The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has appointed seven auditing and forensic firms to “follow the money” for all Covid-19 TERS payments.
“Companies that received money through the Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Covid-19 TERS) can expect a knock on their doors from forensic auditors that will be examining their financial records to check the authenticity of their claims and verify if the money was paid over to workers,” the UIF said in a statement.
Some employers have already been arrested for fraudulent claims, and bank accounts have been frozen and assets seized.
“Just this this week, the National Prosecuting Authority froze R111 million from a businessman who allegedly claimed Covid-19 TERS for 6,600 people when he was the only worker. More cases will follow for those who tried to take a shortcut and they will be held to account,” said UIF acting commissioner Marsha Bronkhorst.
Earlier this month, a case of fraud was opened against a Western Cape non-profit organisation which is accused of illegally applying and receiving close to R5 million from the UIF.
If companies were found to have cheated the system, they will be made to account through the legal processes, Bronkhorst warned.
Employers who received TERS money are urged to have their information ready for the coming audits, including their application packs, banks statements relating to Covid-19 TERS application, each employee file, and their payroll reports from 1 January 2020.
“Over the past few months, we have seen with great disappointment that some companies received the Covid–19 TERS benefits, but failed to pay it over to their workers. There are also allegations that employers were paying part of the money and not the full amount, as well as companies using the money for something else other than the intended purpose,” Bronkhorst said.
The Covid-19 TERS Relief Scheme was established to assist employees who lost income during the lockdown periods. Since March 2020, just over R54 billion was paid to more than one million employers.
In a report released last month, the auditor-general outlined various problems it found with the TERS system, including that the UIF did not sufficiently corroborate information it received from applicants.
This resulted in fraudulent payments, which included that almost R696 million was paid to foreigners who have not made UIF contributions in the past 12 months. Payments were also made to the accounts of dead people, to children and to prisoners.
The AG report resulted in the suspension of top UIF executives: its commissioner Teboho Maruping, chief financial officer Fezeka Puzi and chief operations officer Judith Kumbi.
Source: Business Insider SA