Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

UIF pays out billions, at last, but some question the ‘new efficiency’

This demonstrated how government capacity was not an issue but rather a question of will and ethics, an analyst said, adding that people should demand the same level of service post-Covid-19.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has so far paid out a total of R16.5 billion in Covid-19 relief funds, which experts say is a dramatic improvement in capacity for a state agency that has, in the past few years, struggled to efficiently deliver services such as maternity leave benefits.

But Andre Duvenhage, political scientist and professor at the University of the North West, believes this sense of efficient state social assistance machinery was “of temporary nature”.

He said in times of a crisis affecting the population, particularly the poor, government could not afford to fail. In areas that had no water, even in far-flung and seemingly forgotten corners of the country, government had ensured supply in the wake of Covid-19, he said.

“It is time to save face because there is a lot at stake. It also opens up major challenges because it is easy to spend money but it could be a huge challenge to generate that money. We will pay the price in the future,” Duvenhage said.

This demonstrated how capacity was not the issue but rather a question of will and ethics, he said, adding that people should demand the same level of service post-Covid-19 and take no excuses.

Solly Masilela, an independent socioeconomic and political analyst, said it would seem the government was only able to deliver under pressure in a chaotic or abnormal situation that conveniently suspended the procurement procedures.

This was the case with the 2010 World Cup procurements, he said. The rot that emerged afterwards in tender rigging was shocking and this would be the case once the Covid-19 dust has settled.

“It cannot be a coincidence that the government is only efficient during chaotic situations. We can only draw one conclusion: corruption because of lack of accountability. It is an even riper environment for corrupt practices since parliament itself can’t provide oversight,” Masilela said.

Government had demonstrated the gross lack of capacity to deliver basic services in the past and the price to be paid after the pandemic would be dire as chaos bred corruption.

“Wait for the next auditor-general’s report to understand why the government only functions during chaos. Remember Nelson Mandela’s funeral?”

According to government, almost half of the UIF payouts were in Gauteng, benefitting 1.5 million of the 3.4 million workers who have been beneficiaries. This amounted to more than R7.9 billion and the workers who have been given the cash injection had their claims lodged by 111,385 employers.

Teboho Thejane, department of employment and labour spokesman, said the Northern Cape had the least number of claimants, with R163 million paid for 32,141 workers, represented by 4,176 employers. The second-highest recipient province is the Western Cape with R2.7 billion disbursed so far to 549,156 workers, represented by 54,077 employers.

KwaZulu-Natal is the third-largest recipient with over R2.4 billion paid to 523,578 workers as claimed by 42,136 employers, with the Eastern Cape coming in fourth with disbursements of just under R1 billion rand to 186,789 workers in the province, represented by 18,495 employers.

The department said these payments represented the April and part of May payments, R452 million of which had been processed and paid since the beginning of the month.

Teboho Maruping, UIF commissioner, said they were withholding R2.8 billion which could benefit 686,463 workers due to 107,202 employers not furnishing the UIF with the right details and the status of the workers.

He said ordinarily, feedback for payment or nonpayment with reasons thereof, together with acceptance or approval, was sent to employers via automated processes within 24 hours through an e-mail address provided, in addition to the online portal.

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