Ombudsman for Funeral Industry Suggested
An Ombudsman might be appointed to oversee the South African funeral industry.
Significantly, the Funeral Industry Regulatory Authority has proposed a code of conduct, saying the sector needs an ombudsman.
And one area that will require regulation is where undertakers pay commissions to hospitals, for instance, to secure bodies.
Certainly, there are people in the funeral industry who render exceptional services; many operators function illegally and unscrupulously.
Ombudsman – Investigations
The Life Offices Association, as well as the Financial Services Board, have investigated burial insurance and the entire funeral industry. They have found plenty of abuses in the industry and just as many unscrupulous funeral insurers.
Some South Africans have to settle for a pauper funeral in the end because of widespread fraud. It is vital to make sure that contributions to funeral policies land in the right pockets.
Funerals are expensive affairs and can easily cost 8, 9 or R10 000. And for many South Africans who have no funeral plans, this kind of money isn’t available.
Ombudsman – Fraud
Not only fraud is in the spotlight. Other issues too, such as funeral parlours holding bodies for ransom and rodents found in mortuaries are under investigation.
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Not long ago the bodies of two women were found mutilated at a Durban funeral facility.
A state pathologist completed his examination and suspended six funeral directors from a leading funeral home in South Africa.
The state pathologist discovered that dead bodies had had their genitalia removed. It seems witchcraft has taken over from respecting the dead.
The abovementioned activities show why there is such a desperate need for a code of conduct and industry regulation.
Ombudsman – Exorbitant Fees
There are exorbitant fees for services such as the registration of death that the very act of dying involves horror and expense. The hope is that the proposed code of conduct will protect communities, particularly the poor. These are the people who suffer most in an unregulated industry.
According to the Centre for Financial Regulation and Inclusion’s research survey, many informal funeral parlours operate without any business skills and no pricing system. Those who responded to surveys done as recently as 2015, tell of the many funeral parlour cases of abuse taking place in every province.
Bereaved families said to FinScope researchers that although they were aware of all these abuses, they didn’t go to the police because they didn’t want to become embroiled in legal disputes.
Ombudsman – Wanted
They all, however, saw the urgent need for industry regulation and for appointing an ombudsman. They believe this would expose some of the atrocities taking place in the funeral industry.
With an ombudsman, people who think that funeral undertakers have cheated them unfairly would have a place to go to pour out their grievances.
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