The sordid tale of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) should be called “When thieves fall out”. The problem is that we don’t know who the thief is and we don’t have all the information about the role players.
What we do know is that R5 billion was about to be moved to a brand new entity that had been set up just two days before the agreement was signed. We know that the UIF, probably the UIF commissioner and the director-general of the Department of Labour, signed an agreement.
We also know that the agreement was for a payment from the UIF funds belonging to the employees of South Africa, to this brand-new company. The funds were being held in trust for the UIF by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).
We know that a whistle-blower, probably a UIF staff member, came forward and reported the issue. Had the individual not done so, the R5bn would have vanished without a trace.
When the public became aware of this grand-scale theft, questions were raised in Parliament, to the minister of employment and labour in December 2022. At that point, no answers were forthcoming.
By February 2023, the director-general and the UIF Commissioner attempted to explain and justify the deal. After mounting pressure on the minister, it appears that he cancelled the deal at the end of 2022.
When I requested details and paperwork surrounding the grandscale theft, I was given the cold shoulder and told that the information was confidential.
The secrecy is the root of the subsequent problems we are facing. If the minister and his senior colleagues were not culpable in any way, they would have immediately disclosed all the facts, so that at least Parliament’s portfolio committee of employment and labour could conduct an oversight investigation.
It must be emphasised that the portfolio committees serve as the eyes and ears of our democratic government, and they should be treated with respect and openness. This was not the case. This is the ANC way.
To this day, we are unsure whether the R5bn was transferred. We are unsure if the money has been returned to the PIC and we are unsure whether any money is missing and if it is, where it went.
Nine months later, it emerged that the minister stated that there was an investigation and that it had taken all this time to come up with recommendations. To this day, 11 months later, we don’t know the terms and conditions of the investigation and the outcome. We don’t even know who investigated the matter.
All we do know is that our secretive minister has shared little except vague answers with the portfolio committee. The vague answers created more suspicion and more allegations. Rightly, the public is starting to think the worst.
We must understand this grandscale scheme of theft in the context of the UIF. A similar type of investment was made in two companies three years before this. The companies went insolvent and the money was never recovered.
We, in the portfolio committee, begged the ANC chairperson to insist on a proper and full-scale investigation. This investigation has never been done or, if it was done, has never been shared with Parliament.
* Michael Bagraim.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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