GEORGE NEWS - In a strongly worded rebuttal, the Uniondale Integrated Empowerment Project (Uniep) on Tuesday accused the Department of Employment and Labour of being pre-emptive in issuing a media statement accusing Uniep of fraud.
The department said in a statement on Monday 9 November that it had opened a case of fraud against Uniep for applying and receiving almost R5-million from the Covid-19 Temporary Employer / Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) fund.
According to the statement, Uniep allegedly also kept part of the proceeds as bank charges.
The department issued the statement after a complaint that Uniep had claimed for Ters funds on behalf of 520 employees whose contracts of employment had been terminated on 25 March 2020, just before lockdown.
The department stated that the Ters fund is only for workers whose salaries have been affected by the lockdown period while they were still employed. The funds Uniep had applied for had been paid out to workers.
A number of workers had signed an agreement to the effect that a small percentage may be subtracted for administration costs.
Uniep said in its statement on 10 November that many of the issues raised by the department were "tenuous and pre-emptive" and that, "after various interactions with representatives from the Department of Labour (DOL), they have still deemed it appropriate to insinuate legal and procedural breaches that Uniep is allegedly guilty of without even considering many of the submissions made to DOL, invalidating the negative assertions made in the media release".
Uniep said that it is obtaining legal advice. "We trust that people will have an open mind in allowing the process to go its full course, before drawing any undue or unnecessary conclusions."
According to the Labour Department, Uniep is a non-profit organisation contracted by the Department of Public Works to perform Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) projects in the area such as classroom assistance, growing vegetable gardens, home-based caring, early childhood development, HIV and Aids awareness programmes, and cleaners at government departments and institutions.
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