Once the Road Ac­ci­dent Ben­e­fit Scheme Bill is signed into law, vic­tims will be pro­tected

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Dr Ntuthuko Bhengu is the chair­per­son of the Road Ac­ci­dent Fund board. Dr Ntuthuko Bhengu

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

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