Much-needed millions remain unclaimed in government pension fund
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Like many other pension funds in the industry, the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) grapples with unclaimed pension benefits in its coffers, some dating back to the 1990s and 1980s. Over 20 000 former government employees or beneficiaries of those employees have not claimed their pension benefits for varying reasons.
The GEPF is Africa’s largest pension fund. It has more than 1.2 million active members, in excess of 450 000 pensioners and beneficiaries, and assets worth more than R1.61 trillion.
Unclaimed benefits are defined as benefits that have been unpaid for longer than 24 months after the exit date, where the mode of exit is known. It is either the exit documents were submitted but payment could not be effected due to various reasons or the member and employer department stopped contributing to the GEPF and no claim to request the processing of the pension benefit was submitted.
According to the latest figures, unclaimed benefits in the fund total almost R760 million.
Eligible claimants for these unclaimed benefits range from retired GEPF members (employees who exited the public service system without claiming) to beneficiaries of GEPF members who are no longer in service or are deceased. In the light of South Africa’s unemployment rate which ranks amongst the highest in the world, and a significant number of people living under the poverty line, monies such as these would surely alleviate the scourge of poverty in our communities across the country.
Eligible claimants are invited to come forward. The beneficiaries, for example, could use the money to go to school, while claimants could start small businesses thus creating much-needed employment – especially for young people of South Africa.
What are some of the common reasons for benefits becoming listed as unclaimed?
- The member’s exit documents forms, known as Z102 forms, submitted when a member leaves the fund, were not submitted or contain errors that have not been rectified;
- The GEPF is unable to get a tax directive from SARS as the member or beneficiaries’ tax affairs are not in order, for example, when they are not registered for tax or they have not submitted tax returns, the member has unresolved tax matter/s, etc.
- Employees who have left their employment (thus no longer contribute to the GEPF) without claiming their benefits – this is normally due to pending disciplinary actions.
- The benefits cannot be paid due to incorrect banking details, frozen or dormant accounts, incorrect pay points and;
- The GEPF does not have enough information in respect of the deceased members’ beneficiaries or beneficiaries fail to claim their benefits.
To reach out to members, pensioners, potential beneficiaries and guardians, the GEPF conducts awareness and outreach campaigns such as roadshows; retirement member education campaigns; mobile offices and co-locations with other service centres; engagements with community development workers; and through the media among others, to help increase the reach of our message. Through this, GEPF seeks to address the growing list of unclaimed benefits by identifying claimants and processing their benefits promptly.
The so-called “new norm” forced on us by the Covid-19 pandemic has enabled us to find new ways to interface with our clients. To continue rendering services to clients including those in the peripheries of the country, the GEPF now conducts some of its educational campaigns virtually.
“The response of our clients on the use of virtual events as well as the GEPF self-service application is encouraging. We believe that we are on course to the envisaged state wherein all our clients will interface with us from anywhere at any time and their convenience. This will help expedite the processing of pension claims cases and reduce errors,” the GEPF says.