UNIONDALE NEWS - The Department of Employment and Labour confirmed on Monday 9 November that it has opened a case of fraud against the Uniondale Integrated Empowerment Project (Uniep) for applying for and receiving almost R5-million from the Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters).
The department said Uniep allegedly also kept part of the proceeds as bank charges, "... which meant that the employer benefitted illegally to the tune of R96 000".
The department said it responded to a complaint about Uniep that claimed for Ters funds on behalf of 520 employees whose contracts of employment were terminated on 25 March 2020, just before lockdown. The Covid-19 Ters fund, administered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), is for workers whose salaries have been affected by the lockdown period while they are still employed.
"The business is a non-profit organisation contracted by the Department of Public Works to perform Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) projects in the area ranging from classroom assistants, vegetable gardens, home-based caring, Early Childhood Development, HIV and Aids awareness programmes, and cleaners at government departments and institutions. The organisation had employed approximately 520 workers," said the department.
The provincial chief inspector (PCI), David Esau, met with the CEO of the organisation as well as with some of the employees who confirmed that they had received payments.
Speaking on behalf of Uniep, Jitesh Naidoo, the financial controller, said he could not comment until the department has come up with documentary
proof for what is being alleged. "We've done nothing wrong and can account for every cent that has come in and gone out."
"A total amount of R4 771 837,83 was paid out to the employer in Ters monies. The department is awaiting proof that the employer paid it over to the employees as the employees at the time could not confirm all the amounts," it said.
According to the department, its inspectorate determined that Uniep received Ters funds during the following periods:
- 27 March to 31 April: The employer received R1 356 560,23 for 337 of 505 employees.
- 1 May to 31 May: The employer received R1 148 628,74 for 322 of 519 employees.
- 1 June to 31 June: The employer received R1 218 591,30 for 353 of 519 employees.
- 1 July to 15 August: The employer received R1 048 057,56 for 198 of 518 employees.
- 16 August to 15 September: Application submitted for 491 employees, no payment received yet.
According to the department, it was also provided with a copy of an agreement that was concluded between the employees and the employer, which allowed for the employer to make a deduction of 5% towards banking fees. The department said it is a requirement of the employer to apply on behalf of the employees and pay the monies into the accounts of the employees. "The 5% amounted to an amount of approximately R96 000 which the employer kept in his account."
The department said it would be registering the matter with the Oudtshoorn Police Service as a fraud matter. "... the employer declared that the employees are receiving reduced salaries and are still employed, although the department can confirm that the contracts of the employees were terminated on 25 March 2020.
"The work of the Inspectorate will serve to amplify the 'follow the money' initiative of the UIF where similar auditing processes are followed to determine that the correct Ters amounts were paid to eligible recipients."
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