Dept looking at ways to improve Compensation Fund

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cape Town - The Department of Labour is probing the workings of the Compensation Fund to identify challenges and improve the functioning of the fund, the Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Monday.

The department administers the Compensation Fund (CF), which compensates workers who are victims of occupational disability, occupational disease and fatal work incidents.

In written replies to questions from opposition parties on the Compensation Fund, Oliphant said no formal investigation into the Compensation Fund had been launched, but that the department was looking at the functioning of the fund with the idea of making improvements.

Meanwhile, the fund's services are being decentralised to provinces and road shows are in progress to brief stakeholders, she said.

A new information technology (IT) system had also been deployed by an IT partner for the claims and finance environments, she said, adding that initial systems problems were, however, being experienced.

"These are being addressed with the service provider, and electronic information submission is being reviewed with other stakeholders," she said,

The department had held a briefing session recently with the South African Medical Association as well as follow up sessions with medical interconnect service providers.

Oliphant said a project was also underway to recover the fund's shortfall of nearly R1 billion in compensation paid out to injured workers in the 2010/11 financial year.

Another member of the opposition asked whether the minister had been informed about the growing number of legitimate claims that had been submitted to the compensation commissioner, but were being turned down because the medical chief would often formulate a medical opinion that differed from the opinion of private medical personnel.

In a written reply, Oliphant said her department had received no information relating to the chief medical officer of the fund acting against or not in accordance with the diagnosis of the private medical practitioners.

"The Compensation Fund adjudicates all claims for injuries and diseases based on medical evidence and reports from the treating doctor.

"In order for an investigation to be initiated, there would need to be substantive basis or evidence. If such were to be provided, I would not hesitate to follow up on this and identify the causes and take the necessary actions to address the situation," she said.

Compensation claims submitted to the fund are processed within two months, depending on whether all information has been provided and the complexity of the claim, she said.

Employers are obliged to report an accident within seven days of the accident in the working environment.