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Irregularities reported with SASSA vouchers

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.

06 September 2012 | Riana Joubert

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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.
• Enterprises.
• Sephakabatho Café & Gen Dealer.
 • Matshidiso Meat Market.
• Popo's Supermarket.
• Boxer Supermarket.
• Kgopana Trading Store.
• Best Thought Trading & Projects.
• Maswinelele Cafe.
• Mohunedi Mmasepe Trading.
• Enterprise.
• 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.

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