SIU refers 80 criminal matters to NPA in connection with UIF TERS claims

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The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has referred 80 criminal matters to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in relation to Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) claims.

Covid-19 Ters

Investigation mandate

On Tuesday, the SIU briefed Parliament on its investigations related to Unemployment Insurance Fund’s (UIF’s) TERS.

The investigations started after Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi referred allegations of irregularities at the UIF to the SIU in August last year.

The minister had requested the SIU to review a report of the Auditor-General of South Africa, which was based on findings related to the TERS funds paid during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The SIU was mandated to investigate maladministration in the UIF’s affairs relating to TERS payments to those who were not entitled to receive such payments or submitted false applications.

The unit could investigate any unlawful or improper conduct by UIF officials or employees and any other person or entity, including government departments.

Outcomes

During the parliamentary session, SIU’s chief forensic investigator Johnny le Roux told the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) that the unit had achieved some outcomes in the 303 matters that it investigated at this stage.

“We have managed to recover R23.4 million and with a total of 80 criminal matters that were registered,” he said.

Eleven suspects, Le Roux indicated, were arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation – the Hawks – in connection fraudulent TERS claims.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) was also part of the investigation, in order to assist in recovering stolen money lost.

SIU head, Andy Mothibi, meanwhile, told the committee that the unit was satisfied with the progress made.

“The committee can see the magnitude of the investigations that is being conducted and the outcomes that have been achieved. The investigation has uncovered the modus operandi that all of this private companies, individuals and government officials who are involved [in corrupt activities],” he said.

Mothibi also said the unit was dealing with all the investigations appropriately, in order to recover monies stolen.

“It is very clear that this was an intentional, systematic approach by those that are involved on a corrupt basis to fleece the monies of the UIF and we are dealing with that appropriately,” Mothibi said.

Government officials and private entities

The SIU’s investigations, which is phase one, focused on 6,000 government employees who received TERS benefits to the tune of R51 million.

The investigation also looked into deceased persons and inmates’ ID numbers being used to claim from the fund.

Le Roux said at least seven prisoners were used to claim from the TERS fund.

“This relates to identity theft by foreign nationals who used ID numbers of incarcerated South African citizens to apply for work at South African entities. At this stage, it is not clear how the foreign nationals obtained the said IDs,” he said.

He further indicated that the SIU was in the process of referring these matters to the NPA and the Department of Home Affairs.

READ MORE: Ters fraud: Bookkeeper arrested for pocketing R11m

An additional 107 entities or individuals are being investigated related to TERS matters.

This includes the case of a 29-year-old businessman who was allegedly caught bribing a labour department official and defrauding the UIF.

Thabo Simbini, the owner of a company called Impossible Services, allegedly submitted over 6,000 claims, valued at least R111 million.

Simbini allegedly used at least 1,200 duplicated identity numbers to make the false claims.

“The money was paid into the bank account of Impossible Services and at this stage R110 million has been preserved. An amount of R1 million was already withdrawn by Simbini,” Le Roux said.

Simbini is expected to appear in court on the matter in early December.

Source: citizen