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Over 20 000 former government employees have not claimed their pensions

The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), with an investment portfolio of over R2 trillion, is Africa’s largest pension fund. The fund has more than 1.2 million active members, and pensioners and beneficiaries in excess of 450 000.

The GEPF, a defined benefit fund, was established in May 1996 when various public sector funds were consolidated. The fund is governed by the Government Employees Pension Law (or GEP Law), and is managed and administered by the Government Pensions Administration Agency (GPAA).

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Unclaimed pension benefits

Unclaimed pension benefits are defined as benefits that have been unpaid for longer than 24 months after the employee ceased employment (the exit date).

The GEPF said that:

Like many other pension funds in the industry, the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) also grapples with unclaimed pension benefits in its coffers, some dating back to the 1990s and 1980s.”

The unclaimed benefits can be traced to over 20 000 former government employees who have not claimed their pension benefits for varying reasons. The fund is not aware of the reasons. This makes it difficult to trace the members concerned and/or their beneficiaries.

The reasons include:

  • The exit documents were submitted but payment could not be effected due to various reasons.
  • The member and employer department stopped contributing to the GEPF and no claim to request the processing of the pension benefit was submitted.

The GEPF noted that eligible claimants for the unclaimed benefits range from retired GEPF members, employees who exited the public service system without claiming, and 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.”

The GEPF invites claimants 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”.

The GEPF has listed some of the common reasons for benefits becoming listed as unclaimed as follows:

  • 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, or the member has unresolved tax matter(s).
  • Government 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, or incorrect pay points.
  • The GEPF does not have enough information in respect of the deceased members’ beneficiaries, or beneficiaries fail to claim their benefits.

Interfacing with GEPF members

The GEPF conducts awareness and outreach campaigns to reach out to members, pensioners, potential beneficiaries and guardians (clients), 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.

“Through this, GEPF seeks to address the growing list of unclaimed benefits by identifying claimants and processing their benefits promptly.”

The GEPF noted that due to the Covid-19 pandemic it has had to find new ways to interface with clients, including virtual educational campaigns.

“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 at their convenience. This will help expedite the processing of pension claims cases and reduce errors.”

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