Government workers who receive social grants illegally should come clean. This is a message from the Department of Social Development to 43 000 government workers. The department’s external director of communications Kgati Sathekge said the government was losing R7, 3 million a month because of corrupt officials. “We have now adopted zero tolerance against anyone misusing public funds. We are prepared to root out corrupt practices,” he said.
In 2005, the Department of Social Development established the Special Investigating Unit to investigate public servants who illegally received social grants. Sathekge said public servants who were illegally benefiting from the department’s social grants scheme prevented the government from helping those people who really needed it. “Social grants are meant to improve the lives of poor people. We cannot sit back and fold our arms while the money that is supposed to feed poor families does not reach them,” he said. “The department will open criminal cases against public servants who illegally receive social grants.”
Sathekge said people who were involved in corruption would appear in court. “The court will give those who want to plead guilty an opportunity to do so. They can also make arrangements to pay back the money.” He said the department had established an internal committee that would decide what action should be taken against those who were found guilty. The department would also like to give those who wanted to “come clean” an opportunity to do so, said Sathekge.
Corruption would not discourage the department to continue registering children under the age of 14 for the child support programme, he said. In 2005, the department registered the 6th million child for this programme. The department also gave people who were illegally receiving social grants a chance to come clean. As a result, 86 000 people came forward, he said. About 10 million South Africans are registered for social grants.