The acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), Lesedi Moakofhi was last week at pains to explain why the Fund has retained Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi as its Chairman instead of Director in the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) Ruth Maphorisa, as has been the norm.
Responding to questions from Sunday Standard, Moakofhi said the government is free to nominate whoever it pleases to sit on the board of the BPOPF. Morupisi was elected as BPOPF Chairman for a five year term in 2013. He holds a BSc (Agriculture), from the University of Swaziland and MSc Animal Science (Reproductive Physiology and Breeding) from New Mexico State, USA. The BPOPF said he brings a wealth of experience in financial and human resources management.
“Who is appointed as a representative of the employer in the BPOPF board is the prerogative of government. The PSP was nominated by the employer and the Fund had no say in that. The BPOPF board constitutes representatives from the employer, unions, pensioners and independent trustees who, at a constituted board meeting, voted in favor of Morupisi to be their Chairman,” she said. “As per the rules of the Fund the Chairman shall be elected by the BPOPF board of trustees. In this respect, the PSP was elected by the trustees of the board to be their Chairman.”
Morupisi has had a tempestuous relationship with public sector union representatives in the BPOPF board, who have always viewed his appointment as board Chairman with suspicion. Union representatives blamed Morupisi in the past when top managers at BPOPF were dismissed under questionable circumstances amid allegations that they were against intrusion by government and ruling party functionaries in the Fund’s operations.
“We know that some people were dismissed because they refused to toe the line and new personnel deemed to be more amenable to government were appointed,” they said.
Public sector unions have previously fought against what they perceived as a hostile take-over of the BPOPF by government functionaries. Recently, the Manual Workers Union threatened BPOPF with a contempt of court lawsuit after it signed contractual agreements with various asset managers, contrary to an October 2014 High Court order that barred it from engaging in any business transaction before all members of the board of trustees were dully appointed. The Manual Workers Union also threatened to sue the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) for contempt of court after it failed to respond to the union’s application for two of its members to be confirmed as Trustees of BPOPF. After NBFIRA complied, the union set its cross hairs on BPOPF Chairman Carter Morupisi, threatening to slap him with contempt of court charges.
“He is the one who convened the meeting. He was also quoted in the media saying we misunderstood the High Court order. He must come to court and explain what he meant,” said Manual Workers Union Organising Secretary, Johnson Motshwarakgole in an interview with Sunday Standard at the time.
At the time, the Manual Workers Union argued that NBFIRA’s failure to vet the two nominated Trustees had resulted in overwhelming prejudice as they were excluded from the business of the Fund, which disenfranchised the interests of tens of thousands of union/Fund members.
“We understand that far reaching resolutions were made at a meeting that was convened by Morupisi in the absence of our nominated trustees, including in respect of tenders/contracts with third parties valued at hundreds of millions of Pula,” said the union.