Dept says temporary halt will enable UIF to not only deal with gaps identified by the AG but to also ensure that identified improvements are effected
THE PAYMENTS for the new and outstanding applications for the Covid-19 Ters relief benefits have been halted while the Department of Employment and Labour and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) improve controls as urged by the auditor-general (AG).
The Department said in a statement this temporary halt would enable the UIF not only to deal with the gaps identified by the AG but also offered the opportunity to ensure that some of the improvements that had already been identified by the management were effected.
The UIF was earlier subjected to an audit by the AG where it observed some control deficiencies and anomalies in the system. This prompted a delay payments, which were later resumed.
“Whilst the AG has shown us a number of deficiencies in the payment of the Covid-19 Ters benefits, I must hasten to add that many of these deficiencies had been picked up already by management. Some had already been corrected in the June payments but we will continue to improve the systems so that it responds to the needs of our beneficiaries and make the payments effective and efficient,” said acting UIF commissioner Marsha Bronkhorst.
After the lifting of the earlier suspension, Business for South Africa (B4SA) said it strongly supported the mitigation of fraud risks and urged that criminal charges be brought against all alleged perpetrators. However, it added that the unilateral halting of all payments, and the poor communication of the situation by the UIF leadership, was grossly unfair to all employees and their employers who had legitimate claims.
Bronkhorst said the UIF had taken a number of steps to address the systemic challenges they faced with regard to the payments.
“First of these is that we have entered into a memoranda of understanding with a number of government institutions to make sure we get access into their updated databases. These include institutions such as the South African Social Security Agency, National Students Financial Aid Scheme and the Department of Home Affairs. These departments and institutions are currently busy verifying the UIF database to ensure payments reach the correct persons.
“Secondly we have updated our system to make sure that the bank verification happens quicker and these include verifications for schools, NGOs etc. We are also working hard currently in improving our Covid-19 Ters application portal to make sure that to the extent possible, it becomes a self-service portal to make it easy for employers and employees,” she said.
Bronkhorst is upbeat that the system should be up and ready as soon as possible to provide financial relief to workers, especially to those who are still under lockdown conditions.
She also pointed out that despite the challenges they were working hard to resolve, the UIF had delivered in the face of great need.
“To date the UIF has received just over 1 104 000 applications for the payment of Covid-19 Ters benefit and we have paid 825 840 of these. These payments equate to just under R42 billion, which has been disbursed in 9 501 865 payments to workers around the country,” she said.
Bronkhorst said for those who defrauded the system, the law would take its course. “There are already some cases that we have brought to the SAPS for investigation and prosecution – 35 out of a total of 146. This also serves as a notice to those who may have intentions to try and defraud the system. Not only will it be harder to do so, but even if they do succeed, the law will eventually get them and they will pay for stealing from the workers.”
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has started with its investigation into fraudulent claims and action would be taken against all found involved in fraudulent activities.