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South Africa rolls out social security biometric payment system


The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will have their hands full as it implements the new biometric payment system. It is expected that the new system will save the government nearly US$100 million a year from fraudulent payments, duplications, among others.

The rollout will undergo three phases. The first phase will be for the preparation and enrolment of 35,431 new applicants in all nine provinces. The second phase conducted between April and May will be for exchanging old cards for cash beneficiaries. The third phase, to be conducted between June and December, will be the enrolment of old or existing beneficiaries. A new SASSA-branded smart card, which is embedded with chip containing biometrics information of the beneficiaries, will be used to verify grant recipients.

The new biometric system developed under a five-year US$1.2 million contract awarded to Net1 UEPS. The company will see to the distribution of social grants to all nine provinces in South Africa; also for payment of about 15 million grants to 10 million South Africans.

SASSA CEO Virginia Petersen explained that beneficiaries would be required to register all 10 fingerprints, voiceprints and a photograph for better security. Payments can be made only after a voice activated telephone call is confirmed from the beneficiary.

Payouts can be made at fixed or mobile pay points anywhere in the country or at over 1,400 merchant outlets.

Petersen said that there are issues faced by the new system especially in executing the first and second phases of the re-registration. There were 12,000 people who did not receive payments. On top of which, there are issues pertaining to overcrowding at pay-points, late payments, equipment malfunctions, deductions made from social grants by micro-lenders and service providers. All are under investigation right now and the award of the winning bid to Net1 UPS, is currently under legal challenge by AllPay, a subsidiary of Absa.

Will biometrics ultimately aid in the efficient delivery of social benefits to South Africans?

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