Ad­ju­di­ca­tor gives prov­i­dent fund the thumbs up for pay­ing ‘ex­pired’ death ben­e­fit claim

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PERSONALFINANCE -

In a re­cent de­ter­mi­na­tion, the Pen­sion Funds Ad­ju­di­ca­tor, Mu­vhango Lukhaimane, com­mended the Minework­ers’ Prov­i­dent Fund for its co-op­er­a­tion in in­ves­ti­gat­ing and pay­ing a death ben­e­fit aris­ing from a com­plaint that had been re­ceived out­side the three­year prescription pe­riod. How­ever, she had some stern words for the fund for not do­ing more to set­tle the claim sooner.

In April this year, DO com­plained to the ad­ju­di­ca­tor’s of­fice that the fund had failed to al­lo­cate and dis­trib­ute a death ben­e­fit fol­low­ing the death of her hus­band on Novem­ber 23, 2001. DO said she needed the money to sup­port her chil­dren, aged 19 and 17. She said she had claimed the ben­e­fit in 2004, and it was al­most 14 years since her hus­band had died.

The prov­i­dent fund re­sponded to the com­plaint by say­ing there were no records to prove that DO had lodged a claim be­fore the ex­piry of the three-year prescription pe­riod per­mit­ted in terms of the Prescription Act, in or­der for her com­plaint to be in­ves­ti­gated.

How­ever, be­cause the claim had the po­ten­tial to suc­ceed, the fund said it would not rely on prescription as a rea­son not to in­ves­ti­gate and pay the death ben­e­fit, which amounted to R135 285.

The fund said that, on re­ceiv­ing the com­plaint, it car­ried out a de­tailed in­ves­ti­ga­tion and dis­cov­ered that cer­tain doc­u­ments were out­stand­ing and de­lay­ing the process of fi­nal­is­ing the claim.

The fund also sub­mit­ted that it re­quired con­fir­ma­tion of whether or not the mem­ber had been sup­port­ing his mother fi­nan­cially at the time of his death.

In her de­ter­mi­na­tion, Lukhaimane says the fund’s de­ci­sion to ac­com­mo­date the claim af­ter the three-year prescription pe­riod was “com­mend­able”, be­cause it helped to re­duce the amount of un­claimed ben­e­fits held by re­tire­ment funds.

How­ever, she says the prov­i­dent fund’s board should have been aware of the death of one of the fund’s mem­bers, and, in terms of the Pen­sion Funds Act, it had 12 months from the mem­ber’s death to iden­tify the mem­ber’s de­pen­dants and al­lo­cate and pay the ben­e­fit. “There­fore, the board failed to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter in terms of sec­tion 37C of the Act,” she says.

She says that more than 14 years had passed with­out the fund com­plet­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and it had failed to pro­vide a sat­is­fac­tory ex­pla­na­tion for the de­lay.

“As a re­sult of the re­spon­dent’s dila­tory con­duct, the de­ceased’s ben­e­fi­cia­ries suf­fered prej­u­dice in that they have po­ten­tially been de­nied ac­cess to ben­e­fits which may have be­come avail­able to them had the in­ves­ti­ga­tion been com­pleted,” the ad­ju­di­ca­tor says.

Lukhaimane or­dered the fund to com­plete its in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pro­ceed with the al­lo­ca­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of the death ben­e­fit.

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