UIF crisis deepens as a pensioner is paid R4.7m

Isaac Mahlangu Senior reporter
The UIF failed to explain how the money ended up in the pensioner's account when it was intended to be paid to a company.
The UIF failed to explain how the money ended up in the pensioner's account when it was intended to be paid to a company.
Image: Leon Swart/123rf.com

A retired bus driver was paid a whopping R4.7m in Covid-19 relief funds meant for 1,000 of his former colleagues.

The 65-year-old man, from Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, retired from Unitrans in December. Apparently, he was taken aback by the payment bonanza when it landed in his bank account.

Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), which administers payment of Covid-19 relief funds to employers on behalf of employees during the coronavirus pandemic, failed to explain how the money ended up in the individual's account when it was intended to be paid to a company.

The Hammanskraal pensioner, whose identity is withheld, apparently thought the windfall was from the decades-long contributions to UIF during his working years.

The money was deposited into his bank account on April 25 as part of UIF Temporary Employees Relief Scheme (Ters) payment for major bus operator Mega Coach, owned by Unitrans.

When the erroneous deposit was picked up following Mega Coach's enquiries with UIF over its application, the pensioner had already spent at least R100,000 of it.

When the UIF tracked him down, more than a week later, it was able to recover R4.6m, according to spokesperson Makhosonke Buthelezi. He refused to say how they recovered the money and why a criminal case was not opened with the police.

This is the second such case where relief funds meant for workers were paid into individuals' accounts. The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the Asset Forfeiture Unit froze 28 accounts after R5.6m meant for 200 employees was deposited in a bank account of one man, Tshepang Phohole, who allegedly immediately moved it to accounts of several of his associates.

Buthelezi said the matter was under investigation. He also refused to say how did the UIF systems allow a transaction involving such an amount to be deposited into an individual's bank account.

Buthelezi said the alleged error would be determined upon the completion of the investigation onto the matter. He refused to say how they were going to recover the money that had already been spent.

Buthelezi said now "as a rule any UIF reference linked to suspected fraud is frozen or blocked for activities including payments until the case is finalised or clarity obtained".

Buthelezi said the affected April UIF payment will only be released to Mega Coach after their investigation is completed.

Grant Fleetwood, the group human resources manager of Unitrans, said the ex-employee told him he had already received two payments from the UIF this year.

"According to him, he had been paid an amount at the end of February and another amount at the end of March, it was relatively small amounts based on a normal UIF claim but on the 25th of April he got R4.7m paid in his account," Fleetwood said.

"We don't know how his banking details got into the fray... how that money got paid into his account."

Fleetwood said he was worried that they haven't been able to apply for UIF Ters for Mega Coach for the month of May as their file had been frozen.

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