It has now been over a month since disciplinary hearings for 7 Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) officials – implicated in TERS fraud – took place, and the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, is refusing to report on the outcome.
The disciplinary hearings followed a recommendation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) that charges be brought against three senior- and four middle managers for contravening supply chain management regulations relating to the payout of the TERS benefit. The SIU investigation itself followed findings by the Auditor-General that, among other things, the UIF had paid R30 million to people with invalid ID numbers, over R40 million to state employees who were ineligible for the TERS benefit, as well as large sums to prisoners and the deceased.
Members of the UIF’s suspended top brass – including the Commissioner and the chief financial officer – have been sitting at home on full pay since last September at a combined monthly cost of R450 551.39. Meanwhile, thousands of workers are still struggling to get their TERS benefits as the UIF’s systems are closed until 1 April due to financial year-end.
Last month, at a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour, MPs were told that charge sheets had been compiled and handed to the implicated officials. Furthermore, presiding officers and prosecutors had been appointed for disciplinary hearings which were scheduled to take place from 19 February 2021 to 26 February 2021.
When I submitted a parliamentary question to Minister Nxesi asking for information on the officials appearing at the disciplinary hearings, their designations, the charges against them, and the names of the presiding officers and prosecutors, he refused to answer – claiming that the information requested was “highly sensitive in nature and possibly prejudicial to the officials”.
This constitutes a dereliction of duty on the Minister’s part. There is no reason for him to shy away from accountability and transparency on the matter. He owes it to the workers – many of whom have borne the brunt of the UIF’s ineptitude – to play open cards and demonstrate that there are going to be serious consequences for UIF officials guilty of malfeasance.
The DA therefore challenges the Minister to make this information publicly available as a matter of urgency.
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