NATIONAL NEWS - A portfolio committee meeting on Wednesday morning revealed that Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) payouts, which were abruptly suspended by the UIF on Tuesday, have resumed.
Democratic Alliance (DA) employment and labour shadow minister Dr Michael Cardo confirmed to The Citizen that payments had indeed resumed, but in the same breath, said there were still glaring information gaps with the update.
Cardo expressed his concern that labour minister Thulas Nxesi has still not issued a public statement on the sudden payment suspension.
He added that it is not yet known when Ters payments were initially suspended, or how severe the impact of the suspension has been.
Cardo said he gets around 300 emails a day from desperate people wanting to know when they will receive their Ters benefits. He said UIF payouts, such as maternity and unemployment benefits, have taken a backseat as well.
“People can’t buy nappies for their babies or put food on the table,” he said.
The Ters benefit is intended to help mitigate economic damage caused by Covid-19 by ensuring that workers who had their salaries cut, or who have been unable to work due to lockdown regulations, receive some form of income put food on the table and meet their financial obligations.
A statement to stakeholders and organisations involved in employee matters was sent out by the Department of Labour informing them of the payment suspension, but this was made not made public until The Citizen reported on the matter on Tuesday. The reason for the suspension was suspected fraudulent payments to individuals. claiming Ters funds.
Now, beneficiaries will also now have to wait longer than previously anticipated for payouts, with Cardo saying this is a real “spanner in the works” for disadvantaged communities heavily dependent on Ters payments for their survival.
He said in Wednesday’s meeting there was “a complete lack of transparency and evident caginess from the director-general [Thobile Lamati] and the minister”.
“It is significant that the minister (did not say) say something. The confusion and anxiety is such around the suspended payments that he himself should say something.”
In a press release issued by the DA on Wednesday, the DA called for transparency, urging Nxesi to “share with the public the real extent of the problem as uncovered by the Auditor-General and explain what is being done by specialist forensic auditors to get to the bottom of it.
“He also needs to indicate whether any officials from the UIF and/or the Department of Employment and Labour have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Business 4 South Africa also released a statement on Wednesday, calling for the department to remove the current deadline for April and May Ters claims, pending the outcome of the suspended payouts.
Cardo said another meeting, this time a question-and-answer session with Nxesi and other officials, has been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Attempts to contact the Department of Labour and the Unemployment Insurance Fund have so far been unsuccessful.