Teachers, cops milk their pension wallet

Image courtesy stock.xchnge

Image courtesy stock.xchnge

Thousands of anxious civil servants, mainly teachers, have resigned and cashed in their pensions, the Government Pensions Administration Agency (GPAA) said on Tuesday.

“It is evident through anecdotal evidence that, of all professions, teachers followed by members of the SA Police Service are the most affected and continue to resign because of the misinformation around pension reforms,” chief operating officer Jay Morar told reporters in Pretoria.

“I would like to urge the GEPF (Government Employees Pension Fund) members to stop resigning because they are afraid that they will lose their hard-earned money, especially their lump sum benefits.”

Morar said rumours were circulating that from March, members of the GEPF would no longer be entitled to a lump sum, as part of a proposed pension regime.

“Sadly, this state of affairs is still continuing unabated. I would like to take this opportunity once more to categorically dismiss this assertion as a total lie,” he said.

“Nothing is further from the truth. All members of the GEPF will still be entitled to a lump sum when they retire — no matter the date.”

He said the proposed pension reforms were aimed at harmonising pension funds and provident funds.

“I can confirm that national Treasury has decided to suspend the introduction of these pension reforms pending further discussions at Nedlac (National Economic Development and Labour Council),” said Morar.

“It is hoped that they might be re-introduced by March 2016, provided an arrangement is reached. Alternatively, the pension reforms will be introduced in March 2017.”

He said the Government Employees Pension Law of 1996 was not undergoing change. The retirement reforms would only affect provident funds regulated by the Financial Services Board through the Pension Funds Act.

Morar said the growing trend of resignations was observed from May to November.

“The trend continued to escalate until November last year when we had the largest volume of resignations that we have ever seen.

“The highest number of resignations were around 4600 in a particular month (November). That means we physically paid for 4600 resignations in a month,” said Morar.

Thousands of former civil servants have not claimed R456 million in pension money.

“We have approached the department of home affairs and credit bureaus to assist us in the tracing of the beneficiaries,” said Morar.

“In addition, we have embarked on a tracing initiative in which we have engaged the services of a tracing company. Through this company, we have managed to record modest success.”

In December, the uncollected benefits amounted to R456m, owed to 17,000 former civil servants.

Former provincial government department employees had not claimed R271m, while former national government department employees had R185m.

“There is a touching case of one gentleman, in township lingo called a ‘street kid’ or ‘hobo’. He was found living under a bridge in Soshanguve, Pretoria, unaware that he is the rightful beneficiary of several hundreds of thousands of rands worth of benefits,” said Morar.

“Subsequently, he was paid what is due to him, allowing him to return to the studies that he had been forced to abandon after the death of his mother.”

The GPAA is a government agency that reports to the finance minister. It is mandated to administer pensions on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund and national Treasury.

The agency’s financial affairs are governed by the Public Finance Management Act while its human resources arm falls under the ambit of the Public Service Act.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the GPAA received R52 billion in pension contributions from members and employers. In the same period, 62,771 benefits were paid to outgoing public servants.

Morar said on average the GPAA received 2239 resignations per month. It had processed an average of 749 deaths per month over the past seven years.


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