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bout R20 bil­lion in pen­sion fund as­sets re­mains un­claimed by an es­ti­mated 3.5 mil­lion pen­sion fund mem­bers or their ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

This is ac­cord­ing to the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Board (FSB), which held a round ta­ble dis­cus­sion this week to ad­dress the is­sue of these un­claimed ben­e­fits.

The ag­gre­gate amounts of these ben­e­fits have built up over time as a re­sult of the dif­fi­cul­ties funds have ex­pe­ri­enced in iden­ti­fy­ing and con­tact­ing those en­ti­tled to them, as well as the dif­fi­cul­ties mem­bers ex­pe­ri­ence in claim­ing. This is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant if mem­bers have left the area in which the fund’s of­fices are lo­cated or left the coun­try al­to­gether af­ter their em­ploy­ment ended. Not be­ing able to pay the statu­tory al­lo­ca­tions of sur­pluses to for­mer mem­bers with whom funds have lost con­tact, and ig­no­rance on the part of mem­bers or the de­pen­dants of de­ceased mem­bers about their rights to ben­e­fits, are also prob­lems.

Ac­cord­ing to Rose­mary Hunter, the FSB’s deputy reg­is­trar of pen­sion funds, the main chal­lenges in find­ing mem­bers are poor fund records re­lat­ing to ben­e­fits and out-of-date con­tact in­for­ma­tion.

Mi­grant work­ers who re­turn to their home coun­tries af­ter leav­ing em­ploy­ment strug­gle to claim and re­ceive pay­ment of their ben­e­fits in those coun­tries, which is pos­si­bly why the min­ing in­dus­try’s funds make up such a large pro­por­tion of the un­claimed ben­e­fits, with an es­ti­mated R5.2 bil­lion ow­ing to 200 000 mem­bers.

Hunter says many mem­bers are not aware that money is owed to them be­cause, be­fore 2007, when the reg­is­trar in­structed funds to change their rules, the rules of many funds pro­vided that ben­e­fits that re­mained un­claimed three years af­ter they had ac­crued would lapse.

Fur­ther­more, in 2003, the min­is­ter of fi­nance is­sued a reg­u­la­tion in terms of the Pen­sion Funds Act which said that the full face value of each un­claimed share of sur­plus al­lo­cated to a for­mer mem­ber in terms of a statu­tory sur­plus dis­tri­bu­tion scheme had to be held in a spe­cial ac­count un­less, and un­til, it was paid.

Some in­di­vid­u­als are also not aware that, from the mid-2000s, even if they were fired from their jobs, they can still claim from their pen­sion fund, as it is sep­a­rate from their re­mu­ner­a­tion or work con­tract.

Be­ware of in­ter­me­di­aries

“Peo­ple also be­lieve they need the ser­vices of a lawyer or in­ter­me­di­ary to claim these ben­e­fits,” says Hunter, who adds that the FSB is con­cerned about un­eth­i­cal prac­tices where in­ter­me­di­aries of­fer to lo­cate un­claimed funds for a fee, some­times up to 20% of the amount of the ben­e­fit re­ceived by the mem­ber. Some of these in­ter­me­di­aries sim­ply send their client’s in­for­ma­tion to the FSB with a re­quest that it find out if there are ben­e­fits due to them. This sim­ple query can, how­ever, be done by any mem­ber with­out in­cur­ring any costs.

There are also scams in which in­ter­me­di­aries claim that they can ob­tain a death ben­e­fit from a fund, even though the mem­ber is still alive. They charge the mem­ber a few hun­dred rands and then dis­ap­pear.

Some funds have em­ployed trac­ing agents and in­ter­me­di­aries to find mem­bers on their be­half, and to as­sist them with com­plet­ing claim forms, but these in­ter­me­di­aries are paid by the fund, not the mem­ber. There­fore, treat those who want money to help you claim your ben­e­fits with cau­tion.

Do you have un­claimed funds?

If you be­lieve you may be the ben­e­fi­ciary of un­claimed funds, your first step is to con­tact your for­mer em­ployer, your pen­sion fund or its ad­min­is­tra­tor. If your em­ployer no longer ex­ists and you do not know the name of the pen­sion fund, you can con­tact the FSB at pen­sions.queries@fsb.co.za or 012 346 5915.

You will need to pro­vide some form of proof of your em­ploy­ment, such as a payslip, in­di­cat­ing that you were a mem­ber of a fund in terms of your em­ploy­ment con­tract. This can be a chal­lenge if many years have passed and you do not have any pa­per­work. In this case, the FSB may con­sider an af­fi­davit where you stip­u­late de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about your em­ploy­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, there are many cases where peo­ple have fraud­u­lently tried to claim from funds they did not be­long to, or where the fund al­ready paid their ben­e­fits. So the funds have to be care­ful and can­not

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