Sunday, July 5, 2020

Pension Fund should be investigated

The Chairman of the Botswana Public Officers Pensions Fund, Mr. Nelson Mokgethi, has, since the beginning of this month, been running a multiple paged press release, basically responding to a number of articles that recently appeared in the local media, chiefly in the Botswana Guardian.

It is not our wish to go into detail with regard to the gist of those stories because BPOPF has done that elaborately in their press release including by way of using somewhat demeaning and patronizing language to the journalist who authored the article and to the paper itself.

The Fund also used what we think is a thinly veiled arrogant and condescending language towards the Permanent Secretary to the President, Mr. Eric Molale.

This is regrettable given that as the most senior civil servant on the land and chief representative of the employer (government) Mr. Molale’s interest in how the Fund is managed cannot be overemphasized.

It, therefore, is of paramount interest that the Board of Trustees of the Fund, however strongly they may disagree, differ or dislike Mr. Molale, should remain courteous to him, bearing in mind the importance of his office for he does not approach them as an ordinary individual but rather as the head of the civil service on whose behalf, we want to believe, the Board of Trustees are managing the funds.
We want to point out that the last few years have seen phenomenal growth in pension funds in Botswana, principally because of government investing therein.

Latest figures showed that the total amount was in the region of P30 billion.

The bulk of that money ÔÇô close to 70 percent is invested offshore. But that is beside the point.
What is important is that, naturally, this phenomenal growth in Botswana’s public officers’ pension has attracted all sorts of characters from all over the country, some of them with terribly questionable reputations as they descend on Botswana in their quest to get a stake in the funds.
With all such characters swamping the market and some of them successfully penetrating it as to become Managers, it is natural that some unsavory tricks and tactics will be employed.

Investing that amount of money in the volatile international markets is a very technical and difficult undertaking and, with due respect, well above some individuals who sit on the Board of Trustees of the BPOPF.

As such, the trustees should not feel belittled or even that their mandate is usurped when the Permanent Secretary to the President approaches them broaching an investigation or an enquiry.
We want to believe the PSP is doing that in the interest of all the stakeholders.

Being defensive as Mr. Mokgethi is in his press release does not help anybody.

In fact, such spirited and bare-knuckled defensiveness as shown by Mr. Mokgethi can only bring about suspicions that there is something that the board of trustees is hiding.

That said, we welcome an investigation as kick-started by the Registrar of Pensions, Mr. Wilfred Mandlebe.

We can only hope that the enquiry which seems to be in line with the law that Mr. Mokgethi and his team reminded the PSP of will be given all cooperation by the trustees and their staff.

Mr. Mokgethi will also be well advised that given the amount of money at stake in the public pensions fund all sorts of footloose fund managers are bound to be attracted into Botswana, inevitably taking advantage of the limited knowledge and experience of trustees as those in the board he chairs.

Again, we want to point out that it does not appear to us that the PSP had any ulterior motives against the trustees.

His actions appear sincere.

What Mr. Mokgethi and his team should do is to always keep an open mind and accept their technical limitations.

It does not help or advance their stance to rebuke and belittle other people as they have been behaving to the Botswana Guardian reporters.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.