Help is at hand for pension-related disputes
The Office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator (OPFA) is the South African pension, provident and retirement annuity funds’ contributions and benefits watchdog.In a bid to heighten awareness about the services of the OPFA, we take closer look at its role.
According to the Pension
Funds Adjudicator, Muvhango Lukhaimane, the role of the OPFA is to resolve retirement fund-related disputes regarding pension, provident and retirement annuity funds registered in terms of the Pension Funds Act (No. 24 of 1956).
“In the event that a member of these funds experiences challenges, they may approach the OPFA for assistance,” she said.
Common complaints handled by the OPFA relate to withdrawal benefits and may cover non-payment of retirement fund benefits or dissatisfaction with the amounts paid out.
Challenges relating to death benefits may also be referred to the OPFA for investigation. These may be a delay in the payment of death
benefits, dissatisfaction with the manner a death benefit has been divided among the beneficiaries, dissatisfaction with the mode of payment of a death benefit for minor children and the exclusion/inclusion of one or more beneficiaries in the allocation of the death benefits.
The OPFA also deals with complaints related to declined disability benefits or not being provided with information, such as benefit statements.
“There is also quite a large number of complaints where we discover that the employer was not paying over contributions to the fund, even in instances where deductions have been made from a member’s salary and the employer is supposed to pay contributions in terms of an employment contract,” said Lukhaimane.
Know your rights
“All retirement fund members have a levy deducted from their monthly contributions which is used to fund the services offered by the OPFA,” explained Lukhaimane.
“There is large amount of money that is unclaimed in pension funds and its rightful owners need to be traced. People need to share information on their pension benefits with members of their families so that when they pass away, the family knows where to enquire about and claim their family member’s pension fund,” she added.
Every pension fund member must receive a benefit statement annually indicating contributions paid, the kinds of benefits that they are entitled to and the value of such benefits as at the benefit statement date, contact details of the fund and any other relevant information.
Members are also encouraged to complete beneficiary nomination forms indicating their wishes in terms of benefits allocation.This information helps as a starting point when the fund commences its beneficiary investigation. However, boards of funds are not bound by the nomination form or will that a member completes.
It is important to also note that “a pension benefit does not form part of the member’s estate, which means it cannot be distributed in terms of a will or a matrimonial regime”, said Lukhaimane.