Natasha Chamba, Business Reporter
THE Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) will soon be opening satellite offices across the country starting with Bulawayo as part of a wider process to decentralise its services.
The decentralisation initiative will also see the pensions’ watchdog partnering with Zimpost to ensure effective client service across the country.
Under the arrangement, satellite units will receive complaints from policyholders and pension scheme members across the country on behalf of IPEC and forward these to the regulator in real time through a web-based portal.
IPEC public relations manager, Mr Lloyd Gumbo, confirmed the development in an interview and said the processes were at an advanced stage.
“As the regulator for the insurance and pensions industry, one of our key mandates is to protect the interests and rights of insurance policyholders and pension scheme members or their beneficiaries,” said Mr Gumbo.
“It is for that reason that the IPEC board approved management’s request to decentralise the Commission’s services considering that at the moment we are only found in Harare, yet we deal with cases from policyholders and pension scheme members from across the country.
“Therefore, the board approved that the Commission opens satellite offices in other cities and towns starting with Bulawayo, which is urgent. We are in the process of identifying an appropriate office space in Bulawayo. Considering that we deal with the elderly, an appropriate office space for us will be on the ground floor in the CBD.”
He said they would open satellite offices in other towns as resources permit. To cater for those areas in the interim, Mr Gumbo said they had engaged Zimpost to receive complaints from people who have grievances against insurance companies and pension funds that fall under their regulation.
“As a regulator we deal with complaints from policyholders and pension scheme members who feel that insurance companies and pension funds would not have treated them fairly,” he said.
“Therefore, we entered into a partnership with Zimpost considering its wide coverage to receive complaints on our behalf and forward them to us in real time.
“We will be rolling out this initiative in due course. We have already trained Zimpost staff from across the country on complaints handling mechanisms. We will be advising policyholders and pension scheme members or their beneficiaries soon on when they can start filing their complaints against insurance companies and pension funds under our regulation once the necessary logistical arrangements are in place.”
Mr Gumbo said IPEC had also partnered with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) to conduct workshops across the country educating the public about insurance and pension matters.
“One of our core functions in terms of the Insurance and Pensions Commission Act [Chapter 24:21, is to provide information to the public on matters relating to insurance and pensions,” he said.
“In fulfilment of this mandate, we have partnered with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, which is a consumer empowerment and protection organisation, to educate its Consumer Action Clubs and other consumers on their insurance and pension rights and responsibilities.
“We are starting these workshops next week in Kadoma, Kwekwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Lupane and Hwange before going to other cities and towns,” said Mr Gumbo.
IPEC is the regulator for the insurance and pensions industry in Zimbabwe. However, the entity does not regulate the National Social Security Authority and Civil Service Pension Schemes.