R13 million in tourism aid paid to dead ‘guides’ and officials

According to a Parliament response to a question from the DA, at least 13 million rubles intended to accommodate the battered tourism sector was wasted on UIF beneficiaries, officials and 17 people who died.

In addition, one beneficiary of the Tourism Fund’s outreach and 26 tour guides received payments twice.

The payments were made during the hard lockdown of Covid-19 through the Tourism Relief Fund and the Tourist Guide Relief Fund.

The details of the payments were in a response from Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to questions from the DA spokesman for Tourism MP Mannie de Freitas about the Covid-19 aid payments in the sector.

“There appear to have been major deficiencies and lack of control in the issuance of funds to beneficiaries of both funds during the hard-closure period.

“Payments from these funds were made without proper controls to ensure that the funds were paid only to eligible beneficiaries,” said De Freitas.

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‘Payments to 17 dead ‘guides’

As part of the travel guide’s benefits, 17 deaths were awarded R4,500 each.

Other irregular payments include:

• 273 payments to social benefit recipients
• 1,350 payments to beneficiaries of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF)
• 58 payments to people who work for the government
• 1,172 payments to people with invalid or incorrect ID numbers

The payments, De Freitas said, are another example of millions of rands being lost “thanks to ill-qualified ANC employees who manage taxpayers’ money.”

“It is shocking that the Tourism Office was unable to confirm a simple identity number as to whether a person was alive or not during the application and payment process.

“Given that there are hundreds of tour guides who have suffered and are still suffering incredible economic hardship, it is unacceptable that this has been allowed by the department,” said De Freitas.

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‘Research underway’

In 2020, the government announced a R200 million emergency fund for SMEs affected by the lockdown that shut down the tourism industry. Payments were capped at R50,000 per company.

This involved accommodation establishments such as hotels, lodges and bed & breakfasts (B&Bs), guest houses and backpackers.

Other targeted businesses were restaurants and conference venues not affiliated with hotels, tour operators, tour guides, and car rental companies.

Sisulu said in response that an investigation into the irregular payments would be completed by April.

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