A council of concerned industry leaders, the Injured Workers Action Group (IWAG), was launched on Monday, over concerns about what it says is the “technological collapse” of the R60-billion Compensation Fund that is legally mandated to cover the medical bills and disability pensions of workers from across South Africa who have been injured on duty.
In a statement on Monday, the group called on government to swiftly address the crisis.
IWAG spokesperson Tim Hughes said the severity of the matter could not be underestimated.
“If you look at the sheer number of vulnerable people who have now been failed by the system and left to fend for themselves under very trying circumstances, and the extent of that failure by the State and its technology partners, you’ll see that this is an untenable situation.
“Tens of thousands of families of injured workers, those workers’ medical caregivers and employers, and several critical industries in the economy, have all been struck a terrible blow here. This is a crisis of epic proportions and it is wreaking havoc on the economy at a scale that we are still in the process of quantifying,” he stated.
IWAG said the Department of Labour and Employment (DLE) had long struggled with its claims system.
Last year it migrated from the uMehluko electronic system to a new system called CompEasy (S4i).
It should have been live since October 1, 2019, but, CompEasy was “dead on arrival”, Hughes claimed.
“The website never worked. The system was never parallel tested with the old one as you would expect when the stakes are this high. As a result, about 150 000 working-class South Africans who have been injured or disabled on duty since mid-2019 have been left out in the cold.
“The technical failure of the system is now at such a level that, according to a large industry survey, only about 2.8% of injured workers have been able to submit claims since October 2019 and less than 1% have been paid, compared to 80% on the old system,” IWAG claimed.
In a statement on Sunday, the DLE said CompEasy had, since its launch, processed more than 120 000 medical claims and more than 8 000 claim registrations.
It conceded that owing to it being a new system meant to address fraudulent and invalid claims, it was experiencing several challenges. This included some users struggling to access the new system; migration and cleaning of data from the old to new system; and general network downtime experienced by external users.
Given that the fund had received some complaints and frustrations from clients, the department indicated that it was continuing to provide training to stakeholders as it had done since 2019; supporting stakeholders in accessing the new system; and using feedback from users to continue improving user experience.
The department encouraged all of its clients to access all user manuals, which are available on its website.