Businesses that took Covid-19 financial relief could now face government audits

 ·13 Apr 2021

Companies who have received money through the Covid Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) may be selected for audit, says Ruth Maforimbo, EY’s EMEIA senior manager for People Advisory Services.

The Covid-19 TERS relief was part of the South African government relief scheme, which made available approximately R65 billion for payments to millions of workers.

Maforimbo said that the Department of Labour has now appointed forensic auditors to verify companies’ TERS claims.

“Companies who have received money, may be selected for audit. The auditors will perform investigations and examine the authenticity of the TERS claims, analyse the financial records of employers as well as verify whether the money received was accurately paid over to the qualifying employees,” she said

Maforimbo said that audits commenced in December 2020 and are expected to be completed within a six-month period.

“Many companies have already been audited or are currently being audited,” she said.

In terms of government’s communications, companies who applied for, and are recipients of the TERS, must have the required information available should the auditors initiate the audits.

The Covid-19 applications were available for the period March 2020 to 31 March 2021.

Implications of the TERS audits

“If you are selected for audit, we urge employers to cooperate with the appointed forensic auditors and supply all required information within the stipulated time frames,” said Maforimbo.

“Non-compliance may result in legal action”, Maforimbo warned.

“In the event that it is established through the audits that the companies have illegally benefited from the TERS, a legal procedure will be initiated and employers will be obliged to respond.”

Maforimbo said that if there is a reporting error, there may be penalties of the total amount plus interest and any legal costs imposed by the Department of Labour.

“The limitation of liability clause in the TERS memorandum of agreement, states that the liability is uncapped in respect of the damages that the UIF will suffer as per the agreement.

“Since this is not clearly quantified, the employer/ company may need to review their specific signed MoA to determine what it stipulated,” Maforimbo added.

Information that may be required for the audit

Maforimbo said that the onus is upon the employer/ company to furnish the auditors with all of the required information to complete the verification process

“Failure to comply with the request for information by the due date may result in adverse consequences with the UIF and other authorities,” said Maforimbo.

Employers/ companies who applied for, and are recipients of the relief scheme, must prepare a UIF COVID19 TERS information application pack, she said.

“We suggest businesses conduct an analysis and review of their TERS submission/ s to understand the process followed in order to ensure compliance.

“Whether your business applied for the TERS in-house or utilised the services of independent consultants, we suggest professional assistance in identifying any compliance issues and risk areas is obtained,” Maforimbo said.

Read: South Africa extends ‘ineffective’ R200 billion Covid-19 loan scheme by another 3 months

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