The Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, should commit to a timeline on the resumption of Covid-19 Ters payments by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
Payments have been suspended indefinitely while the UIF works with the Department of Home Affairs and other government databases to verify about 5 million identity documents of Ters applicants.
This follows an investigation by the Auditor-General (AG) into financial irregularities with the Ters scheme, which found inter alia that the UIF paid:
- R30 million to 4 161 people with invalid ID numbers;
- R140 million to people who also received benefits from other State institutions like the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (R10.3 million), and government employees who benefited to the tune of R41 million;
- R441 144 to people who are deceased;
- R200 000 to people under the legal working age of 15 years; and
- R169 000 to people who are in prison.
The AG recommended that the UIF should collaborate with other State organs in the intelligence and police services and institute investigations into overpayments and incorrect payments. This is vital.
It is also understandable that the UIF has opted to pause payments while it works with the Department of Home Affairs to verify ID numbers in the interests of mitigating those risks identified by the AG. That said, it is an indictment on the South African State that it cannot easily and quickly identify its citizens and documented foreign nationals working here legally.
The Ters payment delays cannot continue indefinitely. There needs to be a clear plan of action and timeframes for the resumption of payments.
Many workers are still waiting for their May and June payments, let alone July and August, and these never-ending delays only add to their distress and desperation.
Minister Nxesi should announce the way forward today.