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NEASA hosted COIDA Panel Discussion

On 30 November 2021, NEASA hosted a panel discussion on the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) Amendment Bill, the rules issued in terms of the Act and matters incidental to the Compensation Fund. The panellists were the National Manager of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA), Mr Jaco Swart, Mr Tim Hughes, Spokesperson for the Injured Workers’ Action Group (IWAG) and Mr Fritz Lüttich, Managing Director of third-party administrator, Compsol.

The main points of discussion included the general dysfunctionality of the Fund throughout the years, the build-up to the COIDA Amendment Bill, the issuing of the two sets of rules to the COIDA and the combined campaigns against the rules by the respective stakeholder parties.

The backdrop and foundation of the discussion was the current and long-standing dysfunctionality at the Fund, which necessitated the development and existence of third-party administrators in the first instance.

Despite the false statements in an open letter by the Compensation Fund Commissioner on 29 November 2021, that “…the portrayal of the fund as dysfunctional could not be further from the truth”, the fact remains that the Fund has received more than 10 years of qualified audits from the Auditor-General.

To add to the depraved reputation of the Compensation Fund, Parliament’s public finance watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), has ordered the Minister of Employment and Labour to conduct a full-scale forensic investigation into the Fund, and furthermore, the Scopa chair, instructed the Minister to conduct a performance assessment on his Director-General, Thobile Lamati, and Compensation Fund Commissioner, Vuyo Mafata, to establish their respective fitness to hold office. This is clearly an indictment of the Fund’s capability to execute its mandate effectively and efficiently.

The Commissioner, in the same open letter, stated “… all I have heard and seen in articles has been the said organisation (IWAG) representing the interests of third parties, particularly the pre-funding administrators, with no mention of the plight of workers who are injured at work”.

In contradiction to this false accusation by the Commissioner, Mr Tim Hughes confirmed that the rights of and benefits to the injured workers is the most important element of the compensation value-chain. Mr Hughes, throughout the panel discussion emphasized that IWAG’s campaign against the prohibition of cession of medical claims by Medical Service Providers (MSPs) is precisely aimed at protecting injured workers, by ensuring that the MSPs do not, based on their objection against claiming from the dysfunctional Fund themselves (due to the complexity and non-functionality of the claiming processes, coupled with the average turnaround time of approximately a year), refuse the further treatment of injury-on-duty patients.

The Commissioner’s statement that “a well-functioning Compensation Fund will mean that pre-funding administrators, and by implication their lobbyist, will cease to exist. It is therefore not surprising that they have nothing positive to say about any changes the fund makes that are designed to serve its clients better”, borders on absurdity. Firstly, the proof of the Fund’s lack of functionality is abundant and overwhelming, whilst the lobbyist for the use and existence of pre-funding administrators, to the benefit of the entire value-chain, will never “cease to exist” as claimed by the Commissioner.

From his further statement about the “changes the fund makes”, it can be deduced that the Fund indeed intends on drastically changing the claims processes – by prohibiting cessions – unfortunately to the detriment of all interested parties in this industry.

From the panel discussion, it became clear that there was no rationale behind the Compensation Fund’s sidestepping and circumvention of the Parliamentary Committee’s decision to allow for the ceding of medical claims. Mr Lüttich confirmed that the Commissioner’s bad faith was evident when he signed the rules to the COIDA, effectively preventing third-party administrators from transacting with the Fund, prior to the amendment of the controversial clause 43(4) of the COIDA Amendment Bill by Parliament.

The Commissioner’s disregard for parliamentary processes, democracy, accountability and transparency, was clear from the fact that he signed the ‘new rules’ (which are exactly the same as the previous rules), on the same day he withdrew the ‘old rules’. The Commissioner knew full well that he is attempting to remove the function and role of third-party administrators with this rule, in contradiction to the COIDA Amendment Bill and Parliament’s decision.

The intent of the Compensation Fund behind their actions is unclear, as the Commissioner in both his open letter and during a meeting with the Minister of Employment and Labour and the stakeholders on 23 November 2021, repeatedly confirmed that “… the fund is not opposed to any healthcare provider using a third party to assist with the administration of its claims against the fund”, yet the wording of the rules to the COIDA causes the impossibility of the third-parties transacting with the Fund in any manner.

Mr Hughes indicated that he, to date, has not received any response from the Compensation Fund in respect of proposed dates for further meetings in this regard.

  • To view a recording of the panel discussion, click here.

Click here to access a soundbite by Rona Bekker, Senior Policy Advisor (NEASA).


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