A.C.C. handle sports injuries compensation under bill

The Government wants to move the handling of compensation for sports-related injuries to the Accident Compensation Corporation (A.C.C.) from the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.).

With a new bill tabled in Parliament in December, A.C.C. Chief Executive Officer, Muliagatele Makelita Matafeo, explained how the proposed legislation would change the way sports-related injuries were administered and compensated. 

She gave her presentation during a pre-Parliament sitting on Monday 14 December 2020.

The Accident Compensation Amendment Bill 2020 was drafted by the Office of the Attorney General to transfer compensation duties from M.E.S.C. 

Originally, if a tournament was registered to the Ministry (with each participant paying $1 for registration) an injury would be covered and compensation could be dispensed accordingly.

Cabinet decided to shift all administration and implementation of compensation to the A.C.C. in November 2019, Muliagatele told Parliament. 

The amendment under discussion would give A.C.C. the powers to “make regulations cater for any other matter necessary in giving effect to the new scheme of sports-related injury.”

During the pre-Parliament discussions, Member for Palauli le Falefa, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga asked for A.C.C. to consider mental injury as well as physical. 

And Mulipola Laki Leiataua of Aiga le Tai said the bill needs to be more specific about who is eligible for cover. 

“The Member also expressed disappointment that the Corporation did not look at all individuals fairly, as there were certain injuries inflicted to fishermen in his constituencies, and some were compensated while others were not,” he said, according to the summary.

Muliagatele said fishing injuries from fishing vessels are fully covered by A.C.C. through money from the petrol levy. But an injury caused on an alia is not covered because there is no funding source to pay for compensation.

“If the injured fisherman is an employee then he/she is entitled to full cover as all employees receive full cover for 24 hours,” she said, according to the notes. 

School students may be covered under a general cover scheme, Muliagatele continued.

Member for Faleata i Sisifo, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi suggested that A.C.C. work on a school fee-funded general cover for school students, especially for school-hosted sports tournaments. 

It could be a “positive initiative that can provide parents ease of mind,” he said, according to the notes.

“The C.E.O. acknowledged the suggestion made by the Member for Faleata and stated that this would be one of the Corporation’s objectives; to provide cover for all students of Samoa. 

“However, the current Bill is but a stepping stone to achieve such an initiative for the future as the Corporation works toward including sports-related injuries into the Act, then we can expand further and include a scheme which covers all students/children of Samoa.”

Further discussions moved away from the contents of the bill itself and towards what else the A.C.C. might be used for.

Tafua Maluelue Tafua from Aleipata Itupa i Lalo asked whether contributors might have 10 per cent of their contributions returned if they get to retirement age and never make a claim.

In response, Muliagatele said thanks to a $10 million appropriation from A.C.C. towards M.P. salaries in the 2020/2021 budget, “the Corporation continues to indirectly give back to M.P.s.”

It is not clear whether Tafua was referring only to M.P.s or to all paying A.C.C. members. 

Deputy Speaker Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti, Member for Gagaemauga No. 3, said he hopes the funds can be used for COVID-19 relief for families whose incomes have been affected by the pandemic. 

According to A.C.C.’s annual report for 2018-2019, the Corporation brought in $21.20 million in income in the fiscal year studied, an increase compared to the year prior but also paid out the most in accident compensation in five years.

The pay-outs exceeded their target for the year by two per cent, and they even spent one per cent less than their budget. The decrease was attributed mainly to a reduction in administration expenditure.

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