By Jason Felix for News24
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) is not a “money tree” with unlimited resources.
That was the warning from Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi, who revealed on Tuesday that the UIF has around R50-billion available.
Nxesi delivered a ministerial briefing in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on the measures his department has taken to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic.
Through the Covid-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), over R49-billion had been disbursed in benefits in the form of over 11-million payments since the beginning of the lockdown.
Nxesi said R23-billion was disbursed in Gauteng, in five million payments, and R484-million was disbursed in the Northern Cape, in over 100 000 payments.
At the same time, R7.5-billion was disbursed in 1.3 million payments in normal UIF benefits.
Nxesi said plans were afoot to ensure the sustainability of the UIF fund.
“We have about R50-billion available. The question we need to answer now is what is the way forward when we have to deal with mass unemployment? This is a serious matter that the UIF board is looking at.
“It is difficult at this stage to determine all the retrenchments. But if the worst comes to the worst, we might see ourselves in the 2008 situation, where we would have to appeal to government,” he said.
Nxesi said, while the UIF was repurposed, it also needed to build in the necessary financial controls.
“I said at the time, ‘we don’t start paying out benefits before controls are in place’.
“This led to initial delays, and complaints from employers that the conditions were too onerous – which, in turn, compromised UIF controls in the rush to get payments out to laid-off workers,” he said.
He also said the UIF was aware of the fraud risks with TERS payments.
In September, all Covid-19 TERS payments were put on hold after several allegations of corruption and complaints that employees were not receiving their monies.
Stopping the payments allowed the UIF to implement adequate controls and to mitigate the identified risks.
During the first payment run on 21 September, and after the suspension of the TERS payments, errors were detected and the payments were rejected.
Some of these included the rejection of 193 applications after it was found the applicants were deceased persons.
Nxesi said 1 688 government employees, who applied for TERS were rejected. Also rejected were two applications from inmates and 1 968 applicants with invalid identification numbers.
“The holes are being plugged. The UIF has received the correct master data from the Department of Home Affairs, which is the latest data, so no deceased employee will be paid.
“The risk of inflated salaries by employers has also been corrected as the UIF now verifies with the latest declared salary.
“All under-age ID numbers have been blocked on the system,” he said.