A Disturbing Month

I could not believe my eyes when I read the February 2008 magazine articles, press releases, letters to the authorities and believe it or not, even a SABC 3, “Special Assignment” program on 19 February 2008 about the failures of the Compensation Commissioner’s office.  To be honest, after the numerous complaints over the past few years it could have been expected but despite that, not the “aggressiveness” of the “onslaught”.

The critics
What has happened to bring about this wave of criticism? I don’t know, maybe it was the last straw.  There are so many issues at stake at the moment that I seriously doubt whether the office of the Compensation Commissioner, despite all the reassurances from the senior personnel, will be able to cope with the challenges posed.  Workers’ compensation, believe it or not, requires a vast spectrum of skills from the administrators of the COID Act.  You must have an extensive knowledge of law, medicine, human anatomy, financial skills and above all, management skills.  If not, you will struggle to cope with the adjudication of a claim.  Let me illustrate:
Someone is injured on duty and a claim with the medical reports and accounts are submitted to you as the claims officer:
• Is this an accident as defined in section 1 of the Act?
• Is there a causal connection between the accident and the medical condition? ;

Can the medication prescribed be associated with the nature of the injury?  If necessary consult MIMS;
• Are you satisfied that the medication and medical procedures are in line with what the office is paying for; etc.

Lets then proceed with a few of the complaints and the insinuations levelled at the Department of Labour:

  • In the February 2008 edition of “Noseweek” a case study of how unsettled claims are handled by the Compensation Commissioner is published.  Without bothering you with the details, the publication after involving the Western Cape Commissioner Thozama Ngonyana, could only arrange that 5,25% of doctor’s unsettled claims were paid. (Page 26).  The “Noseweek”, on behalf of the doctors then asks the (very valid) question as to how a company that collects medical costs on behalf of the suppliers can be so successful and can deliver without delay.  Serious questions about this whole situation are at the moment being asked throughout the industry;
  • The next complainant is the Democratic Alliance (DA) with a lengthy press release dated 5 February 2008.  Just to summarise will disqualify me from getting this onto the internet, so let me just have a few words about this release.  You can read it if you are serious about the service. The conclusion of the document is sufficient to reflect the content of the document.  Amongst others they make their intent clear as far as the following is concerned:
    • They have written to the Minister of Labour, copy also available on the internet;
    • A letter to the Public Protector
    • Pose questions to Parliament;
    • Request the Portfolio Committee to summons the Compensation Commissioner (why not the Director General who is according the COID Act the accounting officer?) to explain the non-delivery.

These are then just three of several articles that have recently appeared in the press and discussion programmes on TV. 

And a special message here to the SABC: when you again feature the Compensation Fund on Special Assignment (previously in March 2003) please refer back to your earlier articles and try to improve on them.  I would imagine that viewers want to know less about the technicalities and banal excuses for long delays in the payment of accounts and the repudiation of medical accounts and more about what management actually DO at the Fund to sort out its problems.
In the meantime, we have to settle for promises from a participant to make a difference wherever he is present.  (Let us hope that will happen.)
A reformer conference as I have suggested in January 2008?  I hope it is not too late.
A very concerned friend till next time.

Till next time.