Workers who are found guilty of improperly benefitting from the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) have been warned that they will not return to work in the public service.
The R350 SRD grant was introduced to assist unemployed individuals during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. The level five lockdown prohibited citizens from leaving their homes which greatly decreased the prospect of people finding employment.
It was later revealed that more than 5 800 government workers had applied, and received the SRD grant from the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa). They had received this money which was meant to to assist the most vulnerable members of our society while they were still receiving their government salaries.
The Minister of Public Service and Administration Ayanda Dlodlo has warned that all government workers who improperly benefitted from the SRD grant will no longer be allowed to work in the public service.
As of January 2022, every person applying to work for the government will have to declare any and all pending disciplinary action and criminal convictions. This would make them ineligible to work for the government.
Chief Director of Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit, Dr Salomon Hoogenraad-Vermaak explains that changes made to government employee application forms will prevent frauds from applying to work for the government.
“We’ve changed the Z83 which is the application form we the individual needs to explain all the disciplinary cases against the person.” said Hoogenraad-Vermaak when asked about Minister Dlodlo’s statement.
He explained that people applying to the government will also now be required to explain why disciplinary or criminal action is being taken against them. If they lie about this, their application will be dismissed as it is considered fraud.
Hoogenraad-Vermaak says the country’s anti corruption unit established a fusion center. The centre is made up of individuals with investigative skills as well as experts on prosecution. This unit will be investigating SRD grant related fraud
He says the unit has prioritised investing in public servants who are involved in fraud and corruption. He revealed that around 5 812 public servants have been identified who unlawfully benefited from the SRD grant. This cost the government R 5.8 million.
However after further investigation, some of those identified as public service employees were found to no longer be public service employees. The investigation is being broken up into chunks.
The first phase of the investigation is dealing with around 200 people. This leaves more than 5 600 individuals who are yet to be investigated.
Hoogenraad-Vermaak said, “the investigation has started under the guidance of Sassa and the police. They are busy with the investigations, I cannot comment on the time frame because that is not my area of responsibility but the time frame is as quick as we can possibly deal with this”.