The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) appears to be struggling to execute its duties. Just one day after extending the Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) to beneficiaries, it said it would suspend payments for a second time.
On Tuesday 8 September, the Department of Employment and Labour announced that the (Ters) scheme would be extended to 15 September 2020.
"With the lockdown for some industries extended to 15 September, it only makes sense for us to continue to shield workers from the worst effects of the pandemic by extending the relief payments, which have placed much-needed cash into the hands of ordinary workers in this country," said Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.
How things have changed in a mere matter of hours.
UIF DELAYS TERS PAYMENTS AGAIN
The UIF says payments will be delayed in order to mitigate risks identified by Auditor-General of South Africa Kimi Makwetu in the COVID-19 TERS application system. A similar reason was provided on a previous occasion.
"The Fund will release a statement announcing when payments will resume again. Whilst understanding the frustration this might cause, we are committed to pay deserving and authentic workers," it said on Wednesday.
This is most definitely not the first time Ters payments have been suspended. On Wednesday 26 August — just two weeks ago — a similar event occurred, also due to Makwetu's findings.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), at the time, said the suspension was unacceptable as it put millions of livelihoods in jeopardy. Frustrated the first time, we can only imagine how the DA will react this time.
FRAUD AND SUSPENSIONS
When we say the UIF is in a sticky situation, we mean it. Auditor-General of South Africa Kimi Makwetu released the first report on the management of funds regarding COVID-19 initiatives and it didn't display a trusting image.
According to the audit report, there were indicators of fraud and double-dipping. The following irregularities were found;
Overpayments on benefits for the first lockdown period – the system did not take into account the actual period of inactivity and the portion of the salary paid by employers;
- Data analytics identified a high number of payments that require further investigation e.g. people who are below the legal age of employment, deceased, working in government, receiving social grants or funded by the national student financial aid scheme; and [*]Recalculations identified overpayments, underpayments, duplicate payments and discrepancies such as payment approval made before the date of application.
More specifically, the audit report found that R440 000 in UIF Ters was paid to the deceased, yes, the deceased.
Following the shocking outcomes of the report, Nxesi announced the four senior UIF officials had been suspended. While Nxesi himself suspended UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping, the Director-General of the Department of Employment and Labour suspended the CFO, COO and the Head of the Supply Chain.