New Years Message to all TraceGenie staff

Dear Danette, Deon and Sanette

As we are all set to begin another year, I, want to thank you all for your hard work for our growth and I wish that the New Year becomes a year of better performances with your dedication and efforts…

Your hard work is the reason behind our success and we dedicate our growth to you three and our valuable network of tracing agents.  We will look forward to more success stories to write and new accomplishments to make…. Warm wishes to you all  May you all be blessed!!!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year.

Thinus Smith
CEO - TraceGenie


4 000 EC ex-miners finally strike gold: Dispatch locates beneficiaries of unclaimed benefits

Four thousand Eastern Cape ex-miners or their families today stand a chance to claim their share of R40-billion worth of benefits that was left unclaimed for decades.

All 4000 names are published in this edition on pages 13 to 21. This could provide a significant financial boost to their struggling families and the province.
Thousands of ex-miners recruited through TEBA many years ago, have struggled to access their retirement funds because of bureaucracy and hurdles within the system.
TEBA claims it has struggled for years to locate most of the beneficiaries – but it took the Saturday Dispatch only three days of travelling around the province to contact at least 15 ex-miners or their families.
Most of the beneficiaries and their families contacted by the paper were not aware they had money and could access the funds from the multinational mining companies they have worked for over the years.
A large number of mineworkers from South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Malawi died after contracting disease in the mines.
Some of the ex-mine workers who spoke with the Dispatch, accused TEBA of complicating the system, making it difficult for them to claim monies owed to them.
But TEBA said they were doing their best to trace those owed money by the mining companies.
TEBA said they have already paid R300-million on different projects in rural “labour sending” communities ranging from pension and provident fund monies to occupational lung disease benefits.
An amount of R240-million was paid to individual beneficiaries under the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) and R60-million through mineworkers’ provident funds, such as the Mines 1970 Preservation Fund, Anglo Group Provident Fund, MPF Sibanye and others (see sidebar).
From Willowvale, Matatiele, Mount Fetcher, Komani to Adelaide, scores of ex-miners are sitting destitute at home with no money to support their families.
One is 89-year-old Gilapho Mavuso of Willowvale who has struggled for years to access his money through TEBA.
“For the many years that I worked in the mines, I am still holding on to the hope that my money will be paid out one day. I am hoping this will happen while I am still alive so my children can be able to bury me with dignity.”
TEBA’s Eastern Cape manager Samuel Moeletsi said the company and its industry partners were making significant strides towards resolving the issue of unclaimed benefits.
“In recent times, we have been at the forefront of projects which have released more than R300-million into rural ‘labour sending’ communities.
“In addition to this, TEBA continues to support the payment of individuals who were injured on duty,” said Moeletsi.
The Dispatch has also discovered that some of the 4000 ex-mineworkers listed to get money from TEBA, have died while others are living in abject poverty.
This week, the Dispatch team spent three days travelling more than 2000km from Matatiele to Adelaide, King William’s Town and other surrounding towns searching for miners on the list.
TEBA said it was using other media platforms to trace the miners but none of those who spoke to Dispatch, were aware of this as they did not have access to radio or television.
“We are doing roadshows with a view to meet beneficiaries without radios face-to-face so we can clarify claim requirements and related stuff,” said Moeletsi.
Another beneficiary, 73-year-old Lungile Qhanqa of Mcewula village in Whittlesea, is one of the 4000 of an estimated 180000 ex-miners who are still to claim their monies.
When Qhanqa met with the Dispatch team at his modest rural home, he could not hide his joy.
“This is great news brought by strangers into my house. I was ready to die but I am asking for more years to enjoy the money from TEBA,” he jokingly said as he was welcoming the Dispatch team into his house.
Qhanqa left the mines in the ’90s and accepted what was given to him as his retirement package.
“I always had that hope that there’s money that will come to me but after almost 30 years with no word from TEBA, I gave up,” he said.
Moeletsi said the challenge they were facing was the illegal tracing agencies, who were taking money from the poor ex-miners. 



Workers owed billions in unclaimed benefits

Cape Town - Workers across Southern Africa are owed billions in unclaimed benefits but it’s proving to be difficult to trace them.

So says the Financial Services Board (FSB), which released figures this week that pension fund administrators have R42 billion in unclaimed pension and provident fund benefits.
The funds are owed to 3.5 million beneficiaries who don’t know they have the cash in various interest-bearing accounts. About 2.8 million of them are in South Africa and the rest are in the SADC region.

Most of the unclaimed benefits arose from the mining, motoring, metal and engineering industries, said Loraine de Swart, FSB assistant manager of retirement funds.
The FSB and the Registrar of Funds sounded a warning against “unscrupulous operators” who had tried to con people into paying them R1 200 to trace their money.

De Swart said: “These are often empty promises and there is absolutely no guarantee that the person paying that amount is due any money.
“The FSB has placed a number of warnings in newspapers and visited affected communities to make it clear that the FSB is able to assist with inquiries free of charge.”
Since 2015 the FSB, together with fund administrators, has set up a national database to track beneficiaries but it is ultimately the responsibility of fund administrators.
Many funds have now employed tracing agents to find the beneficiaries.
“The tracing of unclaimed benefits is further hindered by the huge number of migrant workers that were employed either as illegal immigrants or those not willing to provide their true identities as this could have resulted in their not finding a job or being sent back to their countries of origin.”
In instances where beneficiaries are not traced, the money is placed in an unclaimed benefits trust.
De Swart said a regulation had been introduced in 2001 to compel employers to provide funds with member details, including full name, date of birth, ID number or employee/pay number, or other means of identification.
“Funds should therefore maintain accurate membership data and contact details of its members.”
But a consultant for Commsure Financial Solutions, Patrick Odendaal, said in some cases administrators were tardy in tracing and paying beneficiaries so they could continue to claim service charges.
For example, if a beneficiary had an unclaimed benefit of R5 000 over a long period, the entire benefit could be swallowed up by administrative charges.
This practice had been outlawed since 2007 by the Registrar of Funds in an attempt to preserve as much of the unclaimed benefits as possible for members.
However, the practice had continued.
Odendaal did, however, agree with the FSB that administrators faced many hurdles and called on the industry to do much more to trace and pay beneficiaries.
One way would be for fund administrators to share databases, and tap into the databases of Sassa and major retailers such as Edgars.
Odendaal said the unclaimed benefits ranged from R5000 to tens of thousands of rands a person.
According to the report released by the FSB this past week, just a little over R22 billion rand had been paid out to 934 000 members in the past five years, but a staggering amount was left in the kitty.
Weekend Argus approached five of the big fund administrators, Liberty Life, Old Mutual, Alexander Forbes, Momentum and Sanlam, to find out about the progress of their tracing and payments and also what their administrative charges are per member.
At the time of going to print, three of the five had responded to queries about tracing and paying benefits and just one replied to the question about admin charges.
Emile Huge, Momentum’s principal officer of unclaimed benefit funds, said an unclaimed benefit is defined in the Pension Funds Act as one that had not been claimed for two years after it became due.
“The combined membership of Momentum’s two unclaimed benefit funds was 59 354.
"Over the past five years we have successfully traced and paid 49 318 members.”
Hugh Hacking, Old Mutual corporate general manager of operations, said as at June 30 the company had a little under 100 000 members in the unclaimed benefit preservation pension and provident funds and they employed three independent tracing agents.
Danie Scholtz, Sanlam’s head of marketing, said the company’s employer benefits department administered approximately 100 funds with more than a million members.
The Unclaimed Benefits Provident Preservation Fund, with 28 216 members, had an assets value of just under R287m.
The Unclaimed Benefits Pension Preservation Fund had 21 922 members with an asset value of just over R378m.
Scholtz said Sanlam also employed tracing agents.



ASISA lands R5.6 billion to rightful hands

CAPE TOWN - The Association for Saving and Investment South Africa has, this week, released an update showing R5.6 billion given to traced claimants and beneficiaries.
The statement by the association says more than 37 000 policyholders, investors, and beneficiaries were traced and united with their financial belongings worth of R5.6 billion in 6 months, period starting 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2016. 
At the end of December last year, there were 130 740 cases of unclaimed assets in long-term insurance policies and collective investment scheme portfolios worth R4.4 billion, the statement revealed.
It is said that this is the first report since the Standard on Unclaimed Assets was being revised to include other segments of the industry. Senior Policy Adviser at ASISA, Rosemary Lightbody says "We are still in the process of refining reporting templates with the aim of being able to provide a more detailed breakdown of figures by early next year".

ASISA says it has a system in place designed to assist members of the public who need help with finding out whether a deceased person had an insurance policy or tracing policies where the policyholder is not sure of the insurer’s details.
Lightbody urges consumers to ensure that they update their contact details at the relevant financial institutions, so that assets are paid to rightful onwers when they are due.


Unpaid pensions saga hots up

The Financial Services Board (FSB) has moved to clarify its efforts to resolve the ballooning problem of unclaimed pension benefits, even as civil society campaigners step up a drive to help workers to reclaim billions owed to them.
By 2016, more than R42-billion in unclaimed benefits had been amassed in the pensions system, the FSB said at a media roundtable earlier this week.
About R7.6-billion is held in specially created unclaimed benefits preservation funds, and about R34.7-billion is held in occupational funds, or retirement funds, created by employers for their employees and which are active.


Finance Minister Gigaba: Former Venda Pension Fund victims will be resolved

CAPE TOWN- The payment of pensions to beneficiaries of the former Venda Pension Fund will be resolved by the end of November 2017, says the  Ministry of Finance.
“The Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, intends to resolve the payment of pensions to beneficiaries of the former Venda Pension Fund by the end of November,” said the ministry of the monies that are owed by the then government of Venda in Limpopo.
According to a statement, Gigaba said the matter has long been outstanding and needs to be resolved as urgently as possible.
Tshimangadzo Tshiololi, Musandiwa Ramavhale and  Mafela Rabambi were victims of the state's maladministration following former public protector Thuli Madonsela's investigation in 2011.
The victims lost all their retirement money during the amalgamation of the Venda Pension Fund and the First Privatisation Scheme pre-1994 and before the Government Employees Pension Fund came into effect.
The new scheme came into effect in 1993 while payouts by the former Venda government were made in 1992. Some of the pensioners could not be paid and had claimed the payouts were made "selectively", reported Sowetan live earlier this year.

It is said that Madonsela's report urged the state to pay out the former workers' pension and apologise to them for maladministration at the hands of "different government institutions".
However, former public protectors efforts were in vain as none of these happened.
Meanwhile, the Minister has reaffirmed his commitment to seeing the project finalise.
“The Government Pensions Administration Agency (GPAA) is collating and reconstructing individual files and records of beneficiaries. This will ensure that qualifying pensioners receive the monies due to them,” concluded the Ministry of Finance.



Zuma signs Twin Peaks Bill into law

Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma has signed into law the Financial Sector Regulation Act 2017.
The legislation – also known as Twin Peaks - was passed by Parliament in June and sent to Zuma for ratification.
It makes provision for a so-called Twin Peaks model of financial regulation. On the one hand, the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) will be responsible for regulating all financial institutions – banks, insurance houses and the asset management sector. 
On the other hand, financial conduct will be governed by a new entity, called the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, which will replace the current Financial Services Board (FSB).
The Presidency said in a statement issued on Monday that the Financial Sector Regulation Act aims to achieve a financial system that works in the interests of financial customers, and supports balanced and sustainable economic growth in South Africa.
The new regulatory and supervisory framework will promote, among other things, financial stability, the fair treatment and protection of financial customers, the efficiency and integrity of the financial system, the prevention of financial crime and transformation in the financial sector.
The legislation also provides for cooperation and collaboration among the National Credit Regulator, the SARB and the Financial Intelligence Centre.
During parliamentary deliberations, opposition parties said they were concerned that the legislation would not ensure adequate protection of consumers who apply for credit, as the National Credit Regulator does not fall under the ambit of the act.
Alf Lees of the Democratic Alliance was also worried about the cost of implementing the new legislation, which he believed will be passed on to consumers.


The pile of unpaid benefits is a national crisis that needs multilateral action

Co-ordinated effort backed up by new law is the starting point to pay out billions of rand owed to the public


Notes from the House: SA’s economic woes bring new urgency to debt relief reforms

In the face of expanding personal debt that has been crippling South Africa’s consumer landscape for years, efforts now under way to introduce amendments to the National Credit Act to provide for debt relief and forgiveness are hugely welcome, albeit somewhat overdue. By MOIRA LEVY.
First published by Notes from the House
Parliament’s Committee on Trade and Industry is pushing to speed up the process of drawing up amendments that would set criteria for eligibility for debt relief, recognising for the first time that the problem is not simply reckless borrowing.
The changing economic circumstances of citizens have forced many into unexpected debt, which is often unregulated and without insurance.
The committee recognises that these citizens require legislative protection now more than ever, despite the consequences that paying off individual credit may have on the lending industry and the economy as a whole.
The committee has been meeting with stakeholders since late 2016, but this process has now gained an urgency that can be felt at committee meetings. National Treasury has been called in to provide a profile of the demographics of the indebted section of the population, and this week calls were made in the committee hearings to expand the reach of its research to recognise that it is now not only the unemployed and indigent who need relief.
The Treasury has expressed support for stronger relief for over-indebted South Africans, while keeping in mind the need to approach consumer protection by taking account of other financial sector policy objectives such as financial stability, financial inclusion and financial integrity.
Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry Dean Macpherson proposed that Treasury’s study should include those earning up to R30,000, in an acknowledgement that debt distress is currently being felt by a much wider than expected group of households and more South Africans may need to be included in the safety net being considered by the committee for the National Credit Amendment Act.
Portfolio Committee Chairperson Joanmariae Fubbs is hoping the commitee’s National Credit Policy Review for Debt Relief report will be finalised before the end of the parliamentary session in December.
Amendments to the existing legislation would aim to identify and extend the criteria for those eligible for debt forgiveness, taking into account consumers who are heavily in debt due to retrenchments, unemployment and unfair deductions for repayments, which mostly affects grant recipients, students with loans and those burdened with Emolument Attachment Orders.
The proposed amendments also target unscrupulous lenders who the committee says must face stricter and possibly criminal consequences for unregulated lending that further entraps already indebted citizens by providing them with additional credit, often used to pay off existing loans.
The National Credit Act was last tightened up in 2005 with amendments that empowered the National Credit Regulator to investigate reckless lending. Inflation, recession and growing unemployment since then suggests “the time has come for us to give the people of South Africa, with the necessary comprehensive criteria, the relief that many need”, Fubbs said in a statement.
The committee called in the Department of Trade and Industry, which currently has its own debt relief programme in the pipeline, to prepare a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Report. The criteria for eligibility for debt relief that it proposes sounds very much like those already identified by the committee.
A DTI discussion document presented to the committee listed the Affordability Assessment Regulations, which came into effect in September 2015 to list the affordability criteria that credit providers must adhere to and the reviewed Limitations on Fees and Interest Rates Regulations which came into effect on 6 May 2016. The Threshold for Credit Provider Registration issued in 2016 requires the registration of all credit providers and regulations providing for Credit Life Insurance are due to come into effect this year.
These regulations are still not solving the problems of lenders in distress. In its Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Report, the DTI proposed that the State establish a fund reserved for debt relief interventions. The fund would subsidise low income consumers who would have to undergo a debt review process and would be used to partially or fully pay off the debt of qualifying consumers, depending on their circumstances.
The DTI feedback also gives the Minister of Trade and Industry discretion to identify those eligible for debt relief. In its current form, the Act provides no criteria within which the minister is empowered to isolate specific over-indebted consumers as eligible for debt relief.
This did not sit comfortably with committee members who have made it clear that the eligibility criteria must come from Parliament and that the proposed amendments were intended as a c ommittee bill. They felt the private sector should contribute to debt relief and take some responsibility for over-indebtedness so that it is not taxpayers who effectively subsidise credit providers.
The committee noted that the purpose of debt relief policy was not to inculcate a culture of irresponsible borrowing and non-payment of debt but to relieve people from the pain of over-indebtedness.
Since November 2016 the committee has engaged key industry stakeholders on the extent of over-indebtedness, the socio-economic impact on society and debt relief measures. It has been generally recognised that the law in its present state is not punitive – Cosatu even called it “progressive” but that where it had failed consumers was in not being implemented vigorously enough and consistently. The National Credit Regulator (NCR) was called upon to take harsher action against reckless lending without proper affordability assessments.
Not unexpectedly, the banks and the credit industry saw no need for a revision of the existing legislated debt controls, arguing that it will increase irresponsible consumer behaviour. They stressed that the best arrangements with debtors were those that were flexible and took into account individual circumstances.
The Banking Association of South Africa’s (BASA’s) Cas Coovadia said at the time that consumer borrowing will continue for as long as poverty and unemployment persists. Demand for credit will not be reduced if banks do not provide credit, he said. It is not banks that create indebtedness, he told the committee, but the mounting economic challenges facing hard-pressed consumers.
Equally predictably, Cosatu and consumer bodies called for relief for retrenched consumers, especially those with insufficient or no credit insurance. They also singled out for debt relief victims of grant abuses, reckless credit lending and unlawful Emolument Attachment Orders (EAOs).
Cosatu was not arguing for complete debt write-offs, but rather proposed that the committee consider alternative mechanisms, such as extending loans. The problem was that many banks were linking their interest rates to the repo rate, which could shift the losses on to the consumer. It agreed existing laws were “quite progressive” but failed when it came to enforcement.
The union body wanted to see legislation that put loan sharks out of business by banks becoming more accessible and affordable.
The committee also repeatedly heard that debt is a key factor in poor labour relations and unrealistic salary demands by the workers and their unions. Over-indebtedness, it was told, was leading to employee turnover, absenteeism, fraud and on-the-job accidents. The Chamber of Mines cited debt as a leading factor behind the Marikana uprising.
The committee, for its part, while consistently supporting the principle of debt relief, has raised its own concerns. Members argued that credit providers, who were the source of people’s debt, should not “get off the hook” by the state becoming liable for compensation. There was also talk of the need for the private sector to also contribute to debt relief.
There was general agreement across the committee that those responsible for reckless lending had to be made to feel the impact of extinguishing those debts. The chairperson made it very clear that it was the first time in the democratic dispensation that the extinguishing of household debt incurred by reckless lending had ever been considered by Parliament. It was urgently required, as people were feeling the pinch of the country’s “junk status” on the economy, she said. DM