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Postbank IT glitches see 600K grant beneficiaries miss payments

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 14 Sept 2023
Postbank experienced a tech glitch that affected social grant payments.
Postbank experienced a tech glitch that affected social grant payments.

Last week’s technical glitch at Postbank affected payments to 600 000 social grant beneficiaries.

So said communications minister Mondli Gungubele, in a joint media briefing with social development minister Lindiwe Zulu.

This, after Postbank last week experienced a technical glitch, which saw South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant beneficiaries unable to withdraw their funds from ATMs and retailers.

According to Gungubele, the glitch was caused by an IT system upgrade at Postbank.

This affected approximately 10% of the 5.3 million beneficiaries that are paid their social grants via Postbank’s SASSA gold cards monthly, the minister said.

“On Tuesday, 5 September and Wednesday, 6 September, Postbank experienced intermittent system challenges at ATMs and retailers, leading to failed withdrawal attempts by some grant recipients for the old age and disabilities grants,” Gungubele said.

He explained the system challenges led to the transactions of some beneficiaries culminating in “transaction incomplete errors” because of the system’s communication timeouts.

“The ‘transaction incomplete errors’ are common payments systems errors modified by funds auto reversals functionality. The system challenges that affected Postbank, unfortunately, impacted the availability of this functionality.”

Gungubele noted the problem has since been rectified, saying the Postbank system has been working since the afternoon of 6 September.

To that end, he added, the payments of child and all the other grants on 7 September, which involve a much bigger clientele number, were concluded without any challenges across all National Payments Systems channels, including ATMs and retailers.

“Government assures South Africa and SASSA social grants beneficiaries that all social grants beneficiaries that have not yet received their social grants payments will be paid their money in full,” he said.

“We encourage our clients that are still encountering challenges with accessing their grant money and require support, to contact the Postbank call centre on 0800 53 54 55, or send a text message to our WhatsApp line on 0738061631, or e-mail to PBbalancingSaswitch@postbank.co.za.”

According to the minister, SASSA also encountered some attempts to defraud the system by individuals who would have received their funds trying to get a double payment.

"Our systems are very thorough and, therefore, people will not be able to defraud the system; instead what they are doing is clogging the system and thereby delaying the process of valid reversals. We condemn these attempts and further warn those people to stop this, as we will be reporting attempted cases of fraud to law enforcement agencies.” 

Gungubele also assured the beneficiaries that the September payments challenges are not related to the SASSA Gold Cards expiry.

“The challenges were a result of a payments IT system issue that has since been resolved. SASSA gold cards remain valid and operational until December 2023, in accordance with the extension of the validity of the cards that was granted by the South African Reserve Bank.”

The minister also revealed that Postbank has made tremendous progress towards concluding its banking IT systems improvement programme, which will ensure it operates from a secure and robust banking IT environment that is on par with all the other commercial banks.

"This development will also ensure system challenges of this nature are a thing of the past. Government remains committed to establishing the Postbank as a developmental state bank.

"Government wishes to profusely apologise to stakeholders in the payment value chain for enduring these challenges. We express our gratitude for the support they provided during this time to all recipients of social grants that were affected by the technical challenges.

"Government is determined to continue building a capable and developmental state within a vibrant democratic system to benefit the poorest of the poor. The Postbank and SASSA, as state agencies carrying pro-poor mandates, are necessarily adjoined by this government determination."

He added that Postbank and SASSA staff will be in communities this entire week to assess progress on the payment of grants and to assist recipients who may require further guidance.

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