The office’s Annual Reports play an important role in recording its history, which includes the coming and going of people in the office and those who serve on its Council.
In history, 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year when the worldwide catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic fully manifested itself. Much has been written about the wide-ranging disastrous effects of the disease on almost every aspect of human life. I am not going to add anything to that body of literature, but I will rather refer to the positive outcomes which the pandemic brought for the office, including the revelations about the people who make it up. What COVID-19 taught us about them forms an integral part of our history and I use this opportunity to record it.
The office did not simply cope with COVID-19, in the sense that it managed to carry on despite the pandemic. Under the most challenging circumstances, which impacted on all facets of life in the home, office and community environments, the office grew in its reputation and stature, and increased the volume and quality of the work which it performed.
The office’s ability to better serve consumers and its subscribing members and to do more work in 2020 than it did in, for instance 2019, is the direct result of the dedicated efforts by the staff and the following attributes which they consistently displayed:
The positive outcomes to which I referred also served to better prepare the office to overcome the continuing ravages of the pandemic which are anticipated for 2021.
On behalf of the Council I thank every staff member who made it possible for me to record this episode of the office’s history.
Every three to five years an Independent Review is commissioned to ensure that the office is performing in accordance with its mission. Mr Dennis Jooste, a former Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance, was tasked to carry out the review. His report will be available in 2021 and will then be published.
During the year we welcomed the following new members on the Council:
I am pleased to say that Ms Phala and Mr Woolfson also serve on the Council’s Audit and Risk Committee.
In terms of section 10(1)(b) of the Financial Services Ombud Schemes Act, 37 of 2004 (“the Act”), the Council is obliged 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”.
In the performance of its corporate governance oversight function the Council met three times during 2020. At these digital meetings the Council received a comprehensive overview of the office’s activities from the management team.
The Council is satisfied that in 2020 the office fulfilled its mission, complied with its obligations under the scheme’s rules and under the Act, and maintained its independence, which is vital to its function.
I thank the members of the Council and the office’s management team for their continued support and valued contributions during 2020. A special word of thanks goes to Judge Ron McLaren and Ms Jennifer Preiss for their leadership during these troublesome times and in the amalgamation with the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance.
Chairperson of the Ombudsman’s Council