Com­pen­sa­tion Fund rot­ten at its core

CityPress - - Business - MOY­AGABO MAAKE moy­agabo.maake@city­press.co.za Source: Com­pen­sa­tion Fund an­nual re­ports Graph­ics24

The labour depart­ment’s Com­pen­sa­tion Fund – which re­ceived a dis­claimer of opin­ion from the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral in its last re­ported fi­nan­cial year – is nowhere near re­solv­ing its rot­ten fi­nan­cial af­fairs, and there ap­pears to be no po­lit­i­cal will to do so.

In a brief­ing to the par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on labour last month, the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral out­lined a pic­ture of a dys­func­tional agency un­able to ex­e­cute its man­date.

“The re­port on the work­men’s com­pen­sa­tion sec­tion of the depart­ment of labour was en­tirely neg­a­tive and the worst I’ve ever seen,” said com­mit­tee mem­ber and DA MP Michael Ba­graim.

The fund – built up through yearly le­vies to em­ploy­ers and meant to com­pen­sate em­ploy­ees for in­juries or dis­eases sus­tained on duty – has con­sis­tently re­ceived qual­i­fied au­dits or dis­claimers of opin­ion for the past nine years.

In most au­dit opin­ions, the au­di­tors said proper ac­count­ing records could not be pro­vided, which made it dif­fi­cult to ver­ify that man­age­ment had cor­rectly ac­counted for such things as rev­enue and claims paid out.

Ba­graim, who was a labour lawyer and an­a­lyst be­fore go­ing into pol­i­tics, said he had pre­vi­ously tried to lodge claims on be­half of clients, but had given up upon en­coun­ter­ing a depart­ment in dis­ar­ray.

Although au­di­tors were un­able to ver­ify the ac­tual amounts the fund has in its cof­fers, it ap­pears to be sit­ting on a sub­stan­tial cash pile

graphic).

(see

Labour depart­ment spokesper­son Page Boikanyo re­ferred queries to

Com­pen­sa­tion fund

2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13

There is no log­i­cal rea­son as to why they are de­lay­ing and mak­ing me suf­fer de­spite all my doc­u­ments be­ing sub­mit­ted

IS­MAIL DE­SAI

the fund it­self, which did not re­spond by the time of go­ing to print.

The prob­lems at the fund have led to some claimants wait­ing as long as 13 years to be paid out.

Is­mail De­sai was at­tacked with bricks while work­ing as an enu­mer­a­tor for Stats SA in 2000, re­sult­ing in per­ma­nent hear­ing loss in his left ear.

“I was awarded a one-off pay­ment of R3 472.42 in 2008, but I have never re­ceived pay­ment,” he said.

He ob­jected to the amount awarded be­cause it was not enough to cover his doc­tors’ bills. The quote for the hear­ing aid he needed came to R22 000, he said.

De­sai added that the com­mis­sioner of the fund, Shadrack Mkhonto, or­dered fur­ther as­sess­ments, as well as the set­tling of the doc­tors’ bills and the cost of the hear­ing aid, around Oc­to­ber last year.

“To date, noth­ing has been done,” he said. “Ev­ery time I send an email to the rel­e­vant per­sons, they re­ply say­ing that they are await­ing an ap­point­ment date and I just have to wait. There is no log­i­cal rea­son as to why they are de­lay­ing and mak­ing me suf­fer de­spite all my doc­u­ments be­ing sub­mit­ted.”

An email en­quiry about De­sai’s case from City Press to the Com­pen­sa­tion Fund’s call cen­tre went unan­swered.

Bernard O’Reilly is in­volved in a drawn-out dis­pute with the fund and Rand Mu­tual As­sur­ance Company – li­censed by the min­is­ter of labour to pro­vide com­pen­sa­tion ben­e­fits on be­half of the min­ing in­dus­try and its as­so­ciates.

O’Reilly, an elec­tri­cian, lost the full use of his hands. While re­peat­edly re­mov­ing and re­plac­ing elec­tric bulbs un­der­ground at the mine where he worked for a num­ber of years, he fell and hurt his back when he had to walk over 15cm wa­ter pipes.

But Rand Mu­tual awarded him a 34% per­ma­nent dis­abil­ity pen­sion based on loss of func­tion in his thumbs.

An in­de­pen­dent med­i­cal ex­am­iner was called in to me­di­ate be­tween the three par­ties at a tri­bunal hear­ing. His re­port – a copy of which City Press has seen – rec­om­mended O’Reilly be awarded a pen­sion of 75% of his earn­ings for his hands, and an ad­di­tional 10% for his back.

The re­port os­ten­si­bly su­per­seded all other rec­om­men­da­tions pre­vi­ously made by the fund and Rand Mu­tual, but O’Reilly said Rand Mu­tual was cur­rently only pay­ing him 75%.

O’Reilly is tak­ing le­gal ac­tion to fight for a 100% dis­abil­ity pen­sion as he be­lieves Rand Mu­tual ig­nored pre­vi­ous med­i­cal re­ports, which showed he was un­able to con­tinue work­ing as an elec­tri­cian.

“The com­mis­sioner and di­rec­tor­gen­eral at the depart­ment of labour in Pre­to­ria have over­all au­thor­ity over Rand Mu­tual As­sur­ance. They seem to be pow­er­less in mak­ing Rand Mu­tual As­sur­ance li­able for 100% dis­abil­ity pen­sion,” said O’Reilly.

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