Adjudicator fails to help the underdog

2010-10-09 14:54

Earlier this year I took Nonceba Maletona to the office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator and helped her lodge a complaint against her fund and her former employer.

The lady in the adjudicator’s office was confident that Maletona’s case of an unpaid pension benefit, ­unresolved for four years, would be sorted out quickly.

Maletona was employed by the West Rand Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre as a nursing sister, and when she turned 60 in 2006, she became eligible for pension.

When her last day of work ­arrived, her director pleaded with Maletona to stay on until a replacement was found. This arrangement lasted for seven months until January 2007. During the seven months pension fund contributions continued to be deducted from her salary.

By May last year, Maletona had still not received a single cent from Metropolitan, the fund administrators. Instead in June or July last year she was called in by her former employer to sign some documents for her money to be transferred to Sanlam. It was at this point that she approached me for advice.

Maletona and I sat with a Metropolitan consultant, who is also the husband of Maletona’s former employer. He informed us that the fund had been transferred to Sanlam.

Maletona asked why her money had not been paid, and the director’s husband said his wife had told him that Maletona had “absconded” and that they did not have her contact details.

The change of administrators had occurred after May 2006, when Maletona should have ­retired. The statement he provided showed that contributions to Metropolitan had ceased on Maletona’s official retirement date. When we showed him payslips that reflected deductions, he recalled there was still some money the ­company was holding for her.

A week later, the sum total of her contributions for seven months – without interest – was deposited into her account.

I took the matter up with Metropolitan and was told that Maletona’s lump sum was lying in unclaimed benefits. Strangely, the money had not earned ­interest since 2006.

Meawhile, the office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator wrote to Maletona telling her that the matter had been ­closed.

Finalised and closed? This, and several other cases, has ­provided Financial Services Board boss Dube Tshidi with the opportunity to throw his weight around and show some teeth. Cases have gone to the adjudicator ­but have not been resolved despite the ­existence of clear ­evidence.

This amounts to failure by the office to fulfil its mandate to ­offer relief to the underdog, who does not have the same muscle that fund administrators have to hire the best lawyers to seek ­relief for them.

In Maletona’s case the following questions remain unanswered:
» Why did the employer not sign a withdrawal form when the employee left?

» Why has her money not grown in four years?

» Why has the employer not been penalised for failing to pay contributions to the fund administrator?

» The employer earned interest on the contributions but three years later pays Maletona out with zero interest.

These questions should have been dealt with by our previous two adjudicators.

» Diale is a financial planner. He can be contacted on 078 775 0802


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