unemployed, have no income and do not receive any other grants from the government. It will come to an end in April following several extensions.
‘No disciplinary or legal action’
In a statement on Wednesday, DA MP Dr Mimmy Gondwe said, “As of February 2021, an astonishing 39,672 public service employees had applied for the SRD grant.
“However, no disciplinary or legal action has been instituted against them as the SASSA-led investigations into their applications are still ongoing and have yet to be concluded.”
Gondwe said SASSA and Zulu’s Department should seek assistance from the Department of Public Service and Administration to conclude investigations into these employees.
“Minister Zulu further disclosed that no legal steps have been taken to recover the grants paid to the 241 public service employees who received the SRD grant for the month of May 2020, as the investigations into these payments are also still ongoing,” she added.
“A total amount of R84,350 was paid to public service employees who applied for the SRD grant for the month of May 2020.”
Gondwe called for “decisive disciplinary and legal action” against these employees. “The SRD grant is intended solely for the most vulnerable and distressed members of our society and should not be open to abuse by public service employees who are drawing a monthly salary from State coffers,” she added.
The latest revelation follows a similar one in September last year by the Auditor-General at the time, the late Kimi Makwetu, whose investigation flagged more than 30,000 SRD grant beneficiaries “that required further investigations.”
“These include payments to beneficiaries employed in government or that received other sources of income such as other social grants, government pension, Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payments and benefits from other relief funds,” he said.
In her written reply, Zulu said her Department has put in place “systems” to prevent public servants from fraudulently applying for and/or receiving an SRD grant.