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Tribunal decisions – Detailed information critical for proper outcome

Since April 2018, the FSR Act includes the Pension Funds Adjudicator (PFA) as a “decision-maker” and is therefore in a position to entertain appeals against determinations handed down by the PFA.

In one of the latest cases an aggrieved Mr N (Applicant) approached the Tribunal for the reconsideration of a PFA determination on the allocation of a death benefit following the death of his father.

Reason for filing the case

The Applicant is the son of the late Mr M, a contributing member to the Retirement Fund
The Fund awarded him 0% of the death benefit
The applicant filed a complaint with PFA, who ruled in favour of the fund
As a result he submitted a request for reconsideration to the Tribunal

The Fund’s decision

According to the fund there was no evidence before its claims sub-committee to show that the Applicant was financially dependent on the deceased. The Applicant also did not provide information requested and as a result the fund was required to take a decision in terms of section 37C of the Act.

Outcome from the PFA

The Adjudicator correctly stated that “the issue that falls for determination by this Tribunal is whether the respondent conducted a proper investigation in terms of section 37C of the Act and made an equitable allocation of the death benefit’.”

The Tribunal agreed that the crucial issue to determine was whether there were proper investigations conducted prior to the claims sub-committee taking a decision on the allocation of the benefit. Moreover, was the said information properly placed before the sub-committee and subsequently before the Adjudicator to determine whether the decision taken was a reasonable decision?

The PFA’s decision was based on the outcome of the Fund’s investigation. The Fund submitted that its decision was proper. It contended that the Applicant was given forms to complete setting out his financial situation, level of financial dependency on the deceased, relationship with the deceased and other reasons why he feels he is entitled to a share of the funds. The applicant omitted most of this information, and only signed the form. It appears that the Applicant’s main grounds for the claim were that “…the deceased is my biological father and I have a right to be compensated”.

The Tribunal’s decision

The Fund argued that it could not investigate or take into consideration information it was never made aware of. To sustain such an argument, firstly the Fund must furnish all the information disclosed before it.

The Tribunal was not provided with all the alleged information which the Fund’s claims sub-committee considered prior to taking a decision to distribute the death benefit. It was conceded by the fund that it was also not placed before the Pension Fund Adjudicator.

It is the duty of the party to produce and place documents before a deciding Tribunal if that party will rely on such documents. As a result, the Tribunal referred the matter back to the Fund for proper investigation.

Click here to download the Tribunal case.

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