Minister Nxesi must clear the air on UIF suspensions

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Michael Cardo MP.

The Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, must clear the air on senior officials who were suspended from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), pending an investigation into fraud and corruption associated with the TERS scheme.

Members of the UIF’s top brass – including the Commissioner, the chief financial officer and the chief operating officer – were suspended on full pay last September at a combined monthly cost of R450 551.39.

A spokesperson for the UIF has confirmed that both the CFO and COO returned to work two weeks ago. This took place below the radar, without any word from Minister Nxesi about disciplinary charges or hearings that might be hanging over the officials.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) recommended 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.

In February, 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. We were assured that presiding officers and prosecutors had been appointed for disciplinary hearings that were scheduled to take place from 19 February 2021 to 26 February 2021.

It is now three months later with radio silence from the Minister.

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”.

The UIF’s CFO and COO are now back at work. We need to know whether they have gone through a proper disciplinary process; whether they have been cleared of wrongdoing; and exactly what they were accused of in the first place.

Meanwhile, there is still a cloud hanging over suspended UIF Commissioner, Teboho Maruping, which the Minister would do well to disperse.

Minister Nxesi needs to stop dodging accountability. He must demonstrate some honesty and transparency by coming clean on what is happening at the UIF.

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