News24 sends off 70 users' complaints to govt's Compensation Fund

2017-10-05 07:22
Candles are lit and flowers hung on the spot where train driver Piet Botha died at Netreg Station in Cape Town. (Paul Herman, News24)

Candles are lit and flowers hung on the spot where train driver Piet Botha died at Netreg Station in Cape Town. (Paul Herman, News24)

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Cape Town - Poor service, no communication and years-long delays were some of the complaints of about 70 News24 users who have filed claims with the department of labour's national Compensation Fund.

In July, News24 ran a story about the family of slain train driver Piet Botha, who had gone 12 months without receiving the compensation owed to them under the COIDA Act despite his tragic murder.

- Read more: Wife of slain train driver still waiting for compensation a year later

Their claim was finally seen to and approved two days later as a result of News24's article, saving the family from losing their home, and ensuring their children can continue their schooling.

- Read more: Labour dept finally agrees to pay slain train driver's family

In the article, a platform was provided for other users to share similar struggles in getting their compensation claims legally approved by the Fund's administrators.

News24 has received 11 more official unprocessed claims, all with valid claim numbers, and roughly 29 more that were submitted without claim IDs. The rest formed general feedback.

Of the 70 entries, the complaints could generally be divided into problems with administration (19), communication (11), service delivery (11), and said claim issues (29).

More widows still waiting for compensation

One complaint mirrored many similarities with the Botha family.

A widow by the name of Anne* had lost her husband in 2014, who had been shot and killed while on duty for an undisclosed government entity.

"It has been two years and three months since I've lost my husband and I received a small payment which I could use toward my son's education in December 2015. I was advised that there is another payment due but no-one can say when or how far this is being processed."

She was happy for the Botha family, and asked that all families receive what is due to them too.

A user named Allan* said he had lodged claims on behalf of three women in March 2015 who had lost their husbands to lightning strikes while on duty.

The Fund had confirmed in January 2016 it had received the claims, but more than two-and-a-half years later, they were still waiting for an update.

"And these widows and their children are enduring hardship without income because someone is not doing their job..."

11-year wait for R40 000

Another user said it took 11 years for his claim to be settled.

"Eventually I flew to the Cape Town branch only to see most of my medical reports that were submitted on numerous occasions had not been recorded. I eventually had to fly to Pretoria with all my documents to submit them myself."

After losing his hearing and his job due to an accident at work, he received just more than R40 000 after 11 years.

Another user Fezeka* said: "Yes, my father passed away on duty in 2013, to date we're still battling to be paid out. Being sent from pillar to post."

News24 spoke to both Compensation Commissioner Vuyo Mafata and customer services director Xola Mnene on the 70 complaints, which have now been sent off to the department.

Mnene told News24 that he would attend to the spreadsheet for those with valid claims and ID numbers, and thanked News24 for its willingness to work with the Fund. He committed to giving rolling progress updates.

Labour minister Mildred Oliphant's office was also sent a copy.

**If you would like to resubmit your details for a claim, fill them out in the survey form at the bottom of the article.

Challenges, action plan, debt

Government employees are entitled to approach the national Compensation Fund in the event of a legitimate occupational claim.

Mafata updated the portfolio committee on labour in September on the department's action plan in turning around the functionality of the Fund, which has had a huge backlog for much of the decade.

The Fund paid out R4.3bn in the 2016/17 financial year, according to its annual report tabled in Parliament. It was worth R27.2bn in net assets at the end of the same period.

Mafata, who took over in March 2016, said there were four areas they needed to address to improve the Fund's operations: Financial administration, customer services, internal processes and people management.

So far, they have implemented 83% of their targeted activities, but no mention was made of how many had yet been completed.

They migrated all of their database information to a new IT system called SAP in December 2016, which enabled them to pay out all their outstanding pensions.

The Auditor General's annual report though found material findings in three of the Fund's programmes.

They had to write off R2.4bn in debt before the end of the 2016/17 financial year as a result of incorrect penalty and interest fees charged to employers.

Thirty-five staff personnel have been suspended pending an investigation.

The Fund is due to appear before the portfolio committee once more for a quarterly report before the end of the year.

*Names have been changed. Real names and claim details have been sent by News24 to the Fund with prior consent.

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