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Biometric Security combats South African Social Welfare Fraud


The U.S. National Biometric Security Project reported that South Africa will be using a new biometric-based payment system that will use fingerprint and voice verification to identify social grant recipients.

Transitions will be underway this month from using identification booklets to a biometric-based payment system in order to control massive social welfare fraud. From June to December 2012, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will be replacing the Sekulula card with new branded biometric magstripe cards to grant holders.

Similar payment systems are in use in countries like Australia, Canada and Japan.

The previous system of presenting identification booklets and entering identification numbers at the bank, or any payout counter, to access social welfare payments has become highly susceptible to fraud, costing tax payers 25% of all social security payouts.

Based on a report by SASSA, more than 33 percent of South Africans receive a total of 15 million social grants per year, which is expected to grow to 16.8 million in three years. However, about 3 cents out of every dollar are lost due to social welfare fraud. Fraudulent activities include those grants being collected from deceased relatives and stolen booklets.

“Documents are easily lost, stolen or exchanged, in which case the money can be fraudulently collected by someone else,” according to Francine Mwepu, a social worker who monitors social grant beneficiaries in Grahamstown, in an interview with United Press International.

From March to May of this year, in the first phase of the project, new beneficiaries were enrolled into the new system. From June to December, eligible beneficiaries will be enrolled into the new system at South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pay points, local offices and designated sites. Home visits will be made to senior citizens and bedridden beneficiaries at home or hospitals.

SASSA has also implemented its integrity model, in order to manage irregular practices. Kgomoco Diseko, senior director of SASSA, reported to the BuaNews that the integrity model represents a more proactive fraud management approach including prevention, detection, investigation and resolution.

There have been complaints filed after a botched verification process in the Eastern Cape. However, SASSA has made assurances that there will be no disruption in the disbursement of grants with the current verification process.

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