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PUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
23 September 2003
ROAD ACCIDENT FUND COMMISSION REPORT 2002: FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE INTERDEPARTMENTAL COMMITTEE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT
Chairperson: Ms P C P Majodina (A N C)
Documents handed out:
Position on the Road Accident Fund Commission Report by the Inter-departmental Committee on the Road Accident Fund Commission Report - 4 April 2003
Inter-Departmental Committee Report on the Road Accident Fund Commission
The position taken by the Interdepartmental Committee on the recommendations and proposals contained in the Road Accident Fund Commission Report (the Satchwell Report) was set out. Of the 179 recommendations in the Report, all but nine were supported by the Inter-Departmental Committee. The road forward was suggested in the shape of eight recommendations to Cabinet. The Committee was enthusiastically supportive of the recommendations and proposals, and suggested some improvements for consideration.
The Chair referred to the present situation regarding the provisions for road accident victims as a "mess". She reminded the Committee members that Judge Satchwell, who led the RAF Commission Report 2002, had previously taken them through the Report. The Department of Transport's response to the Report was going to be presented. She referred to the adverse consequences of the present system of lump sum payments, and the slow response of the RAF to claims.She was pleased that the Committee had been taken on board in the process.
Mr Gerrie Botha (Department of Transport: Acting General Manager Land Transport Regulations) presented a summary of the Department's response to the findings and recommendations of the Satchwell Commission. The RAF Commission Report made 179 recommendations for the reform of the current road accident compensation system.
The Interdepartmental Committee tested these against the requirements for a reasonable, equitable, affordable and sustainable system of payment. The major recommendations of the IDC-RAFC (Inter-Departmental Committee on the Road Accident Fund Commission) were summarised:
-a shift from a legal to a medical basis, from a Road Accident Fund (RAF) to a Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS);
-a shift from a "fault" to a "no-fault" basis;
-compensation by a pension payment through the existing social security system, in lieu of a lump sum;
-exclusion of claims for trauma by persons not involved in the accident;
-limitation of claims by non-residents of South Africa;
-the setting off of benefits from any other social security scheme;
-exemption from income tax for periodic payments;
-introduction of mediation and arbitration in lieu of litigation;
-application of the UPFS tariff to medical expenses claimed;
-a fixed amount for funeral benefits; and
repeal of the Financial Supervision of the RAF Act, No 8 of 1993.
Recommendations of the RAF Commission were categorised into Schedules 1 to 4 according to projected duration of implementation (shorter or longer than 18 months) and whether or not legislation was required, and Schedule 5 for recommendations not supported. Only nine of the 179 recommendations were not fully supported.
Mr Botha said that during the last financial year the RAF paid R350 million to visitors from overseas, of which R60 million went to two Belgian students. Eight recommendations to Cabinet, predominantly procedural, were made.
The Chair enquired if claims could be made for injury caused by a negligent own driver, in a case where an object and not a car was hit. Was an emergency relief grant was possible while waiting, sometimes for years, for compensation to be paid? Accidents were also due to poor infrastructure, such as pot-holes, narrow and non-surfaced (gravel) roads. She queried the flat rate of R 15 000,00 for funeral expenses. The fact that at present lawyers tended to take most of the compensation money, was regrettable.
Rev M Chabaku (ANC) proposed that, to eliminate the consultants who pocketed so much of the payments, hospitals and clinics could be used as conveniently situated contact points for submitting claims. She expressed reservations about the proposed exclusion of claims for trauma.
Mr Humphrey Kgomongwe (Chief Executive Officer, RAF) explained that at present the law required a second vehicle to be involved, but that the new system would change that.
The expected cost of the proposed no-fault system was not quantified in the Satchwell report.
Medical bills would be paid directly and interim payments could be considered, to help people survive. The amount of R 15 000,00 for funeral costs was just an estimate and could still be adjusted. Their aim was to encourage direct claiming and for that they required offices within walking distance. They were negotiating with the Post Office who ran 2 000 offices country-wide, and also tried to encourage a culture of banking.
Another possibility was using the constituency offices of members of parliament. Sattellite offices could be electronically linked to branch offices. All of this could help save the R 700 million of legal fees annually paid out.
Claiming for trauma was open to abuse. In one instance the appeal court ordered that R 1,6 million be paid for alleged trauma to a witness of her boyfriend's accident.
Mr M A Sulliman (ANC) enquired whether provision was made for the partner in a gay couple.
Mr Kgomongwe explained that, if the bread-winner in a gay couple was affected, claims would be valid.
Mr V V Windvoël (ANC) was concerned that the recommendations were advocating biting off more than could be chewed and not be sustainable, and recommended an integrated approach. He agreed that entertaining claims for emotional shock invited exploitation.
Rev Chabaku could not fault the presentation, but enquired about a few practical matters.
Should children be counted when there was an issue of overloading beyond the taxi limitation, could even one child overload sink the compensation claim?
What consideration was there in case of an accident involving trucks transporting large numbers of people, often having to stand, and where there was no other means of transport?
Why could the excellent radio programmes advocating road safety not be received in the Cape Town area while one could tune in even on the BBC?
She suggested that, in the interest of taxi passengers, the registration number and name of the driver be displayed inside the taxi.
The Chair emphasized that the Committee was impatient that the required legislation be finalized so that the proposed amendments could be implemented.
Constituency offices were parliamentary offices and were available.
Mr Kgomongwe supported redistribution of funding to more actual claimants by reducing the opportunities for hangers-on to enrich themselves.
His understanding was that all passengers (not the driver) were covered up to a limit of R25 000,00. There was the case in Limpopo province where 53 passengers on a truck died and many more were badly injured, upon which the RAF promptly buried the dead and treated the injured at its expense.
The educational departments of the SABC radio were making progress in educating for road safety and giving information on the RAF.
Simplified claim forms were being prepared, with an explanatory booklet, similar to those of the SA Revenue Service.
The Chair asked whether the language could be simplified and also in other languages but English.
Mr Kgomongwe stated that the information was available in all the official languages, but not the claims form.
The Chair cited the frequent disappointing response to claimants' enquiries being that their file was closed, in other words rejected.
Mr Kgomongwe replied that there were four grounds for rejection:
-The claimant was 100% to blame for the accident; or
-The claimant was alone in the vehicle and there was no other vehicle
-Three years had expired after the accident occurred before the claim was lodged; or
-Important details were incorrect, e.g. an invalid ID.
The Chair stressed the importance of conducting road shows for community awareness.
Mr Windvoël asked what the situation was if a passenger fell from a donkey-cart and got injured.
The Chair asked whether there was an age limit for claims.
Mr Kgomongwe said that a passenger on a donkey cart could not claim unless there was a fuel-driven vehicle involved.
A problem area emerged where vehicles were gas-driven, and therefore did not pay the fuel levy, were involved in accidents.
Timeous consultation would commence so that forward progress could be maintained.
Mr Botha declared that they were drawing up a passenger rights charter as part of their road safety strategy, and that they would incorporate the proposal for giving of information inside taxis for the benefit of passengers.
The 2002 bus accident near Piet Retief was caused not only by the negligence of the driver, but also by the slippery condition of the road, and the inadequate signage. This points to the fact that the road authority was at least partly to blame.
The Department of Transport and the RAF had to work closely together to combat the occurrence of road accidents.
The Chair asked for the Committee to be included as the process unfolded..
The meeting was adjourned.
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