Tshwane a hotspot for Covid-19 relief fund corruption
Pretoria - Tshwane ranks among the country’s fraud and wrongdoing hotspots regarding Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) corruption.
This is according to the latest Corruption Watch report, which found that many employers received funding, but failed to pay employees. In some cases, companies claiming on behalf of the employees gave them only a fraction of the money due to them.
According to the report, Gauteng had the highest corruption reports in the country with 57. Tshwane was the region with the second highest cases with 18.
The report also found that in many instances, the administration of the programme brought challenges to employees and employers, with the Department of Employment and Labour having a security breach and delayed payment issues.
In one such corruption case, 62-year-old Hammanskraal pensioner Moreroa Moses Leso appeared in court in September for allegedly laundering R4.7 million meant for the Mega Coach bus company.
In another case, R5.6m meant for employees of CSG Resourcing, a company based in the east of Pretoria, allegedly all ended up in the account of one employee, Tshepang Phone.
Both cases are being probed by the Hawks, while some of the money has since been recovered.
“By far, the most reports (88%) that we received were from employees. In most cases, their income had dried up or been drastically reduced, and they were desperately trying to follow up about when their claims would be paid out,” the report read.
“Many employees suspected that their employers had pocketed the money instead of paying it over to them.”
The report also found that the programme shed light on employers that deducted employees’ money, but did not pay it to the UIF.
“In four cases, employees outlined how their employer would not claim for them; and once they made enquiries, it emerged that this was because the employer had never deducted or paid UIF on their behalf.
The UIF has welcomed the report, according to department spokesperson Makhosonke Buthelezi.
Buthelezi said the department was investigating these complaints, and if it found an employer indeed pocketed the money illegally, a criminal case would be opened.
“In terms of the process, an employer is bound by an agreement to pay the money destined to workers as per the agreement,” said Buthelezi.
He explained some of the security measures improved last year after some pay-outs went to the wrong hands.
“Before we pay, there is a robust validation process to ensure that the money lands in the right hands. Hence, you hear some of the employers complaining about delays.
“We cross-check the identity numbers provided with home affairs and validate banking details with companies and Intellectual Property Commission and Sars to ensure that the details provided are the same throughout,” said Buthelezi.
“In cases where the information does not tally, we block the payment and launch an investigation,” he said.
Buthelezi said the department was to receive a preliminary report on Friday from a team of forensic auditors investigating all payments.
“So incidents of making wrong payments have dropped significantly. We have about 40 fraudulent cases that we referred to law enforcement agencies for investigation, so you do get people who still try to defraud the system – but we can catch them,” he said.
According to the department, R57.3 billion was paid in the programme since it commenced in March last year.