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Consumer Affairs
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Time to reconcile

The Office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator (OPFA) says it is faced with a massive backlog of cases now in excess of 10 000 open files. Some cases dating back to four years ago. To get round this the PFA wants to introduce a ‘conciliation process’ in a bid to cut down on the time it takes to resolve cases.
The provisions of section 30E of the Pension Fund Act provide that “in order to achieve his or her  main object, the Adjudicator may require the complainant first to approach an organisation established for the purpose of resolving disputes in the pension funds industry or part thereof”.
In this light the Adjudicator wants to adopt a procedure of ‘conciliation’. Thus where in the opinion of the Adjudicator a matter is capable of speedier resolution or alternatively is of such a nature as to be better capable of resolution through negotiation as opposed to adjudication these matters will be referred to conciliation.
In order to facilitate this process the Office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator has drafted Conciliation Guidelines which lay down the principles and procedures that will govern the adopted process. The office is presently engaged in a process of consultation with various stakeholders in the pension funds industry asking for comment on the Draft Conciliation Guidelines before they are finalised. The conciliation guidelines provide for the following:
• The decision on which matters will be referred to conciliation will be that of the Adjudicator;
• matters will be referred to conciliation upon receipt of the complaint, prior to commencement of the investigation ;
• The conciliation process will be undertaken by independent third party conciliators appointed by the Adjudicator ;
• The proceedings are to be private and confidential;
• The Adjudicator will decide on the matters that have to be conciliated ;
• Conciliation proceedings will be undertaken in person or telephonically depending on the circumstances;
• There shall be no legal representation between the parties in order to ensure parity between the parties;
• Whereupon the parties reach settlement of their matters the written settlement agreement will become binding once it is signed by the Adjudicator, which will give it the status of Conciliation determination, with the same force and effect as any other determination by the Adjudicator.

At the time of writing we weren’t able to find out how far the PFA has got in putting this proposal into practice.
 

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:21.6 1st July, 2008
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