Foreword by the Chairperson of the Short-Term Insurance Board
During the year under review, it became clear that the office’s greatest asset is its staff. The board’s COVID-19 Crisis Committee had numerous meetings with the staff, and we referred to the “three baskets”, which are the closely interwoven objectives of ensuring the health and well-being of the staff, the operational functionality of the office and its financial stability.
During the pursuit of those objectives there was close and frequent personal interaction between the board and the staff, which is unprecedented in the office’s history. OSTI’s staff demonstrated strong resiliency in a difficult and challenging time for everyone, managing to perform at the high level expected as part of its service mandate. I was touched by the staff’s fortitude in adversity and by their unwavering loyalty to the office. For me, the close and personal interaction with the staff during this difficult and trying time was an enriching experience, which was, unfortunately, marred by the passing away of the much-loved Ms Mary Tshabalala, who served the office for many years.
The reports by the Chief Executive Officer and the General Manager in this Annual Report bear eloquent testimony of the resounding success which the office achieved in relation to the other two baskets. They were, by way of speaking, filled to overflowing.
The quick response of the COVID-19 Crisis Committee, and thoughtful actions of cash and expense management, has provided the foundation for OSTI to map its own “next normal”.
During 2020 the “soft” amalgamation of the office and the Ombudsman for Long-term Insurance continued to be implemented to their reciprocal benefit and for the good of consumers. The board also mandated the engagement by the office with the other three statutorily recognised financial ombudsman schemes in exploratory discussions about their amalgamation. More information about this and related matters appears on pages 8 and 9 of this Annual Report.
The board fulfilled its corporate oversight role and held four meetings during 2020. In addition, the board’s Audit and Risk Committee met on the same number of occasions and its Executive Committee met twice during the year. In doing so, the board duly complied with section 10(1)(b) of the Financial Services Ombud Schemes Act, 37 of 2004 (“the Act”), which enjoins the board to “monitor the performance and independence of the Ombud … the continued compliance by the scheme with its constitution, the provisions of the scheme and this Act.“ On behalf of the board I confirm that during 2020 the office was fully compliant with the requirements spelt out in the Act.
It is my pleasure to thank the board members, the members of the COVID-19 Crisis Committee and, in particular, every member of the staff for their collective contribution to the positive tone of this Foreword.
I cannot end my report without speaking about the major effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Social distancing, a necessity to prevent the spread of COVID-19, can make us feel isolated and lonely – increasing stress and anxiety. In the South African context the prevalence of gender-based violence and substance abuse is high, and these are some of the major challenges that arise following isolation and reduced social contact. Poverty and lack of resources are also issues likely to result in people avoiding restrictions associated with the pandemic. To this end the COVID-19 Crisis Committee adopted several measures to enable staff to cope with stress, anxiety, grief and worry during the pandemic. I extend my thanks and appreciation for the participation, energy and contribution of every member of the COVID-19 Crisis Committee – Gail Walters, Edite Teixeira-Mckinon, Miriam Matabane, Gerhard Genis and Collin Molepe.
Having reviewed the main events of 2020, I am filled with optimism for the future, which I would like to share with you by expressing the belief that we will again fill the three baskets during 2021.
I end with this:
“When can we be free again?” asks Kedibone.
“When the police arrest and imprison every germ in South Africa”, says Mummy.
Chairman of the Board