Fi­nan­cial fit­ness

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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.

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