The Department of Labour says that the Unemployment Insurance Fund has resumed payments of the Covid-19 TERS Benefits, following a 24-hour delays which was needed to address some control deficiencies in the online payment system.
Payments were halted on Wednesday, after the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) found some discrepancies in the payments leaving the system – such as payments being made to the deceased, minors or others who would not otherwise qualify for the benefit.
The department said a suspension of payments is the usual step to deal with the matter at hand for a certain period.
“The AGSA team had observed some control deficiencies and anomalies in the system, which prompted us to delay payments in order to address them,” it said.
“The suspension of payments is not a new thing to the Fund. We do it all the time when we pick up certain anomalies that increase risk or expose us to potential fraud. There are instances where at the behest of our Internal Audit and Risk Management Units, we have stopped payments to certain companies when certain deficiencies had been identified.
“This is part of our governance framework,” the department said.
UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping acknowledged the negative effect the delay may have had on workers who rely on the benefit for income at the moment, but asked beneficiaries to bear with the process, as it was needed to strengthen the system and to ensure that it can continue its work.
Business group B4SA said the move to suspend payments was disappointing given previous delays which have caused a backlog of payments.
None of the already significantly delayed payments on claims for the July/August period, for which claims opened only on 17 August, have been made, B4SA said. And the catching up on backlog payments going back as far as April have also been halted, it said.
“B4SA strongly supports the mitigation of fraud risks and urges that criminal charges should be brought against all alleged perpetrators. However, the unilateral halting of all payments, and the very poor communication of the situation by the UIF leadership, is grossly unfair to all employees and their employers who have legitimate claims.
“That the UIF system is incapable of remedying the relatively small number of fraudulent claims without disadvantaging the millions of legitimate claimants is an indictment on the UIF system.”