Pretoria - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has asked the Financial Services Ombud Schemes (FSOS) Council to ensure that it operates efficiently and effectively, and that all rulings by financial services ombuds are free of interference by interested parties.
Gordhan re-appointed the members of the FSOS Council for a further three years, from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2014. Members of the Council are Professor Tanya Ann Woker (Chairperson), Professor Farouk Hajee Ismail Cassim (Deputy Chairperson), Professor Angela Itzikowitz, Matome Franz Mabelebele, Phillip Gcinile Qokweni and Advocate Neville John Mellville.
The Council is responsible for overseeing South Africa's financial services ombud schemes.
He told members of the Council to consider and grant, or refuse an application for the recognition of an ombud scheme, monitor compliance with the FSOS Act and promote best practices for resolving complaints by recognised schemes.
Noting recent press reports, Gordhan said Treasury had requested the Council to urgently review the governance arrangement with respect to the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance (OSTI) Board.
The request follows meetings held by the Treasury with the OSTI Board on 30 January 2012 and a separate meeting with the former OSTI ombud on 2 February 2012 to discuss allegations of inappropriate interference over rulings made by the former ombud, and to ensure that the process for re-appointing the ombud was free of interference or pressure resulting from unpopular rulings.
In a statement, Treasury said it was important to clarify any negative perceptions as soon as possible, adding that all parties involved with OSTI also agreed that it was critical that the integrity of OSTI be protected at all times. Treasury said it would await the findings of the FSOS Council, which should be completed within 60 days.
"The Treasury believes that in making rulings, all financial sector ombuds must operate independently, fairly and free of interference by the boards of ombud schemes, industry or consumers and with secure and unconditional funding," it said.
Treasury has also established a task team to review the ombuds structure in South Africa in order to strengthen consumer protection and recourse mechanisms.