Social grants company appoints “independent ombudsman”

Advocate Neville Melville says communication with beneficiaries remains “a huge problem”

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Photo of Neville Melville
Advocate Neville Melville will adjudicate complaints by social grant beneficiaries against Net1’s subsidiaries. Photo: Barbara Maregele

Net1 has appointed a seasoned financial ombudsman who will be “independently overseeing” the company’s dispute resolution processes.

Social grants are currently distributed to millions of beneficiaries across the country by Net1’s subsidiary company, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). The company’s controversial contract with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has been in the spotlight in recent months. One of the salient issues is the volume of complaints by beneficiaries about unauthorised deductions from their grant accounts. This remains a problem in spite of processes put in place by SASSA and CPS.

On Monday, Net1 announced that Advocate Neville Melville would be assisting the company with “complaints from customers, including social grant recipients, outstanding information necessary for settling the complaints by way of conciliation, mediation and fact finding.”

Net1 said that Melville, who is the former Banking Services as well as the Consumer Goods and Services ombudsman, would work independently from Net1’s existing query and dispute resolution process.

GroundUp spoke to Melville who was attending a community event with grant beneficiaries in the Western Cape as an “independent observer” this week. “I will look at [Net1]’s complaints management and come up with proposals for how they can deal with the complaints and take it forward. At this stage, I’m just getting a feel for what’s happening on the ground. I’m listening more than I am talking,” he said.

“What I’ve seen so far is that there is a huge problem with communication, particularly with people who are semi-literate and those who are completely illiterate. So there will obviously have to be solutions that address those problems,” Melville said. “The biggest challenge is how do these people voice their complaints and [the current mechanism] is obviously not an adequate means.”

Melville said that he will be presenting his findings directly to Net1’s board by next month. “In a fairly tight time frame, I will come up with a structure for how they are going to deal with these matters. From what I can see, some of the matters are very widespread so rather than dealing with similar matters 400 times, we should get to the route of the problem,” he said.

Nanda Pillay, operations manager at Net1, said that Melville’s 37 years in the banking industry would assist Net1 with “getting to the bottom of and understanding the issues.” Pillay said that Net1 was in the process of rolling out awareness booklets and videos at their offices on financial inclusion and literacy.

TOPICS:  Social Grants

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Dear Editor

Maybe this will help the public to finally get the service they are supposed to from these government institutions. i have a long pending application for a care dependency grant. I even went to the public protector but it seems to be getting nowhere. I'm so frustrated.

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