Saturday, December 3, 2022

Shady takeover at embattled BPOPF

The Director of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), Cater Morupisi, has confirmed reports that they pushed out some board members of the embattled Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) so that he and Permanent Secretaries could take over.

Morupisi was responding to reports that some board members were deliberately pushed out to pave way for some senior government officials to be included in the board as the government, especially the powers-that-be at the Office of the President battle for the control the multi billion fund.

Morupisi, along with Health Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Kolataamo Malefho, and Labour and Home Affairs, Ikwatlhaeng Bagopi, have been appointed as Chairman and board members, respectively.

Sundays Standard has turned up information that the move is the latest plan by Office of the President’s big guns to pave way for their preferred candidate, former Chairman, Rapula Okaile, to take over as the CEO of BPOPF, following the unexpected termination of Ephraim Letebele’s contract as CEO.

Letebele was unceremoniously dismissed on 26th of February 2013 and is suing his former employer for P2.7 million citing unfair dismissal.

Sources close to BPOPF revealed that the appointment of Morupisi and the two Permanent Secretaries is aimed at taking control of the BPOPF fund management by ‘some powerful people’ at the Office of the President.

Morupisi, Malefho and Bagopi have been roped in so that they could take control of the BPOPF and endorse Okaile as the CEO, sources claimed this week.

“They will achieve this by neutralising other members of the board from the unions thereby rendering them powerless and ensure that they have their man,” said highly placed sources.
The sources also revealed that Letebele became the fall guy after he refused to bend to the demands of ‘some powerful people’ at OP who had wanted a consultancy company linked to them to “do some work for BPOPF”.

It is understood that the vetting process for one to become a member of the Board, which is done by the Directorate of Intelligence and Services (DIS), is a long process but in the case of the three senior government officials “it was an event,” because they want Okaile to take over as CEO as soon as possible.

“The board used numerical strength to vote Morupisi as Chairman. He was standing against Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) president, Shandukani Hlabano, who was representing the Unions’ and he lost. Automatically, this means that even when the time comes for the board to appoint the CEO, Morupisi and his company will have an upper hand and appoint Okaile,” the sources said. The board constitutes members from government departments and union members among others.
Contacted for comment, Morupisi confirmed that he is the new Chairman of BPOPF, adding that Malefho and Bagopi were also board members.

“Yes I wanted the three of us to be board members because we have observed that there were some irregularities at the fund. The two PS were deliberately included because we want people who hold senior positions who can also articulate issues very well,” he said.

On suggestions that he is an employer and he should not have been the chairperson because issues of conflict of interest may arise at a later stage, Morupisi said if the need arises for him to recuse himself, he would do that.

“The owners of the fund are employees and government. Besides various government departments have acts which govern them. I don’t see how I can be conflicted, but should such an issue arise I will definitely recuse myself,” he said.

Morupisi added that “I’m not the principal employer, if the fund board wants consent, it can get that from government which is the principal employer or take the matter to Cabinet for decision making.” He added that the government as the principal employer has a duty to strike a balance when other contributors towards the fund are aggrieved.

Asked to confirm reports that they pushed the other board members so that they could take over, Morupisi answered in the affirmative. He was quick to add that: “Yes, that is true; you have to bear in mind that we are dealing with billions of Pula and that is why we need people who hold senior positions from the government’s side so that the fund can be properly managed. We don’t want it to collapse.”

The largest pension fund in the country, BPOPF, is valued at around P34 billion. It is reported that government complains that fund managers have always paid out fees with resultant low profits accruing to it.

Recently, reports indicated that BPOPF, which normally ensconced a safe distance from bad spotlight, the fund finds itself the subject of controversial focus after it fired Letebele and suspended two other employees.

Of the latter, one is back at work while the other, Musa Nleya, who is the legal services manager, has brought an urgent application before the Gaborone Industrial Court alleging unfairness on the part of his employer.

Speculation has been rife in the press that the misfortune that befell the trio might have something to do with an asset consultancy contract that was recently awarded to a South African company called Novare Actuaries over Alexander Forbes Asset Consulting.

This happened despite the fact that the latter scored higher marks than Novare during the tender evaluation stage. The powers-that-be allegedly overruled BPOPF’s executive management who preferred Alexander Forbes Asset Consulting for the reason that it was the best performer.

Reports also indicate that the former BPOF board was divided over the decision of the former Board chairman, Okaile, to suspend legal advisor, Nleya, for failing to implement board decisions. He says that the Board’s human resource committee is the one responsible as per the terms and conditions of his employment.

“The decision to take disciplinary action against me is in contravention of clause 14.2 of my terms and conditions of employment because the disciplinary action was not initiated by the human resource committee, which is vested with disciplinary authority over managers. I therefore respectfully submit that the intended disciplinary action against me is invalid,” Nleya stated in his court papers.

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