How Not To Save Money

The Common Law (the unwritten law) governing various aspects of our daily lives has over the years been replaced by legislation, all in the name of the so-called fundamental rights of the individual for whom the law through statute is created, in some cases the replacement is in toto, in some only partly. The fact that the statute is introduced by politicians through Parliament means that the sovereignty of the State is regarded as holy and that the fundamental rights should be altered to suit someone; the arguments to motivate the change are usually that it is for the good of the person affected. In many instances this was in fact true, wholly or partly.
It is, however, not always understood that the transition from Common to Statutory Law means greater State intervention. Although the degree of intervention might differ it will be there. State intervention means greater control for the State, period. You see my friends, under Common Law it is often a matter between two parties to legally sort out without State interference.  Let us take workers’ compensation as an example. It was, before any legislation was introduced, a matter between the injured and the employer to sort out the damages if any was payable to the injured. For good reasons, which I cannot discuss now, legislation became a reality and the State took control. The principle was sound as long as there was a fine balance between the two legal principles explained above. Whether it was and still is, is not relevant at this stage. Debates about that topic have been raging for decades and will always be with us, so let us leave that for the moment. What is relevant is that I detect disturbing trends in state administration. What I now observe are:

  • incompetent and plain bad management;
  • fraud and greed on a large scale;
  • warped political priorities negating the purpose of the legislation; 

Consequently, the administration of the various Statutory Funds is becoming increasingly expensive. The result of this is that the levies/assessments/licenses or whatever it is called, are on the increase and not exclusively due to the unhealthy prevailing economic situation. In some cases the increases were introduced regularly over a number of years without solving the problem. The funds available are of no concern if you cannot manage it. A classical example is the new legislation introduced to amend the Road Accident Fund (RAF) benefits payable to victims of accidents. Should you want to read a summary of this saga refer to the Law Society of South Africa’s (LSSA) press release dated 26 February 2009. I will quote just a few lines to motivate the fears that I have expressed above
“The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) today issued court papers to be served on the Minister of Transport and the Road Accident Fund (RAF), challenging the constitutionality and legality of the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act 19 of 2005 and some of the regulations which came into effect in August 2008.”
Then after a background supplied, the following which makes me wonder whether I am alone in my doubts:
“The LSSA contends that the Amendment Act promulgated by the Minister will have the effect of

  • denying the many badly injured road victims of compensation from the RAF; and
  • entitling those who are able to claim less compensation and lower levels of medical and hospital treatment than under the previous Act; while at the same time depriving them of their fundamental common-law rights to claim compensation for substantial damages now no longer covered by the Act from the wrongdoer.

The Amendment Act abolishes victims’ common-law rights while at the same time reducing their compensation. This unreasonable and irrationally (sic) deprives victims of their right to obtain effective relief and violates section 38 of the Constitution”
The accusations levelled at legal practitioners over the years of being greedy and “overcharging” clients when litigating on their behalf, might be true, I have only read what you have. But who will now be punished for the State’s inefficiency and legal profession’s greed? You have guessed it, it will be the man of straw namely the poor victim. After all holy cows always tend to go free. It would appear that this “bold’ move of Parliament will serve a dual purpose; get the legal profession out of the way and secondly it might (I said might) result in lower increases in the petrol levies. More money to fund the function of the Act (with the incidental perks).
So now you will know what is bothering me and what is meant by a fine balance between common law rights and State intervention. The danger from disturbing the balance is always there.
Which Fund will be next in line for a cut back in order to hide inefficient financial administration and corruption? Your guess is as good as mine. I just pray that the same fate will not visit the COID Act Fund in years to come.

Till next month when I tell you how to promote medical cost inflation.