The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) says employers have filed a number of fraudulent claims for the COVID-19 relief funds for workers.
Thousands of workers lost their jobs due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Others lost part of their income because of reduced work hours.
The UIF held a virtual media briefing to unpack the amounts of money paid out to people, who lost their jobs and COVID-19 relief grants in KwaZulu Natal, during the lockdown.
A number of businesses were forced to stop operations or incurred heavy losses due to scaled-back operations when the lockdown was announced in March last year.
The UIF’s COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme or COVID TERS was one of the government measures to soften the impact of the pandemic.
UIF spokesperson Thulasizwe Buthelezi says they have paid more than R60 billion in COVID TERS grants. “We have had 102 cases of suspected fraudulent claims so far, ghost employees, where an employer would just claim for people who do not exist, and then, it’s work and draws where company knew that they never closed for COVID TERS yet they came forward to claim, that is prevalent mostly in the fuel rental sector. The filling stations. It’s companies claiming for terminated employees. That has happened a lot. 47 cases are employers who will hold money or underpay employees.”
UIF has been dealing with some fraudulent claims since last year:
Meanwhile, Buthelezi says some payments have been delayed because of incomplete information on claim forms. “We’ve had a situation where most of the time the employers will apply for 20 people, employees, whereas on our database we only have 10 employees that have been declared. And then you wonder where are the other 10 coming from. And under normal circumstances and if you are not declared the presumption is that you are not registered and therefore there are no contributions. But on the other hand, there are situations where an employer pays UIF via SARS but does not declare who are they paying for, so we wouldn’t know. So, the R1 million that we get from SARS who is it for? Is it for Makhosonke or is it for Lungelo?”
KwaZulu-Natal UIF Manager Gugu Khomo has attributed long queues outside offices of the Department of Labour to large-scale shedding of jobs, clients submitting continuation forms, large numbers of UIF inquiries, and a backlog in processing applications.
“We implemented employers spreadsheet for bulk terminations. Employers were using the spreadsheets to make applications for TERS so we have taken the same route as the Department of Employment and Labour and UIF to cut down on the number of clients visiting the offices. Instead, we forwarded the documents to the employers. The employers can now just list all the employees that are being terminated or any employees that need to apply for the IUF then we process those claims without the client visiting the labour centres.”
In his latest State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that TERS will be extended to 15 March.
The President announced that the extension will only apply to specific sectors that were not allowed to operate due to lockdown restrictions.