The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) – who earlier this week heard how government officials, soldiers and “dead” people looted the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s TERS Covid-19 benefit – found a backlog of 444,000 e-mails at the fund during a visit on Friday.
Scopa, joined by the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour on Friday, conducted an oversight visit to the UIF’s offices in Pretoria.
“Scopa is concerned with the lack of human capacity at UIF, particularly at the call centre, which is where emails, online applications and calls from the public are processed,” reads a statement from Scopa chairperson, IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
“Scopa was informed that the call centre currently has a backlog of 444,000 emails from the public with only eight call centre agents to attend to those emails.
“It gets an average of 30,000 calls a day, but can only attend to 3,000 of those calls. This has a negative outcome on service delivery and on everyone that requires services from the UIF.”
The committee believes there should be a special focus on the information and communication technology department, which was responsible for the UIF’s system and which contributed to the UIF disbursing Covid-19 funds to deceased people, inmates, members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) beneficiaries, National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) beneficiaries, foreign nationals without working permits, and public servants including UIF employees.
“It is also disturbing to note that the consulting company responsible for the development of the same system could not respond to questions about weaknesses in the system. The committee wants the Department of Employment and Labour to investigate obtaining an integrated database system with other departments to avoid the kind of corruption that has happened as a result of these weaknesses.”
Scopa welcomed the consequence management process that Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi instituted in response to the corruption and irregularities at the UIF.
“Scopa remains concerned with the challenges plaguing the UIF, as it is clear that the issues run deep and date to a period before Covid-19. The pandemic has simply exposed pre-existing weaknesses,” Hlengwa said.
On Wednesday, the committee was briefed by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and Auditor General (AGSA) on their investigations into the UIF.
The SIU presented the following findings:
– The SIU found that R327,638 was paid through 78 exceptions to South African National Defence Force (SANDF) staff members.
– Seven inmates from the Department of Correctional Services were identified as claiming a total of R40 657.93 from the relief fund.
– “Deceased” individuals were paid TERS benefits totalling R441,144.34, which represented 68 deceased beneficiaries making use of 72 bank accounts.
– A total of 6,140 government officials were identified as having claimed a total of R41,009 737.70 from the relief fund.
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