2018-12-15

Fedgroup driving industry reform in unclaimed benefits sector

South Africa's leading independent financial services provider, Fedgroup, was recently awarded a tender issued by ARGEN Actuarial Solutions to administer four liquidated unclaimed funds, totalling R180 million.
ARGEN is an expert in the liquidation of retirement funds and it went through a selection exercise to select an ideal unclaimed benefit fund to house the benefits of untraced members in four of the retirement funds it recently liquidated.
The funds are IF Umbrella Pension and Provident Funds, and Dynam-ique SA Umbrella Pension and Provident Funds. Individuals who were members of those funds are encouraged to contact Fedgroup should they feel benefits may be owed to them.
Fedgroup was invited to tender against many of the large industry incumbents and won based on its proven record and value proposition.

As a specialist operator in the field, with significant experience, expertise and a proven track record in the administration of beneficiary funds, which fulfil a similar mandate to unclaimed funds, Fedgroup is emerging as a prolific driver of much-needed industry reform.
Unravelling the backlog requires specialised skills
Providing these administrative services also requires a mindset that is vastly different to retirement fund administration. "At Fedgroup, we understand that beneficiary and unclaimed fund administration should focus on a different need-state and an ethic of care. Both also require a strategy vastly different to retirement fund administration," says Walter van der Merwe, CEO of Fedgroup Life.
Within the broader retirement fund industry, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) continues to grapple with legacy issues surrounding a lack of industry best practices and good corporate governance of unclaimed benefits.
The issue was recently thrust back into the popular discourse when activist and former deputy registrar of retirement funds at the Financial Services Board (FSB), Rosemary Hunter lost a Constitutional Court appeal against a high court ruling. The appeal sought to compel the FSCA to take action against various private and public sector funds that are sitting on R42 billion in unclaimed benefits in South Africa.
Ethical considerations
Concerns have also been raised regarding a perverse industry incentive to keep benefits in the unclaimed fund for as long as possible to incur more admin and investment fees. As such, the likes of Hunter and other responsible corporate citizens within the financial services sector have sought to find ways to drive a paradigm shift that will improve compliance throughout the industry.
While the main purpose of an unclaimed fund is to provide a vehicle to safeguard benefits and to trace members or beneficiaries in an effective and efficient manner, a major challenge is a lack of incentive on the part of insurers and administrators. The process to adequately and comprehensively trace beneficiaries and dependants and pay out unclaimed benefits can be administratively onerous, time-consuming and costly.
Moreover, many unclaimed benefits comprise small amounts, under R5 000, and the process of finding someone is intensive and success is not guaranteed. Extremely tight margins in the administration of unclaimed funds also makes providing these services a highly specialised endeavour.
Outsourcing administration eases the burden
"We are, however, able to realise efficiencies from the economies of scale offered by greater volume, through expert and experienced staff, and the application of the appropriate technology. This is driving a shift towards to the outsourcing of administrative services among actuaries, auditors and fund liquidators," explains Van der Merwe.
He adds Fedgroup is ideally positioned and equipped to address the industry's unique challenges, thanks to the company's extensive industry experience, its passionate staff, who are committed to providing beneficiary care of the highest order, and its administration system. Fedgroup's technology was developed from the ground up as an efficient, streamlined and intelligent bespoke industry solution. The functionality and capabilities of the system offer this relatively small financial services provider a key strategic advantage and differentiate it from the incumbent providers.
"Combining these elements with our track record in beneficiary care has helped to elevate our offering within the unclaimed fund space, as our value proposition increasingly resonates with industry stakeholders that want to change the status quo and ensure these funds have their intended impact," believes Van der Merwe.
"We believe the ARGEN business is an example of how the broader industry now regards Fedgroup as a specialist operator in this field, thanks to our technological capabilities, administrative excellence, and the pioneering role we are taking in providing fund administration as a service. We hope that it will create even greater opportunities to get more of that R42 billion to people who need it most," concludes Van der Merwe.

http://pressoffice.mg.co.za/fedgroupfinancialservices/PressRelease.php?StoryID=287423

2018-12-12

Justice still needed for poverty-stricken pensioners after deregistration blunder

“I have saved enough to retire peacefully. But now I will turn in my grave because I will die in poverty.”
This was said by Douglas Maila, a member of the Unpaid Benefits Campaign, at a protest outside Alexander Forbes demanding that it pay pensioners the benefits they are owed. Maila’s experience of contributing a portion of his salary every month for years, only to retire and face great difficulty accessing what he is owed, is shared by millions of workers whose pensions sit in "unclaimed" benefits funds worth over R42bn.
The unpaid benefits crisis in SA worsened with the Financial Service Board’s (FSB) "cancellations project", which entailed the mass deregistration of over 5,000 pension funds between 2007 and 2013. This allowed the regulator to clear its books of funds thought to have no assets, boards or members. It was later discovered, however, that many of these funds still held assets, owed money to beneficiaries and should never have been cancelled.
In a 2014 investigation that analysed a sample of 510 funds deregistered during the cancellations project, KMPG found that the registrar of pension funds did not have the requisite information to reasonably order 500 of the cancellations. Even more damning is KPMG’s estimation that R2.5bn was unaccounted for in these 500 funds alone.
It remains to be seen how the new regulator — the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) — will address this problem. Last week, Francois Groepe of the SA Reserve Bank said that SA has for too long prioritised prudential regulation at the expense of market conduct regulation and that not enough has been done to address exploitation of the most vulnerable by private financial institutions.
The administration of pension and provident funds is are a crucial area for strong regulatory oversight and intervention. For many workers, contributing to a pension fund is compulsory, in line with their sectoral determination.
On April 1 2018, the FSB took up its new mandate as the FSCA, promising stronger oversight of the financial sector and more proactive and intrusive regulation to protect SA consumers.
Why then have funds that were wrongfully deregistered during the cancellations project still not been reinstated in court? Until this happens the beneficiaries of these funds remain unable to access their pensions. A first step towards the FSCA fulfilling its promises is to ensure these funds are lawfully reinstated and paid to beneficiaries as a matter of urgency. 
The administration of pension and provident funds is  a crucial area for strong regulatory oversight and intervention. For many workers, contributing to a pension fund is compulsory, in line with their sectoral determination.
Despite being important vehicles of income security for the poor, pension funds are often administered by private companies such as Liberty Corporate and Alexander Forbes. This is particularly concerning because these companies are able to profit from this role through charging administrative fees that are often based on total asset value. This creates a clear disincentive for fund administrators to actively find and pay beneficiaries in the context of unclaimed benefits funds.
Many of the decisions to deregister funds during the cancellation project were based on information provided by private fund administrators that turned out to be incorrect (by their own admission).
Liberty was responsible for administering 80% of the funds deregistered during the cancellations project. In 2017, it approached the high court to review the cancellation of 25 funds, presumably pressured by FSB whistle-blower Rosemary Hunter’s court case, which was ongoing at the time. These 25 funds, which owed R90m to over 300 beneficiaries, were successfully reinstated by the court, and Liberty proclaimed its intention to apply for judicial review of a further 105 funds it believes were unlawfully cancelled.
Since the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of Hunter’s case, Liberty has gone quiet. Open Secrets contacted Liberty to determine the status of the review application. Liberty’s response indicates that it is backtracking on its decision to apply to court to reinstate funds and will instead pursue "internal processes" with the FSCA.
This is alarming, as there is no clear legal reason to abandon the strategy of approaching the courts to urgently reinstate the funds’ registrations. More than a decade has passed since the cancellations project began and it is urgent that the relevant administrators reinstate erroneously cancelled funds through judicial review in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.  
Open Secrets has written to the FSCA urging it to issue a directive to Liberty and other administrators to review potentially unlawful cancellations in court, so that beneficiaries may receive their pensions as soon as possible. An internal process is no longer appropriate, nor is it lawful. The scale of likely financial prejudice in the cancellations project demands the transparency of a court process where the conduct of both the companies and the regulator can be publicly examined.
Issuing this directive would be a step towards rectifying the regulator’s neglect of unpaid pensioners and so many other South Africans who bear the brunt of an often unchecked financial sector. We urge the FSCA to act and live up to its promises.
• Khan is with Open Secrets, a nonprofit organisation that pursues accountability for private sector economic crimes through investigations, advocacy and the law.

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2018-12-10-justice-still-needed-for-poverty-stricken-pensioners-after-deregistration-blunder/

2018-12-01

Labour impressed by number of Ex-mineworkers registered for unclaimed benefits in Namakwa district

The Department of Labour, Northern Cape appreciate the overwhelming turn-out of ex-mineworkers in the Namakwa District, who heeded the call to come and make applications for unclaimed benefits. The four days registration campaign managed to net 807 applications.
“As the Department we appreciate the overwhelming turn-out we experienced in the Namakwa District so far from potential applicants for ex-mineworkers unclaimed benefits. The new strategy deployed by our team to issue Bank forms during mobilization has also been fruitful in areas like Garies, Komaggas, Nababeep, Kleinsee and Steinkopf where there are no banking facilities. Labour reiterates its call for calm as we plan to cover the length and breadth of Namakwa District and serve all applicants. We also acknowledge the gallant effort made by our team to ensure that thousands of potential applicants are assisted during that extended period,” said Zolile Albanie, Chief Director: Provincial Operations.
The campaign, which is aimed at ex-mineworkers who left employment in the mines prior to 01 April 2002, has been successfully rolled out in the Namakwa District from 19 – 22 November 2018 targeting areas in the Namakwa District (Pofadder 19/11/2018, Garies and Komaggas 20/11/2018, Okiep and Steinkopf 21/11/2018 and finally Port Nolloth 22/11/2018.
The Department of Labour as the agent charged with responsibility of tracing and paying these ex-mineworkers urges all potential applicants to bring along any or all of the following documents for verification:
·          Identity document
·          Access card (from previous mine employer)
·          IRP 5 (from the previous mine employer)
·          Old Blue card
·          Previous salary advice
·          Or any proof of mine employment (including “Makhulu’s kop” card, Dompas or TEBA record)
This registration is done in line with the Peoples’ Assembly which was held in Mbhizana, Eastern Cape. A motion was tabled in the National Assembly on 19 September 2007 for Parliament to establish a committee that will look at issues of ex-mineworkers. The campaign spotlight will soon be focusing on the ZF Mgcawu District, dates and areas to be targeted will also be publicised soon.
“To date the Unemployment Insurance Fund has already made pay-outs of benefits in excess of R2.8 million in the Northern Cape province since the launch of the registration campaign in Frances Baard, John Taolo Gaetsewe and some parts of Pixley Ka Seme Districts,” concluded Albanie
The Department further remind ex-mineworkers and potential applicants who missed the opportunity during the campaign to visit the Springbok Labour Centre for their applications. The Department of Labour reiterate that the above mentioned services are rendered free of charge and potential applicants and the general public must be wary of any information and always verify it by calling this number 0800 843 843.

http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/media-desk/media-statements/2018/labour-impressed-by-number-of-ex-mineworkers-registered-for-unclaimed-benefits-in-namakwa-district

2018-11-18

Transnet owes pensioners about R100bn

While the case has careened through the courts, the number of pensioners has declined from 80,000 to 50,000.

Transnet pensioners have fought a decade-long battle to get their former employer to cough up an estimated R100 billion in benefits as a result of a 1989 promise made in the dying years of apartheid as Transnet assumed the legal responsibilities of SA National Transport Services.
This staggering sum of money is sufficient to sink the economy should Transnet lose the case, says Advocate Anton Alberts, chairperson of the Freedom Front Plus, which has campaigned on behalf of pensioners. “Transnet is holding the country to ransom. If they lose this case, SA is finished. We will straight away be downgraded to junk.”
Not that Transnet would have to pay out R100 billion in one go. But it would have to fork out several billion rands a year to top up the pension funds, putting additional strain on its already tattered balance sheet.
While the case has careened through the courts, the number of pensioners has declined from 80,000 to 50,000. According to some estimates, they are dying off at the rate of 300 to 400 a month. The question some pensioners are asking is whether there will be any pensioners alive to witness the successful conclusion of the case.
The case originates with a promise made by management in 1989 to top up the pension funds by 70% of the rate of inflation plus 2% each year, as was the case in the years prior. This promise was upheld until 2003 when all but the 2% annual payments were stopped. With inflation running at about 6%, this meant pensioners’ benefits were sliding back at the rate of about 4% a year. The pensioners’ lawyers, based on 2013 figures, claimed 80% of pensioners were receiving less than R4,000 a month.
“Some pensioners have nothing left at the end of the month after paying their medical bills. Now it seems that Transnet is reneging on its responsibility,” says one of the pensioners, Nicky Oelofse.

Transnet has fought the case every inch of the way, first by contesting the right of pensioners to be recognised as a class of claimants with substantially similar arguments. The case has been mired in technical argument and exceptions raised by Transnet, all of which were struck down in the Constitutional Court in April. The ConCourt case dealt mainly with exceptions raised by Transnet, rather than the merits of the pensioners’ claims.
Time running out
Pensioners saw this as a major victory and it looked for a time as if they were close to settling the case a few months ago, as Transnet itself reported to Parliament. But this turned out to be false. This means the case must go back to the High Court for argument. This is likely to happen next year, by which time a few more thousand Transnet pensioners will likely have died.
In a recent update to Transnet pensioners, Alberts said negotiations with Transnet over a settlement had failed, and the case would now proceed to court: “I will also speak with (public enterprises) minister Pravin Gordhan to ascertain why Transnet did not heed his instructions to settle the matter on an equitable basis. It is clear that something is seriously wrong with the board of directors. If Transnet loses the court case they will cause harm to the country’s economy to the point of being downgraded to junk status. Minister Gordhan knows the country can’t survive such an event. Clearly, the board of directors is not acting in your or the country’s interest.
“We will now also have to look at other methods to increase pressure on Transnet. Now more than ever we must not lose faith, but make the pressure on Transnet unbearable.”
Lawyers for the pensioners proposed a settlement they believed was affordable to Transnet and would not place the company or the economy at risk. This involved:
  • A base uplift of approximately 42% for all pensioners
  • Annual increases of 70% of the consumer price index (CPI); the percentage increased on a yearly basis subject to affordability
  • A once-off bonus of R20 000
  • Transnet funding the shortfall by way of a ‘top-up’ annually for about nine years
  • The rules of the funds being amended to address not only governance issues but also the vexed 2% rule.
Alberts says the counter-offer from Transnet was virtually a non-offer. The only points where the two offers matched were the yearly increase of 70% of inflation and bonus payments.
One of the sticking points was the pension funds’ offer to use an R4.5 billion actuarial surplus to top up the fund. “That’s crazy,” says Alberts. “That surplus belongs to the pensioners, not to Transnet, and now the company wants to make a gift of something that does not belong to it.”
With that, negotiations broke down and the lawyers are back in the saddle.
An actuarial valuation in 1989 found that the affected funds were underfunded by R17.6 billion. The then National Party government acknowledged that the debt would have to be paid, but failed to act on this.
SA has a terrible history of corporate raids on pension funds, often by grabbing actuarial surpluses through devious means. Transnet’s pensioners claim with some justification that they are the ones left with the bill for years of abysmal management and corruption at the company.
Brought to you by Moneyweb

2018-11-06

SA’s twisted history of pension fund plunder

Two recent cases should be cause for worry.

South Africa has a grimy history of companies raiding their pension funds, and the fear is that two recent court cases, which found in favour of the pension fund trustees, will do little to curb the practice.
The first case, involving two pensioners against the Tongaat Hulett Pension Fund, wound its way through the lower courts to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), only to be defeated on what the vanquished pensioners regard as a poor understanding of the law by the judges. They were denied an opportunity for review at Constitutional Court (ConCourt).
The second case involved Rosemary Hunter, former deputy pension fund registrar at the Financial Services Board (now called the Financial Services Conduct Authority), against the FSB over its attempts to deregister funds that still had assets owing to former employees. She too lost her case in the ConCourt, principally on the basis that the court assumed the FSB had competent and responsible people running it, and had investigated a few funds (less than 20%) that had been deregistered as part of the FSB’s cancellations project.
Both cases ended up in defeat at the ConCourt, with no further avenues of legal redress available to the applicants. But the findings of the judges in favour of the pension fund trustees and regulator should be a cause for concern for employees, past and current, with claims to a share of actuarial surpluses or other assets sitting in pension funds of which they are members.
The Tongaat Hulett pensioners, in a recent missive to the 54 fellow pensioners that supported their legal fight, spell out several false or erroneous findings they believe were made by the judges who heard their case.
They claimed in their court papers that the trustees were able to deceive the courts by mislabelling R1.43 billion in contingency reserves as “excess assets”, a term not found in the Pension Funds Act. “Assets in contingency reserve accounts” – a term that is defined in the act – should be shared among the members when they are no longer needed to provide for contingent liabilities. It is at this point they become an actuarial surplus. The pensioners argued that by renaming these assets as something else, the trustees, who by law must balance the interests of employees and the company, were able to divert funds away from the members to the company.
The “excess assets” in the Tongaat case referred to the actuarial surplus plus reserves. The SCA was satisfied this was clear enough and “in order to ensure the continuing solvency of the fund, the employer had to carry the balance of the cost”. The decision to apportion these assets as it did was therefore reasonable, found the court. It was legal, said the court.
Letter of the law
But was it moral? Bruce Moor, one of the applicants in the case against the Tongaat Hulett Pension Fund, outlines what the loss of the case means in financial terms: of the R800 million “future actuarial surplus” in the fund at 2012 valuations, R107 million will go to the members and R693 million to the company. The pensioners had argued that a proper application of the intent of the law would probably have given them a 50:50 split, or R400 million. The actual fund rules allow for 80% of actuarial surpluses to go to members and 20% to the company, but by applying this to “excess assets”, the employer managed to grab three quarters of the actuarial surplus, says Moor.
The losers in this case must also pay legal costs of some R680 000 to the winners. The costs would have been about R500 000 higher had the pensioners’ lawyers not taken the last leg of the case on risk. In Rosemary Hunter’s case, she at least got off with no costs awarded against her, largely because she waged her fight in the public interest. However, she had to carry her own litigation costs, even though she did not stand to benefit financially from the court’s decision.
The prohibitive cost of fighting these cases against deep-pocketed adversaries will not be lost on others contemplating a similar legal challenge.
Before 2001, there was robust debate as to who owned surpluses accumulated in pension funds – the company or the beneficiaries. Many employers claimed these surpluses as their own, particularly in defined benefit or so-called balance of cost funds, since they could with some moral authority claim that they had carried all the risks. If the market went down, they still had to cover the fund’s liabilities. The law was sufficiently vague to encourage several employers to plunder their pension fund surplus assets without any legal sanction. Several billion rands worth of surpluses were snatched away from pensioners through this self-serving interpretation of the law.
Looting
In 2001 the law was changed to curb this looting by companies. The Pension Funds Act was amended to set rules for the allocation of surpluses. Where no fund rules on apportionment existed, it was up to the board to determine the split “taking into account the interests of all stakeholders in the funds”, with neither the employer nor the members having any right of veto on such decisions.
One way to get around this is to load the board with docile members, which is precisely what the Tongaat Hulett pensioners claim happened in their case, though this was refuted by the company (the SCA agreed, and found no proof of bias on the part of the pension fund board).
Another way to get around the law is to transfer members out of the fund at the lowest possible cost and then wind up the fund, grabbing whatever surpluses remain. This is also a way to circumvent the Pension Fund Act’s surplus allocation rules. This is what the Tongaat Hulett pensioners argued in their case. In Hunter’s case, the ‘grabbers’ were the fund administrators, who exploited the fact that the funds did not have trustees. The FSB was willing to give the administrators the power to decide what to do with the remaining assets, even if this was not necessarily in the interests of the members or beneficiaries.
The ConCourt’s decision to dismiss the appeal of the pensioners is disquieting in many respects. Cora Hoexter, a law professor at Wits University, writing in the Constitutional Court Review about Mark Shuttleworth’s attempts to challenge the R250 million in ‘fees’ deducted by the National Revenue Fund for transferring R2.5 billion of his wealth abroad, notes that only the wealthy are likely to lose sleep over the ConCourt’s decision to support this outrageous exit charge.
The Shuttleworth case was about the merits of exchange controls. In Shuttleworth’s case, the ConCourt “tolerated constitutional breaches that it had not hesitated to strike down in other contexts”, writes Hoexter. A billionaire emigrant was not the sort of applicant likely to elicit empathy from the court.
Pensioners and fund beneficiaries in these two cases may feel the same lack of love from the courts.
– Brought to you by Moneyweb
https://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/sas-twisted-history-of-pension-fund-plunder/

2018-11-01

Alexander Forbes feels fallout of ‘missing’ pension billions

When the Financial Services Board cancelled dormant retirement funds, it transferred beneficiaries’ money into ‘unclaimed benefit funds’. However, beneficiaries say it’s not unclaimed but unpaid




As Alexander Forbes accepted six boxes of documents from representatives of the Unpaid Benefits Campaign (UBC) last month, Douglas Maila shouted: "I have saved enough to retire peacefully. But now I will turn in my grave because I will die in poverty."
Maila is one of millions of beneficiaries — former retirement fund contributors or the dependants of deceased contributors — who have been struggling to get the money they saved for retirement through their working lives.
Between 2007 and 2013, the Financial Services Board (now the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, or FSCA) cancelled dormant retirement funds, transferring beneficiaries’ money — estimated by the FSCA to be R42bn and affecting 4-million beneficiaries — into "unclaimed benefit funds" administered by, among others, Alexander Forbes.

Maila and other members of the UBC dispute the "unclaimed" tag; they suggest these funds are simply "unpaid". So in mid-October, the campaign went to present the "untraceable" beneficiaries of "unclaimed" benefits to Alexander Forbes. The UBC gave the company 14 working days — a fortnight that ends tomorrow — to report on how far it has come in paying beneficiaries and reinstating cancelled funds.
The company promised to give a comprehensive report-back by tomorrow.
As the UBC and Alexander Forbes signed the memorandum, Maila said: "Please, people, change the way you are working. Bring our money before we die. I cannot rest in peace because you are holding my money."
And while ululations broke out when Alexander Forbes accepted the six boxes of claim forms and supporting documentation, not everyone shared the optimism.
After more than a decade of seeing such events take place, Bricks Mokolo, a paralegal at the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre, remains sceptical. "These companies don’t give out the money in numbers. They pay one person, you get optimistic, and then they keep quiet for [a] long [time]."
Mokolo, a former member of the cancelled Cape Gate and Mittal Steel provident funds, says he has been doing this work for 17 years. "We’ve been trying to speak to these companies, reaching out to the media to say we are there. When they came up with this notion of ‘unclaimed benefits’, we said: ‘Who is not claiming?’ Because we’ve been looking for our money. How can they keep our money under unclaimed benefits? It means that they are blaming us, saying we are not claiming."
Mokolo says claimants are "sick and tired of presenting memorandums that get thrown in dustbins". He says workers have even had to do the legwork in tracing who administers their benefits. They found the codes for their funds, and sought advice from the human rights advice office about what documents would be required to complete their applications.
"So we’ve brought everything with us. We are here to help them to speed up the release of the money. But then they [administrators] use little techniques: they tell you that they want a letter of authority, knowing very well that some people don’t even have assets. The only assets they have is the money that is sitting with [the administrators]," Mokolo says, explaining the stumbling blocks claimants often face. He says the biggest concern is that the money is earning returns while sitting with administrators, but benefits due to workers are slowly being depleted by administration and other fees.
One of the country’s benefits administrators, Fairheads Benefit Services, says getting money returned to the rightful owners is a huge problem.
Fairheads administers some unclaimed benefit funds it took over from Sygnia.
David Hurford, director of consulting and marketing at Fairheads, says the administrators and investment managers tasked with finding "missing" members often have no incentive to do so. "In fact, because they charge fees based on a percentage of assets, there is a disincentive to finding the members and paying out their benefits," he says.
Hurford suggests that a centralised administrator, with no links to companies administering the funds, could be less conflicted. If it could provide the tracing service in a "retail sense", through government agencies or other proper commercial arrangements, it could reach more people than retirement fund administrators do, as they generally deal with members through their employers.
Until such matters are resolved, the waiting will continue for groups like the UBC. While its protest at Alexander Forbes was attended only by former workers from the Vaal region, it is trying to pool resources with other outfits — including KwaZulu-Natal shack-dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, for example — to ensure greater representation when it next demonstrates about unpaid benefits.

https://www.businesslive.co.za/fm/features/2018-11-01-alexander-forbes-feels--fallout-of-missing-pension-billions/

2018-10-18

Protesters put Alexander Forbes under pressure to pay unclaimed benefits

The Unpaid Benefits Campaign has given pension fund administrator Alexander Forbes 14 days to act decisively on unpaid benefits it administers.
Alexander Forbes did not disclose the amount of unclaimed benefits in its books. But the industry watchdog, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), reported in September 2017 that there was more than  R42bn in unclaimed benefits in SA and about 4-million beneficiaries were affected.
Demonstrators who descended on the administrator's head office on Monday were from pension funds including those of Mittal and Telkom, as well as the Global Pension Fund. 
Carrying placards that read “Telkom is here” and “We demand our own money”, beneficiaries handed over six boxes full of application forms and supporting documents for Alexander Forbes to process. They also made the administrator sign a memorandum demanding among other things that Alexander Forbes report back within 14 days on how far it has come in paying beneficiaries and reinstating cancelled funds.
“In each form we have given you codes for the pension funds you are administering. You must respond according to those codes …. We have given you everything. We’ve attached ID copies, death certificates for the deceased, everything you need is there,” said Bricks Mokolo of the Orange Farm human rights advice office in handing over the boxes.
The demonstrators said there was no telling how things would turn out if they had to return. “We are here peacefully today,” said Mokolo. “But we aren’t looking for peace, we are looking for justice.”
The group said its next target would be Old Mutual. It would also deliver application forms and supporting documents to the insurer “to prove that the people they say are not claiming are claiming”.
Lucky Scotland of the Unpaid Benefits Campaign said there had been repeated attempts by former workers and their dependants to access their benefits from Alexander Forbes and accused the company of relinquishing its responsibility to pay by transferring workers' monies into unclaimed benefits funds.
“Stop cancelling funds of existing beneficiaries,” he pleaded.


Alexander Forbes is one of the administrators of the dormant retirement funds that were cancelled by the FSCA, previously known as the Financial Services Board, between January 2007 and December 2013. 
Accepting the memorandum, a representative of Alexander Forbes promised to give a comprehensive report to UBC in 14 days and to give individual feedback to all beneficiaries who submitted forms on Monday.
Alexander Forbes’s interim group CEO, Marilyn Ramplin, said the administrator has been engaging with the FSCA to help trace and compensate beneficiaries of unclaimed benefits. “Administrators provide the FSCA with quarterly reports of benefits paid and outstanding unclaimed benefits, which is available on the FSCA website,” she said.
Pressure  applied by the movement, which was created in early 2017 by former workers, community groups and a few NGOs, has led to at least one administrator, Liberty, committing to reinstate 130 of the cancelled funds it administers. The group demonstrated outside Liberty’s offices in August 2017. While only members from the Vaal region joined Monday’s demonstration, UBC said it was gathering resources to be able to transport Abahlali baseMjondolo  in its next demonstration.


https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/companies/financial-services/2018-10-18-protesters-put-alexander-forbes-under-pressure-to-pay-unclaimed-benefits/

2018-10-13

Liberty and the FCSA partner to educate communities on unclaimed benefits

CAPE TOWN – As part of the Money Smart Week South Africa (MSWSA) initiative Liberty Corporate is partnering with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FCSA) to educate communities on unclaimed benefits and heighten awareness around the importance of financial education.
Tiaan Kotze, Chief Executive of Liberty Corporate said: “Liberty believes passionately in the significant role financial education can play in uplifting people’s lives. We are proud to be part of this campaign in conjunction with the FCSA. We aim to empower communities through this campaign with financial knowledge and skills, particularly with respect to unclaimed benefits.”
Liberty is participating at events in Soweto, Alexandra and Mamelodi where they have teams on hand to assist the public in searching for their unclaimed benefits, as well as leading education sessions on how to prevent benefits becoming unclaimed.

"Any member of the community will have the opportunity to engage with the Liberty team and to search for their unclaimed benefits at the Liberty Corporate tables, as well as ask any questions on how to go about claiming their benefits", said Kotze. 


According to Kotze, the Money Smart Week South Africa 2018 (MSWSA) is an initiative championed by National Treasury and implemented through the FCSA to promote financial education amongst South Africans through a dedicated week of activities focused around key areas in Gauteng from 8 to 12 October 2018.
"Industry players were invited to participate and Liberty values the opportunity in order to assist the public in searching for their unclaimed benefits, as well as providing educational sessions on how to prevent benefits becoming unclaimed," said Kotze.
Unclaimed benefits, as defined by the Pension Fund Act, are benefits that have not been paid to members in more than two years following the termination of their employment from the sponsoring employer.
Liberty Corporate currently administers approximately 177,000 unpaid and unclaimed benefits with an asset value R1.8bn (of which 104,000 benefits with a value of R939m are in our Unclaimed Benefit Funds).
"We are in the process of tracing 96,000 of these members. As we make progress, we will extend our efforts to with the remaining members", said Kotze. 
This has been made possible through the significant increase in tracing activity and payment capability over the last 12 months, allowing us to pay out over R330m in unclaimed benefits in the first nine months of 2018.
When asked if the company plans on doing more of the programmes across  SA, Kotze said there is potential. 
"Liberty Corporate is investigating the possibility of participating in any future industry events in other regions, and will certainly support these opportunities as they arise," said Kotze. 
Here are three given by Kotze that you should consider when planning for your financial future:
  • Liberty Corporate believes that responsible employers provide employees with well-considered employee benefits such as retirement fund saving opportunities and death and disability benefits in order to assist employees to save from as soon as they commence working. 
  • Most people retire without sufficient savings to sustain their retirement.
  •  It is also important to consider protection against life events such as disability to ensure you do not burden your family and dependents.
https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/economy/liberty-and-the-fcsa-partner-to-educate-communities-on-unclaimed-benefits-17451368

2018-09-25

Frustration and tragedy haunts legacy of untraceable workers’ wasted benefits

Just three hours before the Constitutional Court ruled against activist Rosemary Hunter, saying that the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) was not obliged to do more investigation on the controversial funds cancellation project, Mapaseka Mabe reached out to the media to try to find her late father’s provident fund benefits.
"Hello, please I’m asking you to help me check my father’s provident fund. He is an ex-mine worker," Mabe wrote to Business Day on Thursday morning. The 27-year-old Free State-born woman said she has been trying to find her father’s provident fund benefits since 2013. Her father, who worked in two mines between 1987 and 1996, contributed R43.21 of his meagre R966 salary to a provident fund in 1995, his payslip shows. He died in 2016.
"But we never got anything since he stopped working in 1996. He died without getting anything," said Mabe.
Mabe is among millions of beneficiaries who are struggling to lay their hands on their family members’ work benefits.
While it is not clear what happened to her father’s benefits, in most cases funds beneficiaries are struggling to claim have been moved to unclaimed benefits funds. The FSCA reported in September 2017 that there was more than R42bn in unclaimed benefits in SA and that about 4 million beneficiaries were affected. The benefits are administered by several private and public funds, and not the FSCA. But the watchdog said it had been assisting people who didn’t know how to claim.
Treasury’s deputy director-general, Ismail Momoniat, says companies that administer unclaimed benefit funds are the ones responsible for finding the right beneficiaries. Treasury and the FSCA have been pushing to get the funds allocated.
"Those [unclaimed] funds are still with the companies that administered the cancelled funds. We can’t interfere in what they do with specific funds.
"But since [divisional executive of retirement funds, Olana] Makhubela’s been there, a lot of progress has been made," says Momoniat.
While he does not dispute the need to allocate unclaimed benefits to their owners, Momoniat says Hunter’s legal challenge unnecessarily held up Treasury’s attempts to push down costs in the retirement industry. By consolidating retirement funds to fewer but larger schemes, their economies of scale will hopefully reduce their administration cost significantly. "Forty percent of workers’ benefits is taken up by charges. If you don’t consolidate, you won’t bring down the charges."
In a statement sent on Monday, the Treasury said it was aiming to deregister genuinely inactive funds. In the FSCA case, some funds were cancelled with multimillion rand in assets and some even had active members. The Treasury said before proceeding with the consolidation, it will engage the FSCA to study the judgment in further detail as well as other key stakeholders to address concerns.


"Treasury believes that the majority and both minority judgments offer valuable insights and observations to inform improvements in the consolidation process," it said.
Desperation from beneficiaries has seen some fall prey to scams. In 2017 the FSCA warned the public about a company purporting to assist people to claim surplus benefits if they or their family members ever worked in the motor manufacturing industry.
ICTS Tracing Services is one of the legitimate tracking companies contracted by some of the administrators of unclaimed benefits funds. MD David Weil says there has been a concerted effort by most of the institutions involved to track beneficiaries, but tracking people using historical records can be a challenge. Workers’ names were misspelt; some had no ID numbers on file while there were instances where people were not registered by their own names at work.
"Fica [Financial Intelligence Centre Act] has made it easy to trace people in SA. I’d say about 60% of the people are traceable now. We trace about 6,000 to 10,000 beneficiaries a month. But obviously it depends on the data we are given. If we have an ID number or date of birth, the odds of tracing the beneficiary improve a lot."
Weil, however, says that tracing the beneficiary is only half the battle won. "The big challenge is in the rural areas. People don’t have an understanding of how to get the required information to us. Some don’t even bother. There’s a lot of mistrust because of the scam incidents. Sometimes the amount due to the beneficiary is too little they can’t be bothered to pay the tracing fees. There’s also the challenge of registering with Sars [SA Revenue Service]. Many of the beneficiaries have never had to register for tax in their lives."
Weil says beneficiaries outside of SA — mostly in Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland — are particularly difficult to trace.
Attempts to recover unclaimed benefits have led to the formation of a movement called the Unclaimed Benefits Campaign. Beneficiary Douglas Maila says many struggling people in the townships would be doing better in life if they got what was due to them.
"Around the township we’ve got children we call names like Nyaope. But those who didn’t pay death benefits to those poor kids and orphans created those nyaope kids," says Maila.
He says even if the FSCA did more probes into cancelled funds he has no confidence in that. "The FSCA is investigating itself. How can it expose itself?" says Maila.

https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2018-09-25-frustration-and-tragedy-haunts-legacy-of-untraceable-workers-wasted-benefits/

2018-09-11

Civil servants to sue state for pensions

One of the biggest class actions against the state pension fund will unfold later this month.
More than 80,000 former Transkei civil servants from Butterworth, Sterkspruit, Mthatha, Matatiele, Kwa Bhaca, Maluti, Mzimkhulu, Kokstad, Komani, Lusikisiki, Ntabankulu and Flagstaff are taking on the state over the way their pensions were transferred from the old SA fund to the new.
They are calling on all disgruntled pensioners to come forward so they can sue the Government Employment Pension Fund (GEPF).
The GEPF was started in 1996 but some civil servants say they has been paying towards their pensions since 1976 but their pensions were not integrated into the new system.
A committee formed by the pensioners has launched a case which will be argued in the North Gauteng high court on October 29.
One of the committee members, Thobile Ndabambi, said he had been working for the department of defence for 10 years but he was only paid out a pension for two years.
“There are many people who have been affected by this who have died due to stress-related conditions.
“It seems as if the government does not care about our plight.
“We are not asking for any favours, but we are simply asking the state to pay us what is due to us, money that we worked for,” Ndabambi said.
In their court papers, the group said GEPF was in breach of the civil servants’ constitutional rights.
The members, they say, sustained damages and suffered prejudice due to the governments mishandling of their exit from the Transkeian Government Service Pension Fund when they were incorporated into the GEPF.
Public service and administration minister Ayanda Dlodlo told journalists that, as of May, there were 44,190 cases of unclaimed and unpaid benefits.
The Government Pensions Administration Agency (GPAA), which is responsible for administering pensions on behalf of the GEPF, stated that it had 26,919 cases of unpaid benefits, amounting to R907.1m, and 17,271 cases of unclaimed benefits, valued at R698.9m.
GPAA spokesperson Mack Lewele said: “We are however unable to comment on the matter because it is before the courts.”

https://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2018-09-10-civil-servants-to-sue-state-for-pensions/

2018-08-18

Exclusive Exposé: ‘Businessmen’ make millions peddling empty promises and false hope

“Not one of the ‘beneficiaries’ I brought in has ever been paid. Yet, they were all told that they had unclaimed benefits in their name and they were all given a figure as to how much was available.”

The origin of Sean Westcott’s business can be traced back to Eldorado Park in Gauteng.
Similar to the legends of the mythical city of gold which enticed explorers for two centuries to partake in quests for untold riches… Rumours of guaranteed wealth have drawn crowds of people desperately searching for a way out of their financial difficulty to Donafin in Eldorado Park.
According to a client of Donafin, whose identity is known to the Vryheid Herald but cannot be published due to fear of intimidation, the business was started by Leon Lincoln who, in the beginning, worked from the garage of his Eldorado Park home.
“In 2013, the business was called BrownLinc. After a while the name changed to NewMindz and then to Donafin. It is still operating as Donafin in Eldorado Park but from different premises,” said the associate.
“I went there after hearing through word of mouth that they were able to trace unclaimed benefits. A close relative of mine had passed away and I wanted to know if there was a pension fund in her name. The yard was full of people.
“When it was my turn, they took my relative’s ID and death certificate and told me I needed to wait a few minutes while they did their search. A few minutes later, they called me and told me there was more than half a million rands in unclaimed benefits and they asked for R1 100 admin fee so that they can get the money paid into my bank account,” said a client of Donafin.
“I paid the admin fee and they told me the money would be in my bank account in six months.”
Two years later, this client of Donafin has not received the money that was promised.
“Leon approached a group of clients and recruited them as agents. He said that he was increasing his fee to R1 200 and would pay R200 for each new client introduced to the business. I brought in hundreds of new clients.
“Not one of the ‘beneficiaries’ I brought in has ever been paid. Yet, they were all told that they had unclaimed benefits in their name and they were all given a figure as to how much was available,” said an associate of Mr Lincoln’s. “These people are so angry and they want their money.”
One doubtful Eldorado Park client went to the FSCA for confirmation after she was told by Donafin that she had R190 000 in unclaimed benefits in her name.
She has provided the Vryheid Herald with documentary proof from the FSCA that indicates that she does not have a cent in unclaimed benefits to her name.
Residents of Eldorado Park said that Leon Lincoln has shamelessly flaunted his newfound wealth, buying flashy vehicles and investing in his home.


Sean Westcott was introduced to Leon’s Eldorado Park clients in June last year as the ‘paymaster’ from Cape Town who would ensure that all outstanding money would soon be paid out to Donafin’s increasingly disgruntled clients.
It wasn’t long thereafter, that Mr Westcott opened a Donafin branch in Vryheid. In June, two days prior to the Hawks raiding the Vryheid business, Donafin had changed its name to Tovasize, but continued to operate in exactly the same manner as before. Mr Westcott, however, rebuffed any further association to Donafin.
“No one in Eldorado Park is aware that Sean is now operating in Vryheid. He just seemed to have disappeared suddenly,” said another associate of Mr Lincoln’s.
A Vryheid couple has confirmed that Donafin in Vryheid (now Tovasize) operates in exactly the same manner as Donafin in Eldorado Park.
“We heard from friends of ours, that there was this tracing company in town that could track unpaid benefits and surplus funds in your name. I accompanied my husband there and they took his ID number and told us there was R294 000 in his name. We paid the R1 500 admin fee believing that we were going to get R294 000 back, but we still haven’t received any money. What makes us suspicious that this is a scam is the fact that the people before us and the people after us were also told they had unclaimed funds. How can everybody have unclaimed funds in their name?”


Hawks investigators have confirmed that a similar business has also opened in Nongoma, and they are looking into claims that one may be operating in Newcastle.
Anyone with further information is urged to contact Estella Naicker of the Vryheid Herald on 079 256 7570.

https://vryheidherald.co.za/78068/exclusive-expose-businessmen-make-millions-peddling-empty-promises-false-hope/

2018-08-07

Government pension fund has R1.6bn in unclaimed benefits

The government is urging former public servants and their beneficiaries who may be owed benefits by the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) to contact the fund.
The GEPF owes R1.6 billion in unpaid and unclaimed benefits. 
Last week, Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said that, as of May, there were 44 190 cases of unpaid and unclaimed benefits. 
The Government Pensions Administration Agency (GPAA), which is responsible for administering pensions on behalf of the GEPF, says it has 26 919 cases of unpaid benefits, amounting to R907.1 million, and 17 271 cases of unclaimed benefits, valued at R698.9m. 

Most of the unclaimed and unpaid benefits (R514.1m) are owed to the beneficiaries of people who used to work at national government level.
One of the reasons benefits have not been paid is the submission of documentation that contains incorrect information about the identities of beneficiaries, as well as incorrect tax and banking details.
Dlodlo called on all stakeholders, including government departments and trade unions, to notify public servants about their benefits and that they need to apply for them.
The GPAA says it plans to work with community workers to track down beneficiaries. It will also hire 20 full-time tracing agents and 10 external service providers to trace beneficiaries. Other intervention strategies, such as the deployment of mobile vans and national road shows, are being explored.
“The minister calls on family members or beneficiaries of deceased former public servants to contact the GEPF to ascertain whether they are entitled to any unclaimed pension benefits,” the department said.
Former public servants or their beneficiaries should visit their “closest regional walk-in centres of the GEPF in all nine provinces” to apply for their benefits.
Unpaid and unclaimed retirement fund benefits have been a problem for many years. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority estimates that more than R20bn is due to more than three million people.

https://www.iol.co.za/personal-finance/government-pension-fund-has-r16bn-in-unclaimed-benefits-16426523

2018-08-03

Liberty in shock admission it erred in deregistering 130 funds

Liberty’s admission that 130 pension and provident funds must be reinstated years after industry-wide cancellations of thousands of dormant funds could bolster a case before the Constitutional Court.
Speaking at Liberty’s interim results for the six months to June on Thursday, CEO David Munro said it had erred in deregistering 130 funds with about R100m in assets when it cancelled around 4,600 dormant funds about a decade ago.
This could affect up to 3,000 beneficiaries, said Tiaan Kotze, CEO of Liberty Corporate.
It had successfully reinstated 25 of these through a high court process and had recommenced payments. Liberty would look for ways to reinstate the remaining 105 funds more expeditiously, Munro said.
"There’s a lot of noise around this matter and we want to be clear that we take it very seriously. We are prepared to go back and look at our actions, and where we’ve made mistakes, to rectify them," Munro said.

Liberty, which found that funds needed to be reinstated following its own investigation, is the first retirement fund administrator to admit as much.
"I congratulate Liberty on making these disclosures and wish other fund managers would do the same," Rosemary Hunter, the previous deputy registrar for pension funds at the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, said.
She has argued that the cancellations project, in which the regulator approved the cancellation of nearly 7,000 pension funds from 2007 to 2013 on the grounds that they had ceased to exist because they no longer had properly constituted boards, was illegal.
After two high court rulings and the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissing her case against the regulator, Hunter approached the Constitutional Court. She is seeking an order that all the funds be investigated and is now awaiting judgment.
For Liberty, reinstating these funds represents an administrative expense at a time when the embattled insurer is trying to cut costs as part of a turnaround.
Separately, Liberty disclosed an amount of R2.2bn in unclaimed benefits, saying it was actively locating 75,000 of the 100,000 beneficiaries to whom this money was due.
Whatever resources were required to trace beneficiaries and reinstate wrongly cancelled funds would be made available, Munro said. Liberty had made "meaningful progress" on its turnaround, which involved simplifying its product set and internal structure.
For the six months to June, normalised operating earnings jumped 18% to R958m. While a considerable improvement on the six months to June 2017, this is still behind the R1.1bn posted for the six months to June 2016, signalling it still has some way to go to return to what chairman Jacko Maree has previously described as its "former glory".
It would be critical to better integrate with parent Standard Bank for distribution and customer data, as had been done with the short-term insurance joint venture, said Avior Capital Markets analyst Warwick Bam.
"As long as its core affluent consumer remains moribund and the competitive environment remains unrelenting, Liberty’s pursuit of sustainable growth will be a bit like trying to boil the ocean," said Justin Floor, a portfolio manager at Kagiso Asset Management.
https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/companies/financial-services/2018-08-03-liberty-in-shock-admission-it-erred-in-deregistering-130-funds/