Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Compensation Commission for Occupational Diseases (CCOD) tripled the number of payouts it made to injured miners in the 2016-17 financial year compared to the year before, suggesting the reforms driven by commissioner Barry Kistnasamy are starting to bear fruit.

Just under 5,300 miners and former mineworkers received a collective R203.6m in the 2016-17 year, compared to the R79.3m paid out to 1,766 claimants the year before.

Briefing parliament’s portfolio committee on health on Tuesday, Kistnasamy conceded that the CCOD was still getting its books in order and only expected to table its 2016-17 annual report in 2018, but was at pains to demonstrate that the formerly dysfunctional organisation was making significant progress in tackling the massive backlog of miners’ claims.

The deadline for tabling annual reports in Parliament for national departments and the entities that report to them, fell at the end of September.

Kistnasamy was appointed by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in 2012 to turn around the ailing institution, which had failed to submit any financial statements to Parliament after 2009-10. At that stage its offices were over-flowing with boxes of disorganised paper records, its phones rang unanswered, and the fund had virtually collapsed, Kistnasamy told MPs.

Since then, he has driven a series of changes that include developing an electronic database, obtaining records from the mineworker recruitment agency Teba at no cost, and launching one-stop service centres that help former mineworkers and their beneficiaries in labour-sending areas finalise their claims.

One-stop service centres in Kuruman, Burgersfort and Mafeteng, complemented by mobile health services, had helped settle the claims of 60,000 former mineworkers or their beneficiaries during 2016-17, he said.

He subsequently said the CCOD still had a backlog of 90,000 claims, 60% of which were for loss of earnings due to tuberculosis.

The CCOD had worked closely with mining companies and international donors, which supplemented the inadequate funding it received from the government, he said.

"We get R60m to run a R200m operation with decentralised services. Industry has been our salvation," he said. Each medical examination cost between R850 and R1,200, he said.

Kistnasamy said the CCOD and the Department of Labour was still discussing how to reform SA’s compensation system for injured workers to make it simpler for them to lodge claims. At the moment, miners and former miners with lung and heart conditions must claim from the CCOD, but for any other injuries they have to turn to the labour department’s compensation fund.

The Department of Labour was not keen to integrate the two funds because of the CCOD’s claims backlog and was considering a proposal from the CCOD that only new claimants would be directed to its fund, said Kistnasamy. The CCOD’s legacy claims would be dealt with by a trust or similar entity, he said.

Harmony gold mining company special projects executive Abre van Vuuren said 1,400 former Harmony miners had received R81m in payouts in the past 18 months, and no current employees had outstanding claims. But about 15,000 former Harmony miners still had outstanding claims, he said.

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