Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), Elias Magosi has sent a strong warning to Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) management to take care of pensioners’ money as government is highly worried.
Appearing before Parliamentary Committee on Public Service and its Management recently, Magosi said as an employer of civil servants government has a lot of interest in the management of the funds. Ironically, just two weeks before then the Office of the President and BPOPF issued a lengthy rebuttal to The Patriot on Sunday story which demonstrated in detail how government desperately wants to control operations of the Fund. Magosi said government is concerned by issues besieging BPOPF pertaining to delay in issuing benefits statements such as pensions and terminal packages to civil servants. “The funds managed by BPOPF belongs to Government because it is investment for civil servants employed by us. We are unhappy about how workers retire into poverty,” Magosi whined.
According to Magosi, government will closely monitor BPOPF fund administration, emphasizing that in other countries the fund administrators are appointed by government. The P70 billion pension fund, PSP said, has in recent years gotten the Office of the President worried due to a litany of allegations of mismanagement, corruption and poor investment processes.
The BPOPF is embroiled in a scandal where approximately P400 million was embezzled by asset management firm, Capital Management Botswana (CMB). The CMB saga is still before the courts of law with former Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi facing three charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of office. In another case CMB Directors, Timothy Marsland and Rapula Okaile are also facing criminal charges while the company is undergoing the final stages of liquidation before the Registrar and Master of the HIgh Court.
Concurring with Magosi, Executive Director of Botswana Public Service College, David Mosetse said civil servants retire into poverty because their pensions, which are meant to sustain employee’s lives during retirement, are mismanaged.
Meanwhile, BPOPF Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Moemedi Malindah differed with the government’s position that workers retire into poverty because their pensions are mismanaged. He told the Parliamentary committee that BPOPF is doing well with pensioners receiving their benefits despite detractors insisting that there are problems in the management of the fund. “The assets are safe and BPOPF is committed to ensure that all workers reap their investments. The fund is currently fully funded and well managed. The fund portfolio was a bit affected as of year ending March 31st 2020 but two weeks later went 10% up. We are doing well,” he hit back.
Malindah also admitted that there are hiccups that the fund experiences in terms of issuing benefits statements but said it has been since resolved, assuring Parliament that all is fine. BPOPF board recently revealed that it is finalizing on its intended objective to grow the fund by exploring the lucrative China market and identifying managers to focus on the African portfolio.
Member Trustee and Chairman of Investment Committee, Tobokani Rari said P2 billion has been already committed to the Africa Equities mandate with cash deployed to China as well.
Maun East MP and substantive chairman of the committee, Goretetse Kekgonegile expressed concern about Government interference in the running of BPOPF. He said BPOPF should be allowed to run its affairs without government appointing the Board of Trustees. Kekgonegile also challenged Magosi to think about government’s involvement on pension funds, noting that this could open a room for corruption by public servants.“The BPOPF board should be independent from the public service interference. We don’t want the case under which public service technocrats capture the BPOPF board of trustees,” he warned.
For his part, Jwaneng/Mabutsane MP Mephato Reatile raised concern over the decision to invest P60 billion in offshore accounts, urging BPOPF to capacitate local fund managers with the funds. Reatile also cautioned against investing money in unknown entities thus exposing the Fund to risks of exposure, citing the CMB scandal that led to millions being lost.
Ngamiland MP, Carterpillar Hikuama urged BPOPF to ensure that employees get their benefits well on time to avoid unnecessary delays that cause a lot of anxiety to the pensioners.
Malinda said BPOPF’s house is in order in terms of good governance, downplaying allegations that the Board of Trustees is captured by government.