UIF Welcomes Arrest Of TERS Fraudsters

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National lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in thousands of workers losing income. A relief mechanism, aimed at supplementing these workers for their lost income, was misappropriated by several individuals and companies.


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The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has welcomed the arrest of 16 individuals accused of fraudulently claiming relief meant for workers who lost income during the Covid-19 lockdowns. The suspects' claims amounted to around R2.2 million.

The Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) was introduced by the UIF to support workers who lost income during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. In two years, the UIF paid out more than R60 billion in TERS relief to workers. However, not all of this money was paid to the individuals who were entitled to receive the critical relief.

It is believed that during the pandemic, three sole directors of different dormant entities applied for TERS relief on behalf of respectively 47, 133, and 141 people. These employees were not employed by these companies.

Following this discovery, 16 suspects were apprehended by the South African Police Service's Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks. The suspects were arrested in Gauteng and the North West province.

UIF Commissioner, Teboho Maruping hopes the arrest sends a message to would-be fraudsters that they will face legal action. This arrest of the 16 suspects is the biggest since the inception of the programme.

“Those who have helped themselves to the funds earmarked for workers during the lockdowns must not have any peace. They must know that the net is closing in on them. We will continue to work with the Hawks in a relentless pursuit to bring all Covid-19 TERS fraudsters to book, and we will leave no stone unturned,” declared Commissioner Maruping.

The arrests form part of the UIF’s Follow The Money campaign. The fund employed several forensic audit firms to execute this campaign to check the authenticity of TERS claims and verify if money was paid to workers.

To date, ten people have been convicted and sentenced to direct imprisonment or suspended sentences for defrauding the Covid-19 TERS scheme.

Phase two of the Follow The Money campaign is already underway. The second phase entails the auditing of companies to verify if their claims were valid and if the right amount of money was paid over to workers at the right time.

 

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