Irregularities reported with SASSA vouchers
06 September 2012 | Riana Joubert
South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) vouchers are given to people who are in dire need of groceries and need immediate relief in the form of grants but are unable to wait for a month for the grant.
While the vouchers give humanitarian and instant relief there are also complaints that some of the stores designated to convert the vouchers into food charge significantly more than Checkers and Shoprite.
One woman said she was given the voucher by Sassa after she changed her bank account and notified Sassa, but Sassa paid her grant into her old account.
She told the agency about the error and, and they gave her vouchers to avoid any inconvenience.
The voucher was redeemable only at Ebiesons, she said.
When she went to buy groceries she was shocked to find the prices at this store were much higher compared to Checkers and Shoprite prices.
She gave Review the following comparisons:
• 12kg maize meal, about R50 at Checkers but R69,99 at Ebiesons.
• Ricoffy 500g R35,00 at Checkers but R39,99 for only 250g at Ebiesons.
• 1kg Jungle Oats R15 at Checkers, R29,99 at Ebiesons.
"Then the final shock came when I wanted to take my goods," she said.
"The prices on the shelves did not match the prices on the tax invoice and when I enquired why I was told that if they made the prices too cheap, people would resell the products and make money and that is why, according to them, the prices are fixed by Sassa."
But according to Sassa's Tsidi Mamabolo there are no fixed prices on any goods and that is why regular checks are done on the stores involved to see if they are not overinflating prices just because of the vouchers used.
"These stores must not take advantage of people who are already pulling on the shorter string of life.
"If shops are found to overinflate prices they are taken off the contract and I myself have been responsible for many stores being taken off as contractors for Sassa," he said.
On investigation by Review, an Ebiesons employee said the prices were higher because the shop was making a "special arrangement" to help the people to buy with the vouchers.
Ebiesons manager, Nahim Aziz said in defense of the prices: "You cannot compare us to Checkers as we have no set prices and our prices are linked to being on a cash only basis.
"That is why some are higher and others are lower."
The vouchers specify what products people may not buy, such as cosmetics and tobacco and Aziz said he thinks the complaints have arisen because people want to buy these products, but are not allowed to.
Review understands that the Sassa branch head office specifies a number of stores at which the vouchers can be used.
These vouchers are given to the Limpopo branch, which then specifies at what stores they can be used in the area.
According to Tsidi Mamabolo from the Sassa office in Polokwane an advertisement for expression of interest is placed where stores who are interested in partnering the Sassa group can apply. Sassa decides on the contract period when advertising which can be one or two years depending on circumstances and future planning.
The current shops are contracted until end of March 2013 and the advertisement will be placed.
These stores then fill in forms and undergo inspections to make sure that it is an actual store that can provide the needed groceries.
There is also a profile done on the store and a questionnaire must be filled in and by the results of all these stores are appointed.
After the beneficiary has been assessed by Sassa and found to qualify for SRD, he or she will be issued with a voucher that is equivalent to grant value.
The beneficiary exchanges vouchers for grocery at the contracted shop.
The shop sells grocery items to beneficiaries at the same prices offered to general public.
Therefore the shop gets the same profit that he or she would get when selling to the general public.
"Only when we do outreach programmes that the prices will be affected due certain variables such as packaging, labour and transportation," said Mamabolo.
"The main thing is that the store must show interest in becoming contracted by Sassa. If a store does not apply they will not be contracted.
"Any stores that are out to exploit people in need must be reported so that they can be dealt with and taken out of the system," Mamabolo said in closing.
Here is a list of the stores within Polokwane that are used:
• Ebiesons CC.
• Ladanna Café.
• Konyama Trading Store.
• Mams Business.
• Sephakabatho Café & Gen Dealer.
• Matshidiso Meat Market.
• Popo's Supermarket.
• Boxer Supermarket.
• Kgopana Trading Store.
• Best Thought Trading & Projects.
• Maswinelele Cafe.
• Mohunedi Mmasepe Trading.
• Mokgobu's Supermarket and Fast Foods.
• Kutsuma Trading 41.
• Enterprise CC.
• Nare Restaurant.
• Lehlogonolo Barend Trading Enterprise.
• Segoreng Trading.
• Golden Rewards 467.
• Dibane Restaurant.
Any complaints about overinflating prices at stores can be directed to Tsidi Mamabolo at 079 885 6270 or to the Sassa office in Polokwane to Julia at (015) 291 7549 or (015) 291 7508.