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BURS goes after COVID-19 crooks

Following overwhelming reports of companies and individuals defrauding government through the wage subsidy, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has recovered P20million from ‘delinquents’.

The government COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Support, which started in April and came to an end on December 31, 2020 was used by some entities to try steal from the treasury.

MFED spokesperson, Fenny Letshwiti said reconciliation of the wage subsidy payments is still ongoing and it is expected to be completed by March 31, 2021.

“The total amount that has been paid out by government as COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Support to 20, 701 Batswana-owned companies from April to December 2020 is P933 million. Of this amount, P127 million was paid to 922 tourism industry companies during the period July to December 2020. To date, about 856 companies were found to have attempted to obtain the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Support through fraudulent means. The Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) has since recovered an amount slightly above P20 million from the companies and recovery measures continue. Most of the companies have been handed over to the Botswana Police Service for investigations and possible criminal prosecution,”

Letshwiti said. When government offered the Wage Subsidy Support to companies, some regarded it as an opportunity to defraud the system making claims for ghost employees, paying employees less than they claimed for them, while others diverted the funds and left employees in the lurch, it has emerged.

Letshwiti last year told this publication that after receiving dozen complaints and also noting that some employees appeared in multiple companies, government launched investigations into fraud with the view to punish offenders.

While for most industries the subsidy support was offered for only three months (April- June), Tourism Industry got the support until the end of December. There are however some industries that are still struggling as they cannot trade as of yet.

These include those in the creative industry like artistes, events promoters, décor services and others who unfortunately are not getting assistance. Despite that, some of them have benefited from shows sponsored by their parent Ministry being Youth, Sport and Culture Development.


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