Please Do Not Shoot The Messenger!!!

The Messenger

In classics times, messages were delivered in person by someone entrusted with the duty. The messenger, not covered by the modern labour law, was in many cases killed by the receiver of the message simply because of the anger that the content of the message provoked.  Sophocles, not a politician in the RSA, sympathised and said at one stage, if the classics can be believed: “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news” Shakespeare in King Henry the Fifth agreed with this sentiment.

The Minister of Labour’s Message

“In a bold move aimed at putting the Compensation Fund (CF) back on track, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana has once again announced a major restructuring of the Fund, which will include among other things an appointment of the new Commissioner. In his last weeks response from the DA’s request that an investigation into the Fund’s inefficiencies should be conducted, the Minister pointed out that DA’s request was outdated in the sense that the Department had already instituted its own probe more than a year ago. The process resulted in the firing of Commissioner Bongiwe Magojo, and that her matter was still in the hands of the Scorpions for further investigation. The Compensation Fund acknowledges that it is experiencing operational challenges due to disparate operational systems, which should be improved. The Fund has so far embarked on numerous strategies to deal with the backlog it currently experiences and this is beginning to bear results he said.  The Fund received almost 1 084 668 claims since 2000. During the financial years 2004/05 and 2005/06, the number of finalized compensation claims has gone up tremendously. Of the claims reported between 2000 and 2003 a total of 485 722 claims were finalised as compared to 218 575 of the claims reported between 2004 and 2005. The Minister said these were achieved as a result of short-term interventions like increasing the staff complement by appointing contract workers and training them to process claims. Dedicated teams dealing with backlog claims, medical professionals were appointed to assist in giving medical advice; these include appointment of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and an orthotist (sic). The capacity at the provincial offices was strengthened by the appointment of additional staff. The provinces are assisting the clients at the point of entry, train them and collect outstanding information so that only complete claims, which are ready for payment, are sent to head office.

“The management reforms and restructuring of the CF will result in improved operational efficiency and service delivery. The reforms will be aimed at re-focusing the Compensation Fund and improving its service delivery capacity. Streamlining our Business Processes and Improved Claims Management systems to improve operational efficiency is part of the process, he said. Improved access to the Compensation Fund services, which will include decentralisation of services to labour centres and provincial offices, and electronic document submission, is another key intervention. In essence, the Compensation Fund acknowledges its problems and is working hard to overcome them. Improved service delivery and client satisfaction are of utmost importance and everything will be done to ensure that we are in line with the Batho Pele Principles, he said. While the DA may be thinking that they have discovered a secret, we realised this a long time ago and put in place mechanisms to correct the situation. For now I can only advise the DA to hold its horses and watch the space, he said.”  Minister of Labour: 12 April 2006 

Released by the Department of Labour on 09 May 2005

A general lack of awareness on the works of the upgraded and modernised Compensation Fund (CF) is undermining its much improved service delivery. This emerged at a meeting Labour Minister, Membathisi Mdladlana held with Limpopo officials yesterday as part of his weeklong Imbizo tour of the Province where he is inspecting various job creation and poverty alleviation projects. At the gathering attended by the Department’s senior officials, Minister Mdladlana heard how the new decentralised system consisting of the latest technology, have effectively replaced the largely moribund and outdated file system that was inherited from the previous government. The system however continues to be under-utilised due to public ignorance. Despite the fact that the decentralised CF has been capacitated to receive and help fast-track applications from any office countrywide, not only workers, but also their employers and service providers such as medical practitioners and pharmacist are still largely unaware of this.

Released by the Department of Labour on 22 September 2006

In an effort to drastically reduce payment backlogs, the Compensation Fund will on Tuesday (Sept 26) launch a four-day “Services Imbizo” in the Free State. The gathering at the Labour Department’s Provincial Office in Bloemfontein forms part of the Department’s national endeavour to ease backlogs on reimbursement of medical and other service providers. The reality of the backlogs at the Compensation Fund has led to client dissatisfaction with the service, resulting in some medical providers refusing to treat COIDA patients. This necessitated this major effort to quicken the provision of service delivery and to wipe out the backlogs.

Beeld:  9 September 2008

“Auditor-General issues a disclaimer audit report. Ms Dreyer, DA, says that this report confirms what they have known for years.”

The Political Scapegoat

“Parliament has accused Siemens IT Solutions and Services (SISS) of delivering “a less than excellent product” in its R1.7 billion contract with the Department of Labour (DOL)1

“Yesterday, Workers Compensation Fund commissioner Shadrack Mkhonto told Parliament’s labour committee that the Siemens system is so flawed that it “cannot possibly account for each claim in the system and it cannot tell us the status of that claim”.

“Mkhonto also told the portfolio committee that the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that hospitals no longer accept patients that rely on the compensation fund to pay their medical bills.

“Democratic Alliance MP Ian Ollis says this means that workers injured on site would not be able to receive prompt payment on a filed claim against the fund, as they are legally entitled to.

“A press release issued by Siemens in March describes the DOL contract as “…the only ICT public-private partnership in SA; Siemens IT Solutions and Services and the DOL have become trendsetters for other government agencies and ICT vendors”.

“It says the two organisations signed a 10-year contract, valued at R1.7 billion, in 2002. “Now, more than halfway through the tenure, all systems are on track to deliver on the Department of Labour’s IT objectives, as set out in the agreement.”

“However, Ollis is unimpressed. “The problems are that the deal was negotiated very badly [and], with the DOL now being unable to change it, the department did not keep proper oversight of the software implementation, and Siemens has delivered a less than excellent product.

“What makes it so much worse is that the department has entered into a R1.7 billion contract with Siemens to have the required software – but that money appears to have either been misspent, or the department has failed to implement the system adequately,” Ollis said.

“Newly-appointed Labour Director-General Jimmy Manyi respond by saying that the apparent failure on the part of Siemens to meet all of its commitments means other entities within the DOL are also not meeting their administrative requirements, such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

The Final Scene

SCOPA blames the Compensation Commissioner personally for the latest disclaimer audit report, the worst rating possible and the 4th one, 4 years in a row.  Even the SCOPA ANC member Mr Roy Ainslee points out that any evaluation of the performance strategy propagated is impossible.

The Result?

The talkative politicians and press releasing (sic) officials saved me a lot of time compiling a column this month.  Just a word of caution; do not watch this space, rather watch outer space; you might then just know what is about to hit you before it does.

Till next time.

1 Paul Vecchiatto dated 22 October 2009 on website ITWeb