The COVID-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) has been extended until the national state of disaster concludes, the Department of Labour has announced.
With the national state of disaster having been extended to 15 October, outstanding payments and new applications for the most recent period since August will still be valid up until 30 October, however the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) remains under intense scrutiny after irregularities were discovered in an audit conducted by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA).
Ters applications open until 30 October
The UIF have said that the final day for the submission of applications for the March – July period expires today (Tuesday 15 September), but that new applications for the August – September periods are going to be welcomed until the end of October. This was announced in the latest government gazette published after the extension of the state of disaster.
The gazette, dated outlines that the payment structure will remain in place as long as the state of disaster remains in place.
“This direction, despite the date of publication by notice in the gazette, is deemed to commence on 16 August 2020 and shall remain in operation for as long as the declaration of COVID-19, in terms of the National Disaster Management Act, as a national disaster subsists or until withdrawn by the Minister, whichever comes first.”
This extension will be welcomed by millions of people seeking relief after the devastating financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employees and employers, however the UIF’s ability to administer and finance these relief funds remains in serious doubt.
Payments remain halted while the UIF address the relevant concerns relating to payment irregularities, and to ensure that proper controls are in place before any further TERS payments are made.
UIF invesitgating payment irregularities
The AGSA audit on the UIF uncovered some glaring irregularities:
- Overpayments on benefits for the first lockdown period – the system did not take into account the actual period of inactivity and the portion of the salary paid by employers;
- Data analytics identified a high number of payments that require further investigation e.g. people who are below the legal age of employment, deceased, working in government, receiving social grants or funded by the national student financial aid scheme; and
- Recalculations identified overpayments, underpayments, duplicate payments and discrepancies such as payment approval made before the date of application.
Acting UIF Commissioner Marsha Bronkhorst – who is standing in for suspended Commissioner Taboho Maruping – said people who had defrauded the system would face the full might of the law, with police investigating cases of fraud.
“There are already some cases that we have brought to the SAPS for investigation and prosecution – 35 out of a total of 146” she said on Sunday 13 September.
“This also serves as a notice to those who may have intentions to try and defraud the system. Not only will it be harder to do so, but even if they do succeed, the law will eventually get them and they will pay for stealing from the workers,” Bronkhorst said.
Ters payment suspension ‘to be lifted soon’
She said that the current suspension of the Ters system will hopefully be lifted soon, once the problems have been comprehensively addressed in line with AGSA’s findings.
“Some had already been corrected in the June payments, but we will continue to improve the systems so that it responds to needs of our beneficiaries and make the payments effective and efficient,” Bronkhorst said.
“These departments and institutions are currently busy verifying the UIF database to ensure payments reach the correct persons.”
“We are also working hard currently in improving our COVID-19 TERS application portal to make sure that to the extent possible, it becomes a self-service portal to make it easy for employers and employees,” she said.