UIF still strug­gling to fix tech­ni­cal prob­lems in pay­ment of Ters re­lief

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Genevieve Quintal Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor quin­talg@busi­nesslive.co.za

The Unem­ploy­ment In­surance Fund (UIF), the gov­ern­ment’s main in­stru­ment to cush­ion work­ers left with­out an in­come due to the Covid-19 pan­demic, is still strug­gling to deal with tech­ni­cal prob­lems, leav­ing mil­lions of po­ten­tial re­cip­i­ents with­out their June pay­ments.

June ap­pli­ca­tions for the Tem­po­rary Em­ployer/Em­ployee Re­lief Scheme (Ters) were closed for a sec­ond time in less than a week be­cause of a glitch in the sys­tem that shows ap­pli­cants’ con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion. Af­ter going live again on Mon­day, the site had to be taken down as prob­lems that emerged last week with the open­ing of June ap­pli­ca­tions re­turned.

The UIF said tech­ni­cians had been run­ning tests on Tues­day and an­tic­i­pated that it would be up and run­ning within 24 hours so that the fund could start pro­cess­ing June ap­pli­ca­tions from July 1.

It said the prob­lem was with si­mul­ta­ne­ously run­ning sessions. “When the sys­tem runs two or more sessions si­mul­ta­ne­ously, it swaps the pro­files while the users are still busy, which means it fails to run each ses­sion con­sis­tently till the end.

“The fund has de­vel­oped a so­lu­tion to the sys­tem to en­sure that sessions run con­sis­tently till the end with­out pick­ing in­for­ma­tion from other users who may be in the sys­tem at the same time,” it said.

The re­lief scheme, which has paid out R26bn to 5.8-mil­lion em­ploy­ees to date, has been hit by teething tech­ni­cal is­sues, in­clud­ing prob­lems with its reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem.

Em­ploy­ment & labour min­is­ter Thu­las Nx­esi and the UIF have put some of the blame on em­ploy­ers who haven’t prop­erly reg­is­tered their work­ers.

Al­most 1-mil­lion work­ers, who are en­ti­tled to a com­bined R4.2bn, have been left out of pocket since the scheme started be­cause they were not picked out on the UIF sys­tem. The lat­est prob­lems mean mil­lions more risk be­ing un­paid.

Ters and Covid-19 tem­po­rary re­lief grants were es­tab­lished as a key part of the gov­ern­ment’s R500bn eco­nomic and so­cial re­lief pack­age to help those af­fected by a lock­down that’s set to push the econ­omy into its big­gest slump in about a cen­tury. A re­port on Tues­day showed that GDP had con­tracted for three con­sec­u­tive quar­ters, the first time it had done so since the global fi­nan­cial crisis a decade ago.

“June is the prob­lem but we still have many un­paid from April, and many that haven’t been pro­cessed for May,” said Natalie Singer, an ex­ec­u­tive at labour con­sul­tancy Global Busi­ness Solutions and a mem­ber of B4SA’s UIF team.

She said the back­log in the UIF sys­tem was also caused by over­load­ing of the uFil­ing sys­tem, where em­ploy­ers regis­ter and de­clare em­ploy­ees. In ad­di­tion, users who were blocked out were strug­gling to get re­sponses from the fund.

“Pro­cess­ing ca­pac­ity within

UIF, cou­pled with glitches, doesn’t help,” Singer said.

It was not clear what the prob­lem was or how it was going to be fixed. As frus­trat­ing as it was to have the sys­tem com­pletely down, she agreed that it should be closed un­til the is­sues were re­solved.

She said the data breaches could open the sys­tem up to fraud. They fur­ther de­layed the pro­cess­ing of ap­pli­ca­tions and des­per­ately needed pay­ments for work­ers.

/Werner Hills

Long wait: Em­ploy­ees at Formex in Port El­iz­a­beth protest out­side the busi­ness ear­lier in June, partly be­cause they had not re­ceived their UIF pay­ments.

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