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PFA orders death benefit payment despoite time barring of complaint

30 September 2015 Muvhango Lukhaimane, PFA
Muvhango Lukhaimane, Pension Funds Adjudicator.

Muvhango Lukhaimane, Pension Funds Adjudicator.

The Pension Funds Adjudicator has ordered the Mineworkers Provident Fund to investigate and pay a death benefit although a complaint was time barred as it was received out of the prescribed time limit.

DA Olehile complained to the OPFA that the Mineworkers Provident Fund (respondent) had failed to allocate and distribute a death benefit in the amount of R135 285.07 following the death of her husband on 23 November 2001.

The complainant said she needed the money to support her children – aged 19 and 17 - born from her relationship with the deceased.

The respondent submitted it was almost 14 years since the deceased had passed away and although the complainant said she claimed the death benefit in 2004, there were no records to prove that she lodged a claim before the expiry of the prescribed three-year minimum period permitted in terms of the Act, in order for her complaint to be investigated.

However, due to the potential success in the claim, the respondent said it would not rely on the late submission period as a reason not to investigate and pay the death benefit.

The respondent said that upon receipt of the complaint, it carried out a detailed investigation and discovered that certain documents were outstanding and delaying the process of finalising the claim. The respondent also submitted that it required confirmation whether or not the deceased was maintaining his mother.

In her determination, Ms Lukhaimane said the fund’s stance to accommodate the claim after the prescribed three-year minimum period was “commendable” as it helped reduce the amount of unclaimed benefits held by retirement funds.

However, she said the board had 12 months to identify the dependants of the deceased and allocate and pay a death benefit.

“The respondent submitted that it does not have record of this claim. However, the respondent should be aware of the death of the deceased as he was its member.

“Therefore, the board failed to investigate the matter in terms of the section 37C of the Act.”

She added that more than 14 years had passed with the respondent not having completed its investigation.

“The respondent failed to provide a satisfactory explanation as to the delay in the investigation.

As a result of the respondent’s dilatory conduct, the deceased’s beneficiaries suffered prejudice in that they have potentially been denied access to benefits which may have become available to them had the investigation been completed.

Ms Lukhaimane ordered the respondent to complete its investigation and proceed with the allocation and distribution of the death benefit.

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