Once the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill is signed into law, victims will be protected
ANEW DAWN beckons for the Road Accident Fund (RAF) following the recent tabling of the Road Accident Benefit Scheme (Rabs) Bill in Parliament. Once signed into law, Rabs will replace the RAF, ensuring the focus moves away from assessment of fault and liability to protecting the most vulnerable, including those who do not have financial protection against death and disability. It will ensure that every road accident victim is afforded quality care and rehabilitation – irrespective of who was at fault.
The RAF, which marks 20 years since the end of the Multilateral Motor Vehicle Fund, has faced significant challenges, persevered, overcome and conquered. It has provided consistent public service that has gone through major policy changes in order to improve the lives of ordinary people who are affected by road crashes within South Africa’s borders.
There have been many reports and studies conducted on the RAF, including the 2002 Satchwell Commission of Inquiry which was set up to inquire into and make recommendations regarding a reasonable, equitable, affordable and sustainable system of road accident victim compensation.
The recommendations made were that the present system of fault-based compensation is inherently unfair and should be replaced with a “no fault” system.
The recommendations were adopted by the cabinet in 2002, which resulted in the Department of Transport proposing the Rabs Bill which seeks to remedy the operational and financial ills that have made up the RAF’s DNA.
Despite having to cope with a legacy plagued by complex and legalistic hurdles, spiralling costs, insufficient funding to pay claims, and long standing insolvency, the RAF has steadfastly improved claims processing, expanded its footprint and brought services directly to communities’ doorsteps. (This is notwithstanding escalating road crashes, with 64 reported accidents a week in South Africa, most of them having fatalities. An overwhelming 33 percent of these accidents are pedestrians who are often knocked down in hit and run crashes and some are left with serious injuries, while others lose their lives).
Claimants who require ongoing medical treatment are offered an undertaking certificate to access such treatment and rehabilitative services through the RAF’s post claims settlement department.
Assistance takes many forms: structural changes to motor vehicles, the workplace or house (eg ramps or bathroom and kitchen modifications); payment of caregivers in the case where the injured needs assistance with their daily activities or future medical care; and access to assistive devices such as wheelchairs.
Over the last five years, 753 565 undertaking certificates have been issued with more than R1,5 billion paid out to ensure claimants have the necessary care required.
The introduction of a streamlined corporate structure with transversal teams consolidated under the organisational strategy has increased compliance and reporting mechanisms, with oversight departments ensuring accountability and an efficient operational and administrative environment.
As a result, the RAF has been awarded several accolades within the public and private sector. This indicates a level of excellence the RAF continues to aspire to.
Improved productivity has seen a significant reduction in claims processing over the years, especially the “backlog” of claim files. This is coupled with an improved cash management strategy and an increase in claims processing and payment.
Recently, the fund received three consecutive clean audits from the auditor-general. This shows the efficient and proper management of funds and maximum value out of every rand received, maintaining a maximum amount of expenditure on claims and delivering services.
In the 2015/2016 financial year, the fund finalised 715 claims each working day, averaged 188 759 claims and settled claims worth R32.3bn. The RAF board and employees play a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the organisation, particularly during difficult periods. In recent years, the RAF has managed to introduce a reviewed strategic plan with annual performance plans, aligned these plans to scorecards and risk assessments, which led to the formulation of Smart targets for strategic objectives.
Meanwhile, fraud and corruption remains endemic, but the fund has developed a strategy that includes the detection, prevention and investigation of fraud cases.
During the 2016/2017 financial year, a total of 426 fraudulent claims were detected by the forensic investigation department, preventing fraudulent payments to the value of R901 557 474. In the same period, 88 people were arrested and 68 people were convicted. An amount of R413 138 was recovered.
Despite operating under challenging circumstances, hampered further by the tough SA economic climate, the fund still has a duty and responsibility to fulfil its mandate, ie to indemnify, compensate and rehabilitate road accident victims.
The RAF will continue transforming its delivery record while ensuring those who have been injured or lost loved ones in motor vehicle accidents are cared for.
The recommendations made were that the present system of fault-based compensation is unfair and should be replaced with a ‘no fault’ system