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End of the road as UIF winds down TERS benefits

We need to have a cut-off date, pay everyone who is in the system, and let this Covid-19 TERS matter rest, said UIF communication and marketing director Makhosonke Buthelezi. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

We need to have a cut-off date, pay everyone who is in the system, and let this Covid-19 TERS matter rest, said UIF communication and marketing director Makhosonke Buthelezi. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jul 3, 2022

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This article first appeared in the 30 June 2022 edition of the Cape Argus newspaper.

Cape Town - Now that the national State of Disaster is over, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) is winding down and preparing to close the Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Covid-19 TERS), by paying all valid and remaining claims.

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UIF communication and marketing director Makhosonke Buthelezi said the fund would continue urging employers to correct all errors on the Covid-19 TERS relief scheme portal, to enable the fund to disburse all outstanding monies and bring an end to the scheme.

“We need to have a cut-off date, pay everyone who is in the system, and let this Covid-19 TERS matter rest so that we can continue with the normal benefits,” said Buthelezi.

Buthelezi was speaking at a media briefing called in Cape Town by UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping, to provide updates on the Covid-19 TERS relief scheme and providing social security or normal UIF benefits.

He said during the 2022/2023 financial year, the fund would focus mainly on improving service delivery to contributors and their beneficiaries.

Maruping said the Fund had grown from R53 billion in 2011, to R151 billion before the pandemic led to the introduction of the scheme.

UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping at the media briefing. Picture: Mwangi Githahu

He said the Fund’s assets had begun to recover and had increased from R115 billion to R124 billion by December 31, 2021, and this would ensure future payments of normal benefit claims and administrative costs.

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He said the UIF’s healthy financial position enabled them to set aside an initial budget of R40 billion for the scheme, which they thought might run for three months.

“When the pandemic began and the State of Disaster was announced, we had no real idea how long the situation would last,” said Maruping.

As such, when the state of disaster was extended and, subsequently, the Covid-19 Ters was also extended, we were not sure if we would be prepared for it.

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He said that, eventually, the UIF disbursed R64 billion to 5.7 million workers as part of Covid-19 TERS, surpassing its initial budget by R24 billion.

The disbursement was not all smooth sailing and several issues of fraud were soon flagged, leading to the establishment of the “Follow the Money Project”, which was headed by UIF auditor Smiso Nkosi.

UIF auditor Smiso Nkosi. Picture: Mwangi Githahu

Nkosi said the Fund appointed six audit firms to implement the project across the country.

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“The objectives of the project were to ensure that the Covid-19 TERS funds reached the intended beneficiaries at the right time and were not abused or misused by employers,” said Nkosi.

He said the fund had created a fraud hotline number, through which information was conveyed to the forensic auditors in charge of the project, to account for every cent paid through Covid-19 TERS.

Nkosi said the project had resulted in R918 million being returned to the UIF’s coffers, while their partnerships with financial institutions and law enforcement agencies had led to several arrests and convictions in the courts.

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