Welfare blow as battery acid burns essential claim files

Subsidies for those serving elderly, children delayed

The department of social welfare’s 'payment files' have been destroyed or contaminated by battery acid, leading to fears that subsidies to organisations for the elderly and vulnerable children could be affected
The department of social welfare’s 'payment files' have been destroyed or contaminated by battery acid, leading to fears that subsidies to organisations for the elderly and vulnerable children could be affected
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Organisations assisting the elderly and vulnerable children have been dealt yet another blow with the news that all the department of social welfare’s “payment files” have been destroyed or contaminated by battery acid.

This follows the hasty evacuation of the Beacon Hill head office of the department in King William’s Town last week in response to a gas leak in the building’s server room.

Fears that the sudden relocation would hamper the payment of subsidies to non-profit organisations (NPOs) were realised on Wednesday.

According to a letter which Weekend Post has seen – sent by Sarah Baartman district director Malusi Kashe to NPOs in the district on Wednesday – the incident at the provincial office also damaged the building’s Uninterruptable Power Supply causing it to leak acid.

As a result all the documentation was contaminated.

Other NPOs were allegedly told their paperwork “gave off noxious gasses” and could not be processed.

The building had been evacuated last weekend after several months of complaints that it was unsafe for people to work there.

Oversight visits revealed that apart from unsafe fire escapes, ventilation and air-conditioning problems, as well as condemned lifts, the building was also infested with reptiles and birds.

The chief operating officer for the Delta Property Trust, Otis Tshabalala, said this week it was the department’s equipment that malfunctioned and nothing in the building.

“The equipment in the server room is the property of the tenant and not the landlord.

“We understand that the tenant did not follow the safety protocol and failed to call out the fire department, which is suitably qualified to decontaminate the building.

“Subsequently the building had to be evacuated for us to decontaminate and clean it,” he said.

A letter signed by Kashe on Monday warned welfare organisations that there would be problems and delays with the payment of subsidies.

Dalene Ritter, of Child Welfare in Humansdorp, confirmed that they had received the letter and said this might be the last straw for them.

“While promises were made that all subsidies would be paid before Christmas, not everybody received all their money. Some NGOs have been struggling since September without receiving any subsidies.

“We were supposed to have received money for the first three months of the year by now,” she said.

“Now we received the email about the battery acid. Previously we were told that new people who were appointed to work through the night couldn’t get into the system.”

Maureen Andreka, of the Algoa Bay Council for the Aged, said she had been told a similar story. Some of their subsidies have been outstanding since December.

“I was told they sent for our claim forms to be taken to relocated staff in another building but the papers gave off noxious gasses and made those staff members sick as well.”

She said officials from Bhisho were due in Nelson Mandela Bay next week to recapture all subsidy claims.

Magda van Solms, of the Christelike Maatskaplike Raad, said they were very concerned about reports that the department was not operational at present.

“We are awaiting the outcome of our subsidy applications for the new year,” she said.

Social development spokesperson Mzukisi Solani has not responded to requests for comment since Wednesday.

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