UIF is failing the nation

19 April 2020

When President Cyril Ramapho­sa announced a national lock­down 24 days ago, it was appar­ent from his statements that small busi­nesses and companies already struggling would require immediate assistance.

As a consequence, government an­nounced that the Unemployment In­surance Fund with R50-billion would immediately move into action to help distressed companies and individuals navigate the harmful effects of the lock­down. While not enough, it represent­ed a commendable start from a govern­ment whose economy is in recession and has been junked by all three major rat­ing agencies. The R50-billion, as part of a mix of interventions, was expectedly welcomed with great enthusiasm by em­ployers and employees.

But the collective sigh of relief was short-lived. As we report elsewhere on our business pages, the telephone num­bers provided to assist employers claim­ing on behalf of their employees go un­answered and the UIF’s filing system is not coping with the traffic.

This boggles the mind because, as stat­ed, the lockdown announcement creat­ed an impression that UIF leaders had applied their minds on what assistance would be required by employers and em­ployees and where it would come from. How then can the UIF’s systems become so messed up just three weeks after the lockdown announcement?

A consequence of this disorganisation is that both employers and employees have been left gnashing their teeth in frustration. An employer organisation put it thus: “It is extremely disappointing that a scheme developed to assist vulner­able employees has been made unneces­sarily complicated and is seemingly fail­ing at every step.”

UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping argued the process was all the more frus­trated by those taking chances, hoping for a quick buck. Granted, chance-takers are everywhere. But Maruping ought to have anticipated this.

That the UIF IT bright sparks could not, in three weeks, work extra hours to ensure help for distressed workers beg­gars belief. That the UIF is clueless on how to increase its switchboard capacity so that people can at least be heard, much less their problems resolved, is complete­ly unacceptable. Maruping ought to un­derstand that the UIF can’t adopt a busi­ness as usual attitude at a time like this. People’s livelihoods are at stake.

The dysfunctionality of the UIF is what could be standing between an owner’s de­cision to unleash workers into the bur­geoning belly of unemployment — or holding for until after the lockdown for a more sober analysis.

Our economy requires that technocrats like Maruping must match the hard work and pace of Ramaphosa and his cabinet colleagues, who work on holidays and through the evenings. Leadership re­quires that Ramaphosa and his minis­ters must demand accountability from the technocrats. They must not just get reports about whether a call centre has been established, but must in fact use their government-issued cellphones to test and establish the veracity of what is contained in reports they get. Otherwise this will make a mockery of Ramapho­sa’s early evening addresses to the nation and Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu’s press conferences. IF is failing the nation


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