- An official of the UIF briefed the tourism industry on why tighter controls had to be put in place for Covid-19 TERS benefit payments.
- The webinar was hosted by the Tourism Business Council of SA due to people in the tourism industry experiencing challenges in getting TERS payments.
- Whether the TERS programme will be extended, remains to be seen.
Controls of the Unemployment Insurance Fund's Covid-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) benefit had to be tightened due to people who did not qualify applying, sometimes fraudulently, according to Allan Ragavaloo, UIF director: provincial support.
He briefed the tourism industry during a webinar hosted by the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) on Thursday. The TBCSA, which represents the private sector, hosted the session to tackle challenges experienced by those in the tourism in accessing the TERS benefit payments.
TERS payments are paid to staff whose employers were not able to operate fully due to lockdown restrictions. To date, the fund has paid out about R61 billion, according to Ragavaloo.
TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said there are some challenges about how to ensure those who are supposed to benefit will indeed benefit.
"The most important thing is that everyone who applied under TERS and qualifies to be paid, get paid. The reason for the UIF TERS programme is to make sure employees are assisted and can put food on the table," he said.
Asked about whether applications by foreign nationals claiming TERS are treated differently, Ragavaloo said there is no discrimination in this regard.
The most important aspect is the need for a "source of verification", as recommended by the auditor general.
Firstly, the fund must establish that the applicant - whether South African or not - is indeed still alive and not a fraudulent claim. The identity is, therefore, checked with Home Affairs and then with the SA Revenue Service to see if the person is a registered taxpayer linked to the relevant employer.
"Every foreigner should be registered with [the Department of] Home Affairs. And for South African citizens we need to make sure it is a warm body still alive our past experience taught us," said Ragavaloo.
Bank verification is also very important, especially since it was discovered that some payments made were fraudulent.
"Today's environment in SA means the majority of people have bank accounts - even for SASSA payments," Ragavaloo said. "At the end of the day we must be able to follow the money audit to see employees are paid the benefit, which is aimed to compensate them for their loss of income."
Non-compliance and 'double dipping'
He also emphasised that employers cannot only suddenly register their employees with the UIF just before applying for TERS.
"Employers should have registered their employees when they started their employment. This is very important. At the end of the day, we must take forward the change of employer compliance. Their compliance is not even close to 100%," he said. Asked whether TERS will be extended, Ragavaloo said the process to determine that is still on and he cannot say what the outcome will be at this point yet.
"There is currently a whole lot of negotiation about whether the TERS programme will be extended or not. It is a work in progress," said Tshivhengwa.
According to Ragavaloo, before the end of the month, the fund intends to send out letters to businesses whose applications triggered an alert on the system, to advise what can be done to potentially complete their application.
Ragavaloo further pointed out that there cannot be "double payments" made. So one cannot apply for UIF and TERS.
He admitted that there is currently a delay in making TERS payments due to eh sheer volume of applications.