Subject: 'Progress made on measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid19 pandemic on employment and labour, as well as response to allegations and cases of fraud and corruption relating to the Covid-19 pandemic'
TW Nxesi MP, Minister of Employment and Labour
Thank you for this opportunity. I take very seriously these engagements with Parliament – where you hold the Executive and officials to account. It is one of the cornerstones of our democratic system.
The NCOP has asked to be briefed on the Department of Employment and Labour's response to the pandemic and the consequent lock-down, in particular the steps taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on employment and labour. You will also want to hear the steps taken to address and remedy the issues raised by the Auditor-General's Office in their audit of the UIF, particularly the Covid19 Ters Benefit system.
I would like to take this opportunity to briefly provide a broad context of the Department's response to Covid19 and the lockdown required to slow the spread of the pandemic.
Let us start by casting our minds back six months to the onset of the Covid19 pandemic, and the terrible journey we have been through in that relatively short period:
As the Department of Employment and Labour we were directly involved in the following areas:
I believe it is important to acknowledge the role of the Labour Health and Safety Inspectorate - on the frontline in combatting the virus. Also, I need to inform the House that, this year, we have recruited an additional 500 Health and Safety Inspectors. A positive take-away from this is that we will emerge from this difficult period, as a Department, with a much strengthened occupational health and safety inspection and enforcement capacity.
During lockdown levels 5 through 2, up until 14th September, nearly 7,000 inspections were carried out: 5,406 in the private sector; 1,434 in the public sector. These inspections took place in every province, every economic sector, and across the private and public sectors.
The level of compliance with health and safety regulations was well below par:
3,710 non-compliance notices were issued during this period, including 611 Prohibition Notices – closing entities' operations, either wholly or in part. This is particularly worrying given the spread of the pandemic.
Full disclosure: four of those Prohibition Notices were served on Department of Labour and Employment premises. So these inspections are conducted without fear or favour. And none of us can afford to be complacent.
I need to thank the socially-responsible employers who do ensure compliance with health and safety regulations, as well as unions and workers who provide tip-offs to our inspectors.
By the way, in terms of ILO guidelines, we would need some 10,000 Labour Inspectors to fully cover the economically active population of South Africa. So we need all the help we can get from employers and labour.
The A-G's Report
That is a summary of the UIF's response to the A-G's findings.
Detailed response to A-G's findings:
Upon receipt of the first Auditor General's audit report the following actions were taken:
Looking forward, the Auditor-General South Africa is currently auditing all payments made from April to June 2020 and the above controls were fully implemented only on the 21st of September 2020.
So, the Auditor-General's second Report may identify the same findings prior to the 21st of September 2020. However, the comprehensive audit action plan was submitted to the Auditor-General.
Other measures in hand include the following:
I also need to mention, that the pandemic, the lockdown and the payment of Covid19 benefits shone a light on gaps in our social security safety net – both for the UIF and the Compensation Fund – particularly in relation to non-standard employment where the classic employer-employee does not exist. This is an area which is to be reviewed by Nedlac.
SIU Investigation: progress report
I will report progress with the SIU investigations in some detail – as it is absolutely incumbent upon us that we account for monies collected from workers and their employers:
1. 157 cases were allocated for investigation.
2. These cases fall into the following categories:
3. Sixty-seven (67) cases have been finalised. The findings of these completed cases were as follows:
4. This House will want to know details of corrective measures that have been taken against those identified in these completed cases:
5. There are some 90 cases still pending. The categories are as follows:
6. This House will want to know if criminal cases have already been opened:
7. As to whether officials in the UIF may have aided illegal actions, at this stage, all I can say is that investigations are in progress.
Let me conclude this section on UIF and Covid19 Ters by repeating the closure dates which have been widely advertised:
The work of the Compensation Fund comes in the wake of the improved controls and systems that the Unemployment Insurance Fund has instituted resulting in better vetting of claims and claimants. So, it is important to make the point that lessons learned by the UIF are being implemented in the Compensation Fund.
Thank you again Chair for this opportunity.
© 2019 - The South African Department of Employment & Labour