Cape Town – The Corruption Watch report on Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) corruption at work revealed that the Western Cape has the second-highest cases of alleged corruption.

According to the 126 reported cases of alleged Ters corruption identified in the report, Gauteng recorded 57 cases, followed by Western Cape 15 and KwaZulu-Natal 12. With the big metropolitan municipalities, the City of Joburg leads the way with 30, followed by the City of Tshwane 18, City of Cape Town 14 and eThekwini 9.

Ters was introduced during the national hard lockdown as one of a range of economic stimulus measures in response to the Covid-19 epidemic, with its purpose to provide support to employees whose possibility for work or providing services were curtailed during lockdown, as stipulated by the disaster regulations, under which only certain industry sectors and workers were regarded as essential.

By July 31, 2020, R37.1-billion was disbursed from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) but not all employees received the funds due to the alleged corruption.

Head of legal and investigations for Corruption Watch, a non-profit organisation working to fight corruption in South Africa, Karam Singh said it was interesting to note that among the industry sectors represented were private security services, food and beverage services, fuel sales (petrol stations), transport and logistics and construction.

Singh said through the report, and as the Ters comes to a close, they hoped to highlight measures that could be put in place to strengthen the operations of the UIF.

“Ultimately, the aim is to prevent future mismanagement of critical payments that are supposed to provide immediate support,” she said.

Singh said the experiences of 126 whistle-blowers were reported to Corruption Watch, detailing failures in the administration of those funds and corrupt acts on the part of some employers.

Premier Alan Winde said the Ters fund was an important lifeline for employees and for businesses to sustain themselves during the lockdown.

“We are therefore dismayed at the latest reports of corruption in the disbursement of funds. Stealing from those who are most in need of support at this time is morally reprehensible,” said Winde.

He called on the Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi to act with speed to address the issues highlighted in the Corruption Watch report, as well as the weaknesses in control which have previously been identified by the auditor-general in the disbursement of funds.

Institute of Race Relations (IRR) senior policy researcher Marius Roodt said reports that there has been fraud around the Ters Covid-19 relief payments was concerning, but it also needed to be contextualised.

Roodt said all allegations of fraud must be investigated and the full might of the law must be brought down on those found to have committed fraud. However, considering how many companies there were in South Africa, the number of alleged fraud cases brought to the attention to Corruption Watch was actually quite small.

“We must take care to avoid the risk of implying that this kind of fraud is rampant in the private sector,” said Roodt.

Source: | By Sisonke Mlamla