Widower not entitled to late wife’s pension gratuity

06 August 2021

The Public Protector has found against a surviving spouse who had laid claim to a pension gratuity after the passing of his civil servant wife, indicating that the benefits in question did not form part of a joint estate in cases where marriage is dissolved by death.

The Public Protector explained that this was so in terms of section 37C of the Pension Fund Act 24 of 1956.

The finding followed an investigation into allegations of maladministration by the Government Pensions Administration Agency (GPAA) in failing to pay death benefits to the complainant.

The complainant approached the Public Protector in February 2016, alleging that the GPAA paid his late wife’s pension benefits to the beneficiaries in line with her beneficiary nomination form.

He charged that the GPAA did so without considering his claim and ignored information brought to its attention relating to fraudulent activities involving the benefits.

The complainant and the deceased were married in community of property in January 2011. The Public Protector was furnished with the marriage certificate as proof of their union.

The deceased passed away in December 2012 while she was an employee of the Department of Health at the Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Ga-Ranukwa, North of Pretoria and a member of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF).

In 2013, the complainant approached the deceased’s employer in order to lodge a claim for the payment of her pension benefits.

He was informed that a claim had already been lodged by the deceased’s family and that a decree of divorce between himself and the deceased, which he was not aware of, existed.

He confirmed to officials that he had instituted a divorce action prior to his wife’s passing. However, the matter did not proceed to finality as it was struck off the roll on 05 June 2012.

He approached the North Gauteng High Court to verify this information and was informed of the existence of two decrees of divorce purportedly issued by two different judges on the same date, which were later confirmed to have been issued fraudulently. 

In September 2014, he approached the GPAA, with the help of LegalWise South Africa (Pty) Ltd and notified them of the alleged fraudulent activities committed by the deceased’s family and also made an enquiry regarding the payment of the deceased’s pension benefits.

He further approached the Pretoria Central South African Police Service and reported a case of fraud. He complained that he was never provided with progress nor the outcome of the investigation.

During the Public Protector’s investigation, the GPAA conducted a forensic investigation on the matter. On 15 September 2017, it approved the payment of pension annuities to the complainant from the date of death of his wife. The non-payment of the gratuity to him remained outstanding.

The Public Protector found that the allegations that the GPAA acted improperly in not paying the complainant gratuity following the passing of his wife was unsubstantiated. Evidence at her disposal proved that he did not qualify to be considered the deceased’s dependent.

In addition, the Public Protector found that the SAPS did investigate the criminal case that the complainant reported and referred the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision.

However, she found the allegation that the GPAA acted improperly by failing to investigate the allegations or email enquiry that was reported by LegalWise on behalf of the complainant to have been substantiated.

She directed the CEO of the GPAA apologise in writing to the complainant for failing to attend to his email enquiry submitted by LegalWise.

The CEO must also review the Standard Operating Procedure, to include the proper evaluation of all the complaints and/or enquiries that are raised with the Client Relation Management Unit (Call Centre) through the centralised email address and to ensure a process whereby relevant Units within GPAA would be alerted.

Moreover, the CEO was directed to ensure that staff is trained on the amended Standard Operation Procedure in order to avoid recurrence of the similar complaints.

Read the full report here: http://www.publicprotector.org/.../Final%20Report%20...