The SIU says it expects to complete the first phase of its investigation into the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s (UIF) Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) fund by the end of this month.
This was revealed during the unit’s briefing before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) in Parliament on Wednesday.
Millions of South African workers have benefitted from the TERS fund to the tune of R63 billion in payments.
The SIU was asked by Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi to investigate allegations of irregularities into the fund in August 2020.
During the briefing, the SIU's lead investigator Johnny le Roux said the unit has achieved some outcomes in the 303 matters that it has or is investigating.
“We have managed to recover R23.4 million and with a total of 80 criminal matters that were registered,” he said.
Le Roux recapped that the unit’s investigation specifically into the 6000 public servants who claimed TERS benefits to the tune of R51 million, found that:
At least 501 public servants in the Eastern Cape claimed TERS benefits amounting to R106 million in payments.
491 Free State based public servants claimed R4.8 million in benefits.
In Gauteng, at least 1 664 public servants applied for and claimed TERS payments to the value of R15 million.
In KwaZulu-Natal 769 employees at 11 departments received R9.8 million in TERS payments.
168 state employees in Limpopo made TERS claims to the value of at least R1.7 million.
Some 282 public servants in Mpumalanga claimed TERS benefits to the value of about R2 million.
491 of the Northern Cape’s civil servants claimed at least R25 million in TERS payments.
In the North West, 339 public servants gained benefits of R69.8 million through the TERS fund.
Some 939 of the Western Cape’s state employees claimed benefits of at least R1.1 million from the scheme.
Nationally, 657 state employees claimed TERS benefits to the value of R144 million.
Private entities and individuals
Le Roux said an additional 107 entities or individuals are being investigated related to TERS matters including:
A matter relating to EC Transport Cooperative Limited involving R19.7 million.
A private hospital in Free State which unlawfully claimed more than R465 million from [the UIF]. When approached by the SIU, the hospital paid back the money to the UIF.
25 matters were referred in Gauteng with seven companies signing Acknowledgement of Debts to the value of R10 million.
Le Roux highlighted a specific case in which Thabo Simbini, the owner of a company called Impossible Services, allegedly submitted over 6 000 claims on the TERS fund to the value of at least R111 million.
Simbini allegedly used at least 1 200 duplicated identity numbers to make the false claims.
“The money was paid into the bank account of Impossible Services and at this stage R110 million has been preserved. An amount of R1 million was already withdrawn by Simbini,” le Roux said.
The man will appear in court on the matter in early December.
Le Roux revealed that the identity numbers of at least seven incarcerated people were used to claim from the TERS fund.
“This relates to identity theft by foreign nationals who used ID numbers of incarcerated South African citizens to apply for work at South African entities. At this stage it is not clear how the foreign nationals obtained the said IDs,” he said.
SIU Head Advocate Andy Mothibi told SCOPA that the unit is "dealing with" all the investigations appropriately in order to recover any ill-gotten gains.
“The investigation does reveal an amount of collusion between government officials – UIF in particular – and private companies and individuals and we will ensure that that kind of corruption is dealt with.
“This was an intentional, systematic approach by those that are involved on a corrupt basis to fleece the monies of the UIF,” Advocate Mothibi said.
Source: South African Government News Agency