Dear Corruption Watch, I am 84 and receive a civil pension from the Government Employees Pension Fund. About 10 years ago, the GEPF sent me a letter saying my increments had been incorrectly calculated and requesting that I pay back about R32 000.
I ignored the letter, thinking it was a scam. I recently received a phone call and a letter purportedly from the GEPF requesting that I provide them with my personal details and demanding payment of R32 000, failing which they will start deducting it from my monthly pension. Is this corruption? What should I do?
You are correct to seek professional advice before agreeing to any deductions from your pension payments, especially if you are unsure that the communication is legitimate. It is often difficult to know whether a demand for payment of this kind is an authentic communication from your pension fund, part of corrupt activities by the organisation’s employees, or a fraudulent scam run by third parties.
Corruption is the abuse of public resources or public power for personal gain.
Unfortunately, government pension schemes are not immune from corruption. Corrupt officials may abuse the mechanisms for collecting pension contributions and the funds held by a pension scheme for personal benefit through nepotism, or the diversion of funds meant for retired civil servants. This does not mean that every instance of suspicious behaviour falls within the definition of corruption. It may be an instance of fraud, theft, or other illegal activity.
The first step is to confirm the authenticity of the communication. Contact the organisation using the contact information from its website or your original documentation. Do not click on links or call phone numbers included in the message. If the communication is legitimate, and you still consider it unfounded or suspicious, make a complaint or objection in writing through the appropriate channels.
The GEPF does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Pension Funds Adjudicator and objections will need to be referred to the GEPF itself. Give details of your communications with officials and state clearly your objection to any deductions from your pension payment. If this does not yield any results, approach a court for relief.
A communication of this nature that cannot be verified is likely to be a scam. Fraud is a wide offence and covers many different kinds of conduct where a person makes a misrepresentation that causes actual or potential prejudice to another. Report scams to the police and alert the organisation.
Corruption Watch deals primarily with corruption. Even if a suspicious communication is not the product of corruption, Corruption Watch will consider and record the complaint to ensure that we are informed about where suspicious activity is happening, what forms it is taking, and who is doing it. Environments that allow fraudulent scams to flourish may also be environments susceptible to corruption. Corrupt activities and fraudulent scams can cause harm to the public and the economy. We must remain alert and work together to eradicate both.
• Do you suspect corruption? Write to the Corruption Watch experts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mark your letter ‘Dear Corruption Watch’.
• This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times.