UIF lifts Covid-19 TERS benefit payment delays after addressing anomalies
JOHANNESBURG – The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) on Wednesday resumed payments of the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) Benefits after a 24-hour delay, which the fund said was necessitated by the need to address some control deficiencies in the Covid-19 TERS online payment system.
This after B4SA and organised labour earlier expressed their disappointment at the latest UIF TERS shutdown.
“It is with deep disappointment that B4SA has learned from its representatives at Nedlac that all payments of UIF TERS benefits have been halted pending investigations by the Auditor-General (AG),” said B4SA on Wednesday.
In a statement, the UIF said this was the usual step whereby if it picked up problems, whether in relation to governance or to further stress-test and enhance the system, the payments would get suspended to deal with the matter at hand for a certain period.
It said as part of a wider Covid-19 audit in state organs, the UIF was also subjected to an audit by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA). “The AGSA team had observed some control deficiencies and anomalies in the system, which prompted us to delay payments in order to address them.”
UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping said on Wednesday that the suspension of payments was not a new thing to the Fund. “We do it all the time when we pick up certain anomalies that increase risk or expose us to potential fraud.
“There are instances where at the behest of our Internal Audit and Risk Management Units, we have stopped payments to certain companies when certain deficiencies had been identified. This is part of our governance framework.
“Therefore, as the AG performs its own audit and they make certain observations we address them on the spot, and sometimes we have to stop our activities to correct the situation as we did with the 24-hour suspension,” he said.
Maruping said he recognised the possible negative impact this might have had on millions of workers who relied on the Covid-19 TERS Benefit for income.
“As the UI management, we recognise and acknowledge the possible negative impact this might have on millions of workers who depend on these cash injections.
’’That is why we would like to appeal to our contributors to bear with us because these intermissions are designed to make the Fund stronger so that it can continue doing its work of providing sustenance to workers in their time of need,” he said.
B4SA said it was understood that the AG was investigating system integrity problems at the UIF related to the TERS system.
“None of the already significantly delayed payments on claims for the July/August period, for which claims opened only on 17 August, have been made. And the catching up on backlog payments going back as far as April has also been halted.”
B4SA said it strongly supported the mitigation of fraud risks and urged that criminal charges be brought against all alleged perpetrators.
“However, the unilateral halting of all payments, and the very poor communication of the situation by the UIF leadership, is grossly unfair to all employees and their employers who have legitimate claims.
“That the UIF system is incapable of remedying the relatively small number of fraudulent claims without disadvantaging the millions of legitimate claimants is an indictment on the UIF system.
“The continued delays and lack of transparency from the UIF in regard to their capacity challenges have had the unintended consequence of creating mistrust between employers and employees,” said the organisation.
B4SA said with the current delays being experienced, B4SA and organised labour would insist that the previously nominated closure on September 15 for April and May TERS claims be removed.
“Any future closure date will have to be re-negotiated once the social partners are satisfied that employers and beneficiaries are not unfairly prejudiced by the failure of UIF systems and support infrastructure.”