By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK A two-day seminar being attended by some top government officials and representatives from the legal fraternity started yesterday in the capital to scrutinise the proposed Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVAF) Bill. The existing Act 4 of 2001 prohibits any payment of compensation to victims of motor accidents in instances where negligence on the part of the insured driver is not readily established. This calls for a practical mode that would transform the fund from a litigious vehicle primarily concerned with compensation for loss to a victim-oriented institution with the principle function of addressing social harm accruing victims. The draft Bill has been adopted by the Ministry of Finance and was approved by Cabinet. It is currently with the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila in her reflections at the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) Law Reform Symposium said the legalistic and complicated nature of the current fund invariably alienates victims of motor accidents who may not necessarily comprehend the laws of deficit that govern the operational mode of the Fund. “It is not simply an easy task for the layman to distinguish instances where the Fund is allowed or deny compensation in terms of the law let alone the rationale guiding appropriate amounts payable as regards general damages,” added the Finance Minister. Namibia suffers many motor accidents that mainly arise from tyre bursts and stray animals that cause many collisions. However, the fact the Fund excludes claimants who might have suffered loss or bodily harm but have failed to prove negligence on the insured driver, causes the Fund to fall short of the test for social justice, the Minister stated. Based on the shortfall of the current Act, the minister emphasised that the gathering strongly intends to solicit constructive views that would put forward a cost effective, pragmatic alternative scheme of road accident compensation paradigm. The proposed draft of the Bill set as an alternative to the existing operational mode primarily focuses on benefits such as accident prevention and response, medical treatment, trauma care and rehabilitation, reimbursement of income and dependant’s support as well as life enhancement for the permanently disabled. In support of the benefits in the draft Bill, Speaker of the National Assembly Theo Ben Gurirab in his keynote address maintained that the current status quo needs to be changed and that the central concern should not be the payment of cash but rather to address the social anxieties that befall accident victims. “This (is) the central theme of the Draft Bill and the question is how the deliberations will proceed in this seminar in search for answers.” As the adage goes, true wisdom is collective, and the paradigm shift of the Fund started with consultations with competent legal institutions and also visits by members of the Fund to some countries in the Southern African region. At the symposium, representatives from Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland gave a regional perspective on legislative reform. “We are a young democracy. We are keen to learn. Reform and change are never easy,” admitted the Speaker, Gurirab. The Chief Executive Officer of the MVA Jeremiah Muadinohamba said there was a widespread culture of deviance, corruption and fraud emanating from some members of society who want to enrich themselves through dubious ways. In the past, experts classified the MVAF as dysfunctional because it was regarded as operating only in Windhoek. However, the past two years have seen tremendous improvement with the actuarial deficit decreasing from N$ 520 million to the current N$220 million. Through other interventions, the Fund liquidated the backlog of over 5 000 files to the current file portfolio standing at 389. Towards the end of last year, the Fund entered into a partnership with Nampost to assist claimants and to receive claims on behalf of the Fund to enable the Fund to deliver services timely and effectively. The Namibian MVA Fund was established by Act of Parliament in 1990. Today, 11 cents per litre of fuel purchased is allocated to the Fund to cover victims of road accidents in the event of injuries sustained in motor accidents.
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