‘Freak’ fibre cable break derails UIF payments

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Minister of labour and employment Thulas Nxesi.
Minister of labour and employment Thulas Nxesi.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) is blaming a “freak” fibre connection break for the delays it experienced in capturing claims for the month of May.

The UIF is a public entity of the Department of Employment and Labour whose mandate is to provide short-term relief to workers who qualify for benefits.

However, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, workers who have not been registered with the UIF can now also get the special payouts.

In a statement this afternoon, the fund says: “The Unemployment Insurance Fund apologises for the freak break in its network which has affected plans to capture the May COVID-19 TERS [Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme] online applications.”

On 16 April, the UIF paid the first batch of COVID-19 TERS benefits to employers on behalf of workers.

According to the fund, the system which has been undergoing a test run since last week was due to go live on Tuesday, 26 May, but a damaged fibre link between the UIF’s offices and the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) put paid to those plans.

“We would like to apologise to all our stakeholders and particularly our clients for this unfortunate turn of events and the resultant delays,” says Teboho Maruping, UIF commissioner.

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure the problem is resolved today so that we can start processing May applications immediately. The fault of connectivity in Pretoria is due to a damaged fibre cable that links the UIF to the SITA’s data centre.”

The COVID-19 TERS benefits were necessitated by the global breakout of the coronavirus, resulting in the shutting down of economies due to the introduction of stringent nationwide lockdown measures in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

Yesterday, the Department of Employment and Labour said to date, the UIF has paid in excess of R15 billion to beneficiaries, marking a historic first in terms of a lump sum paid out by the fund within five weeks.

Minister of employment and labour Thulas Nxesi commended the urgency and seriousness with which the department and the UIF, in particular, have responded to the enormous challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic breakout.

In its statement, the UIF “promises to ensure that once the link has been restored, it will do all it can to try and catch up on the time lost”.

It notes the UIF’s ICT system development team is on standby to ensure that as soon as the connectivity is re-established, the system goes live.

“We have received an avalanche of complaints because of this and we understand how this could be frustrating to our clients and stakeholders,” Maruping says.

“I would like to assure each and every one of those who have been negatively affected that this was beyond our hands but we will try to make up. It should be noted that in the last two months, we have had peak traffic as a result of our lockdown relief benefits.

“In general, we have managed to keep our heads above water under those circumstances and there is no reason why we will not push ourselves to do our utmost to catch up."

He says the UIF will make a public announcement once the system has been restored.

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