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Beneficiaries of pension fund benefits cannot complain about payment delays after refusing to co-operate and failing to provide details of other potential dependants of a deceased retirement fund member. This warning comes from acting Pension Funds Adjudicator Elmarie de la Rey, who has chided all the parties to a complaint about the slow payment of a death benefit.
Mrs NQ Ludidi, of Plessislaer in KwaZulu-Natal, complained to the adjudicator that the Compass Group Southern Africa Provident Fund and administrators NMG Consultants & Actuaries had delayed paying her a death benefit following the death in August 2007 of her mother, Mrs TM Mntambo, a member of the Compass fund, who left R82 624 for distribution to beneficiaries.
Ludidi said her mother had, before her death, nominated her as a beneficiary for the death benefit.
NMG Consultants, on behalf of Compass, said an investigation into Mntambo’s beneficiaries had established there were other potential beneficiaries who might qualify as dependants.
NMG said the fund trustees had been unable to distribute the death benefit because the complainant had failed to provide all the relevant information necessary to establish who qualified as dependants.
In her ruling, De la Rey says although potential beneficiaries should co-operate with the fund during the investigation, the duty to trace and identify dependants rests with the fund. The fund should take all reasonable steps to identify the dependants.
It was the trustees’ responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation to determine the beneficiaries and then to decide on an equitable distribution of the death benefits, De la Rey says.
She found it unacceptable that the trustee had not made a decision regarding the distribution of the death benefit, particularly because the fund’s own investigation could have obtained the information it required independently of the complainant.
De la Rey found that both the fund and the complainant were responsible for the long delay in finalising the distribution of the death benefit.
She ordered the fund to take all reasonable steps to obtain the outstanding information from potential beneficiaries and to make a decision on the distribution of the death benefit within 45 days.