The Democratic Alliance said in a statement issued on 21 June that the R5.7 million UIF TERS fund fraud is “probably only the tip of the iceberg”.
According to the Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister for Employment and Labour, Dr Michael Cardo, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) “should widen its probe into fraudulent transactions involving the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)’s Covid-19 TERS benefit”.
This follows after it came to light that approximately R5.7 million in UIF funds was paid to a single person; instead of the 200 workers impacted by the Covid-19 national lockdown.
The Sunday Times reported today that the money was rapidly disbursed to “friends and business associates” within the course of five days. Moreover, the money was allegedly paid to one man, Tshepang Phohole.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE UIF PAYOUT?
On 14 May, Phohole’s bank account went from R12.46 to R5 688 814.66 “in an instant”. According to the report, there was only R7 155.86 left in his account on 27 May, when the Financial Intelligence Centre froze his account. Jeff Wicks writes:
“Another R100 201.33 was found in another Capitec account in his name and a total of R3.2 million in friends’ accounts. There is no information about what has happened to the remaining R2.4m.”
BANK ACCOUNTS FROZEN AS INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
Twenty-eight additional bank accounts have been frozen as per an order from the Pretoria High Court while the AFU and UIF investigate the matter. However, the DA believes it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Minister Cardo writes:
“Since the introduction of the TERS benefit at the beginning of the national lockdown, hundreds of employers have reported that their TERS benefits were paid into the wrong bank account. Many were informed by the UIF that their benefits had been paid; only to find that the benefits never arrived in the employer’s designated bank account.”
He adds that it is “inconceivable that the R6 million fraud and money laundering in question could have occurred; without either the active or tacit participation of UIF officials who control processing and payment of the TERS benefits”.
UIF COMPLICITY BEING INVESTIGATED
Cardo also suggests that AFU and specialist forensic auditors from the South African Revenue Service widen the “scope of the probe into fraud at the UIF associated with the TERS benefit”.
In addition, the NPA’s Sipho Ngwema said their focus is on “securing the money as quickly as possible”.
“Law enforcement agencies have come together to form an oversight structure which seeks out COVID-19-related corruption; that is how this incident was picked up. We are investigating whether there was complicity on the part of those working at the UIF. There is a suspicion that there may have been criminal activity between UIF officials and the end recipient of the money. It is an area of focus for investigators.”