DOES THE RAF LIVE UP TO THE VALUES TO WHICH IT PROFESSES TO SUBSCRIBE AS LAID DOWN IN ITS MISSION STATEMENT
We are about to relate a story to you. It is not a fictional story but it is a description of events which actually occurred within the confines of our office. Names and places have been changed as it is inappropriate to divulge the identity of those about whom this story relates.
Before we commence relating the events as they unfolded, it is appropriate to quote to you from the Mission Statement of the Road Accident Fund which we extracted from the Internet off the Road Accident Fund Web Site.
To administer the system of compensation defined in the Road Accident Fund Act (Act no 56 of 1996) in a manner that is timeous, cost effective and appropriately delivers on our mandate
To be world class administrator of the system of compensation defined in the Road Accident Fund Act (Act no 56 of 1996).
We shall exhibit the highest levels of integrity and honesty in everything we do.
We will demonstrate fairness, objectivity and consistency, transparency and accountability.
We will exhibit good governance, build positive relationship with our stakeholders and engender mutual trust and respect.
We will subscribe to principles of good corporate governance.
We are committed to the highest standard of service.
Respect and dignity
We are committed to treating accident victims with respect and dignity.
¹ QUALITY means the right Quantity, Price, Speed and Accuracy.
Against the backdrop of its commitment to achieve the purpose for which it was created as recounted in its mission statement by means of attempting to achieve its strategic objectives through implementation of its core values all of which have been reproduced above, we now commence the telling of our story.
Mrs Green's minor daughter was seriously injured in a motor collision some years ago. Mrs Green heard about the Road Accident Fund and the fact that it compensates victims who are injured in Road Accidents. She made enquiries within her community and she consulted with our office and instructed us to lodge a claim against the Road Accident Fund to compensate her daughter in respect of the injuries she sustained in the accident.
Our investigations commenced and after obtaining the Occident Report from the Police, the medical records from the Hospital where the injured victim was treated for her injuries, and after taking statements as to how the collision occurred, we sent Mrs Green and her daughter to an orthopedic surgeon for an examination. The Orthopedic Surgeon was requested to furnish us with a medico legal report which would set out the nature and extent of the injuries, and his prognosis thereon for the future. In due course the medico legal report was furnished. It's contained the appropriate assessment and prognosis, but, as often happens with injuries, the surgeon recommended that we wait out a period of time to see what progress the victim makes in her recovery and then the prognosis should be reassessed. The period of time suggested elapsed, and fortunately the injuries settled. In the meantime we lodged the claim with the Fund who failed within the window period allowed them under the Act to submit an offer of settlement.
Thus on 31 st August 2006, after speaking with Mrs Green, who informed us her daughter was still experiencing pain and discomfort, we then instituted legal action against the Fund. In response to having been served with summons, the Fund delivered its Notice of Intention to Defend and during October 2006, it filed its Statement of Defence. This was to the effect that in so far as the accident was concerned it denied the accident occurred in the first place. It then stated that if we were able to prove the accident occurred, then it occurred as a result of the negligence of Mrs Green's minor daughter and as no fault could be attributed to the Fund's insured driver, the Fund was not liable to pay anything. In so far as the minor child's injuries were concerned that Fund pleaded that it did not have any knowledge of these injuries and the Plaintiff and the Minor child were to prove them. The Plea concluded by stating that if we were able to prove the injuries sustained by the minor child and if we were able to prove some negligence on the part of its insured driver, the amount of compensation to which the minor child was entitled had to be apportioned by the extent to which her negligence caused or contributed to the accident.
We then prepared ourselves for the Trial which was scheduled to occur in early December 2006. At the end of November 2006, all of a sudden and unexpectedly, we received a letter from the Fund to the effect that it had evidence in its possession to the effect that Mrs Green cancelled our mandate to act on her behalf, and through the offices of another Attorney a settlement was effected with Mrs Green's new Attorney and in terms of this settlement Mrs Green was paid her compensation. Proof that our mandate to act was cancelled was not furnished to us and still has not been furnished to us notwithstanding our request for such proof. The settlement was effected in July 2006, prior to us instituting our action on behalf of Mrs Green.
How was it possible that when it was served with our Summons on 31 st August 2006, that the Fund did not advise us there and then, it settled the matter? Why in the light of this settlement did the Fund defend the action we had launched not on the basis of a concluded settlement agreement but on the basis set out above? To do this the Fund incurred the legal costs of its own Attorneys which are not insignificant, and put Mrs Green to further unnecessary expense in the costs we incurred in the prosecution of her claim? Why has Mrs Green's Attorney not responded to our letter asking for an explanation as to how he settled the matter and acted without notifying us? Why did Mrs Green during August 2006, not inform us to discontinue in the light of the settlement which had been effected on her behalf? Why has she not informed us that she has received payment of compensation from the proceeds of the settlement paid to her supposed new Attorney by the Fund?
None of these questions have yet been answered. But the tale improves. On receipt of the Fund's startling revelation to us less then two weeks prior to the scheduled Trial, we communicated with its Attorneys and disclosed the startling information we received. We stated that at the very least the Fund should contribute significantly to the costs Mrs Green incurred with us on account of the manner in which it misled its own Attorneys of the defences it raised knowing full well that a settlement had achieved. The day of the Court action arrived. We were notified by the Fund's Attorneys that the Fund had instructed them not to tender our costs. The matter proceeded to be fully argued in Court. In the process we furnished evidence in support of the facts presented above. Our principle witness, whose evidence we expected would not take long to lead, was subjected to the most vitriolic attack under cross examination by the Fund's Attorneys, and was asked to comment on the most ludicrous suggestions. We were accused of acting unprofessionally unwisely and it was even suggested that we did not display courtesy to our colleague. At the end of the day's hearing the presiding Magistrate reserved Judgment which we now await eagerly and with baited breath.
How is it possible that an organization with the well publicised mission statement core values and strategic objectives can blatantly use public money handed to them by you and I as taxpayers to waste on legal costs in a matter of this nature?
At the end of the day's hearing the Advocate we briefed to protect Mrs Green at the hearing, was told by the Fund's Attorney that the Fund were in the process of conducting its own investigations as to how it was possible that their Claims Handler had accepted the settlement and allowed this matter to run the way it did. Preliminary investigations which are not complete have led them to believe that there is a conspiracy between the Claims Handler involved and the supposed new Attorney of Mrs Green, from who we have not received a reply to our query.
In being firm believers of the notion that there are always two sides to a story, it is appropriate for us to quote verbatim the message published on the RAF Web Site which comes from the pen of Mr Jacob Modise the Chief Executive Officer of the Road Accident Fund
The year 2006 is finally coming to an end. We wish to thank you for your patience while we at the RAF look back on a year of critical introspection and a candid admission of our weaknesses and shortcomings. As such, we look forward to your continued support in 2007 which has been earmarked as the year of delivery and implementation.
To those of you who will be traveling, have a safe journey.”
As is manifestly plain from the events recounted above, our investigations are far from complete. Watch this space as we fearlessly fairly objectively and uncompromisingly set about recounting the unfolding of further events in respect of this story.
Does the RAF live up to its mission statement? You be the judge.
Johannesburg December 2006.
VICKY BOVE AND LESLIE KOBRIN