File picture: Etienne Creux/Independent Media
Johannesburg- The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has lodged a complaint with the Public Protector's office against the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

Numsa wants the Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to investigate the extent of indebtedness of the RAF and how its debts impact on its ability to fulfil its core mandate, which is the payment of compensation for road accident victims.

In a statement on Tuesday, Numsa General-Secretary Irvin Jim said RAF was in a permanent crisis and had accumulated a huge debt in excess of R8 billion. The Sheriffs of the Court attached the RAF bank account earlier this year because it was in debt for R8.2 billion, which obstructed payments to the value of approximately R550 million to various stakeholders.

The attachment of the RAF bank account was later lifted and payments to claimants, service providers, stakeholders and caregivers resumed. It was also reported that the RAF receives more than 1 000 warrants of execution from sheriffs every month, that more than 3 000 warrants still queue for payment, and that it was common for the RAF assets to be attached, removed and sold.

Jim said RAF management was failing to pay suppliers on time, adding that the Fund had not found a system to timeously pay for legal fees which often results in its property being attached.

“This also results in staff not having chairs or computers to complete their work for long periods at a time. This has a massive impact on the victims, who are often poor and working class,” Jim said.

“The victims who have already suffered so much are done a disservice, and it’s a waste of taxpayers money.”

Jim said the RAF was also putting the privacy and confidentiality of millions of citizens at risk every time computers were attached and removed, a possible violation of the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPI Act).

He said Numsa had written to Mkhwebane to probe, among other issues, whether the RAF had not violated the PoPI Act and the steps taken to protect the private data contained within the computers which were attached.

Meanwhile, the RAF employees affiliated to Numsa continue their strike action in branches countrywide which started on Thursday. They are demanding wage hikes that they want to be backdated to 2015.

On Friday Numsa members took to the streets to air their grievances. They handed over a memorandum of demands to the Department of Transport in Pretoria. Jim said the RAF had shown no interest in negotiating and has not made any formal request to engage workers.

Last week, the RAF chief executive Eugene Watson said Numsa’s reasons for going on strike on over the implementation of “salary scales” were unreasonable and without merit.

Watson said Numsa believed that the RAF should pay employees “back pay” for the fact that the RAF did not update its salary scale in 2015, a demand that the RAF rejected as unreasonable because salary scale reviews did not obligate salary adjustments for employees.

RAF spokesperson Thandeka Ngwenya also said Numsa did not have any bargaining rights at the Fund as its membership was less than 1,000 members with employees paid an average salary of R350 000.