Over 4000 dead people apply for Covid-19 relief fund in South Africa
London, July 21, 2020 (AltAfrica)- The Covid-19 relief fund in South Africa has run into trouble after more than 4000 dead South Africans applied for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, UIF, which is helping employers who are struggling financially through the Covid-19 crisis to pay workers salaries
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) gives short-term relief to workers when they become unemployed or are unable to work because of maternity, adoption leave, or illness. It also provides relief to the dependants of a deceased contributor.
So far, the UIF, an entity of the Department of Employment and Labour, has paid out R31-billion to 6,900,391 claimants
UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping said through the vetting, the agency discovered that there were at least over 4,000 claims – April (2,729) and May (1,944) – were lodged on behalf of deceased persons
Besides claims lodged for the dead, the agency also uncovered that some of the identity numbers used to apply for some of the workers do not exist. There were close to 50,000 invalid ID numbers used in April and this figure was slightly down to 43,176 in May
“Through the vetting, we have been able to establish that there were at least over 4,000 claims – April (2,729) and May (1,944) – were lodged on behalf of deceased persons and the thorough vetting that has been instituted has picked up all these anomalies. As indicated by the employment and labour minister, we are following every cent that we have paid out and will continue processing valid claims, but some of these claims cannot be processed for obvious reasons.” said UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping
“We developed this system in such a way that it would be able to talk to other public service institutions like SARS (South African Revenue Service) and the Department of Home Affairs. Currently, the UIF use of reference and ID numbers to prevent duplicate payments serves as one of the major controls, as well as verification of banking details, password protection, and checking claims against UIF and SARS databases,” said Maruping.
There were also ID numbers that could not be found on the government system. In April, there were 106,488 of these and in May the number was down to 84,278.
“As we repurposed the fund to deliver to laid-off workers, we also needed to build in the necessary financial controls and ensure the liquidity and long-term sustainability of the fund itself. Minister (Thulas Nxesi) had directed that there will be no payments made by the UIF until the necessary controls were in place, as ultimately they would later be required to account to all government authorities and the auditor general on systems, processes and control of disbursing such huge amounts,” said Maruping.
The UIF said some of the reasons for the delays in processing of funds include employees not registered with the UIF whose existence it needs to verify with SARS. In April there were 218,548 such cases and 102,397 in May.
“In these cases, and realising the noble cause for supporting workers, we gave employers the chance to declare these workers through U-filing after which we would be able to pay. As a result, a total of 171,393 for April and 113,856 for May has recently been declared by employers on U-filing and we have either paid them or are in the process to do so,” said Maruping.
The Unemployment Insurance Act makes it obligatory for a company to declare all its employees with the fund and to pay over UIF contributions to the fund, and it has been in contact with these employers requiring them to confirm if indeed these are their employees, including some form of proof – whether through their payroll or SARS declaration.
The UIF also accused some employers of lack of cooperation particularly in identifying whether those workers were really employed at the companies or not
“We could not and still cannot pay in the cases of double dipping and we made this very clear at the beginning. The Covid-19 benefits necessitated not only new policies and directions, but also a major system change to cope with a tenfold increase in benefit payments. Prior to the lockdown, the UIF paid benefits only to retrenched workers who had contributed to the fund. The process was typically initiated by individual walk-ins to labour centres. This all had to be changed,” said Maruping.