Public Protector instructs Sol Plaatje Municipality to pay widow of former employee
Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela on Monday released a report, detailing her findings and remedial action to be taken following an investigation into circumstances surrounding the pension benefits of a deceased former employee of the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality in the Northern Cape.
The report titled, A Costly Mistake, deals with a complaint by Ms Joyce Maria Holland, concerning her late husband and former employee of Sol Plaatjie Local Municipality, Mr Basil Freddy Holland’s pension benefits.
Ms Holland alleged that her late husband was advised by his medical practitioner, shortly after he took ill, that he would not be able to work again due to his illness. She alleged that the deceased was advised to claim for disability benefits and he submitted a claim application to the Municipality for processing at the South African Local Authorities (SALA) Pension Fund.
However, alleged Ms Holland, the Municipality submitted the claim late and consequently, the deceased’s claim was rejected by the Pension Administrator. Subsequently, the deceased was advised to claim for early retirement benefits, but he rejected the offer.
The Municipality has since admitted, in response to the investigation, that it did receive the claim from the deceased for submission to the SALA Pension Fund and that it submitted the required documentation late.
Upon analysis of the complaint, the Public Protector identified and considered the following issues for investigation:
- Whether the Municipality failed to timely notify the SALA Pension Fund of the deceased’s disability and failed to submit his claims for disability within three months from the date of his disability as required by the SALA Pension Fund Master Policy and the Rules, and if so, whether such failure amounted to maladministration on the part of the Municipality; and
- If the Municipality failed to submit the deceased’s claim timely, did such failure result in any financial prejudice to the deceased and the complainant?
Following an investigation, which included an exchange of correspondence, interviews with relevant parties, the perusal of documents received and the consideration and application of applicable legislation, policies and prescripts, the Public Protector made the following findings:
- The Municipality failed to immediately notify the Administrator (SALA Pension Fund) of the deceased’s disability when he submitted a medical certificate in that regard to it on 28 August 2008;
- The Municipality’s failure to immediately notify the Administrator (SALA Pension Fund) of the deceased’s disability was in violation of paragraph 4.1 of the SALA Pensions Fund Master Policy. The Municipality’s failure in this regard constitutes improper conduct as envisaged in section 182(1) of the Constitution and maladministration as envisaged in section 6 of the Public Protector Act;
- The Municipality submitted the deceased’s disability claim to the Pension Fund on 19 January 2009, more than three months after being informed of the deceased’s disability on 28 August 2008;
- The Municipality’s failure to submit the deceased’s disability claim, including all the prescribed claim documents and medical evidence with the Administrator (SALA Pension Fund) within three months from the date of his disability was also in violation of paragraph 4.1 of the SALA Pensions Fund Master Policy and Rule 9.13 of the SALA Pension Fund Rules applicable when the deceased’s claim arose in 2008.The Municipality’s failure in this regard constitutes improper conduct as envisaged in section 182(1) of the Constitution and maladministration as envisaged in the Public Protector Act.
- The Municipality’s failure to submit the deceased’s claim within three months resulted in the complainant suffering financial prejudice in that, to date, she has not been paid the deceased’s benefits because to accept the termination of the deceased’s employment service as resignation or early retirement would result in less benefits being paid out.
The Public Protector took the following remedial action in pursuit of section 182(1) (c) of the Constitution, with a view to placing the complainant as close as possible to where she would have been had the improper conduct or maladministration not occurred:
- The Municipal Manager should request Dr Baard of the Administrator (SALA Pension Fund), to quantify the amount that the deceased would have been entitled to as a disability benefit at the expiry of the three months waiting period from the date of his disability until the date of his death on 15 November 2011;
- The amount calculated by the Pension Fund Administrator should be the amount that the Municipality should be liable to pay to the Complainant as a lump sum payment;
- The Municipal Manager should write a letter of apology to the Complainant and her family for the prejudice caused due to maladministration on the part of the Municipality;
- The Municipal Manager should arrange training for the Municipality’s officials responsible for processing pension and disability claims to sensitize them about the processes involved in claiming for pension and disability and provide the Public Protector with a report in that regard within 60 days from the date of the Public Protector’s report.
For more information contact:
Spokesperson for the Public Protector
Tel: 012 366 7006
Cell: 079 507 0399