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BPOPF CEO’s future uncertain

SHARE   |   Thursday, 05 March 2020   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Molefe Molefe

Uncertainty and anxiety is growing at Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) -the richest pension Fund in Botswana with asset under management worth over P70 billion, due to failure by the Board of Trustees to decide on the contract of Principal  Officer – Boitumelo Molefe  - just three months before it expires.

As Molefe's contract comes up for renewal in June 2020, daggers have been drawn, with the Board members divided on whether to extend her contract or send her packing. Although some believe that she has done a sterling job, by growing the assets of the Fund by approximately P10 billion since appointed, others feel that she has lost too much money in poor investment, particularly in Botswana. The latter group enjoys the backing a cabal of local businessmen who operate behind the scenes to dictate what happens in corporate circles. This cabal is unhappy with drastic decisions taken by Molefe's management boldly terminating some of the lucrative contracts they have enjoyed for many years at BPOPF unhindered.

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A spy on the wall tells The Patriot on Sunday that so intense is the debate around Molefe's contract that Board Chairman Solomon Mantswe was recently seen snooping around the Human Resource Department searching for the contract of the Chief Executive Officer. But Molefe remains unperturbed. She relishes the tumultous experience at the helm of the most controversial pension Fund, which has never run short of drama and challenges at every corner. "I have done my part, leading this massive Fund owned by a majority of the youthful population (average age 38 years old). It is up to the board to decide based on my performance. If they release me I will be happy to go home and rest," she says, reluctant to give away much about whether she is seeking and extension or not.

Trustees expelled

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Even as they have to decide the fate of Principal officer BPOPF Board is entangled in a showdown with government after some trustees were removed for violating provisions of the Fund Rules. Government has already rejected the reasons put advanced by the Board and instructed that their Trustees be reinstated, but the Board of Trustees will have none of that.

BPOPF board has been operating short of five (5) Trustees after members deployed by their constituent organisations were expelled for breaching various aspects of the Rules of the Fund. Former Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Ruth Maphorisa's membership of the Board terminated when government recently refused to renew her contract as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

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Another employer trustee, Brigadier Charles Nkele of Botswana Defence Force (BDF), was fired after the Board discovered that his wife was an employee of BPOPF, which rendered him directly conflicted.

On the trade union side Topias Marenga has been asked to step aside because of the fallout between factions at BOPEU, which he represented in the board. Choosing to remain neutral, the Board refused to accepot nominations for trustees after a faction led by Vice president Monakwe wrote a letter withdrawing Marenga and replacing him with a different name. A faction led by Masego Mogwera had also submitted their own nomination for consideration.

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Another trade union Trustee, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, was expelled after he joined active politics contesting the Gaborone Bonnington South Parliamentary seat under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket. Such decision rendered him a 'politically exposed person' thus offending the Rules of the Fund.

The Accountant General, Emma Peloetletse, who was the chairperson of the Investment Committee was the first to be axed after she was found to have enjoyed favours from controversial asset manager Capital Management Botswana (CMB). The Directors of the company, Rapula Okaile and Timothy Marsland, are currently involved in a legal tussle with BPOPF after obtaining about half a billion pula from the Fund under suspicious circumstances and making dubious transactions outside the local private equity arrangement- Botswana Opportunities Partnership (BOP).

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Among other transactions, which have been brought to the attention of BPOPF by South Africa based crack forensic investigators, Peloetletse was found to have enjoyed a CMB all expenses paid for dream holiday attending an International Jazz Festival in Cape town with her spouse.

Money laundering

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As skeletons continue to tumble out at the ongoing interrogation of witnesses in the CMB inquiry before the Master of the High Court, shocking discoveries are being made of stashes of dirty money amounting to hundreds of thousands of pula exchange hands.

The Patriot on Sunday can confirm that more Trustees face expulsion from the Board in future when explosive controversial transactions connecting them to CMB Directors are brought to the fore. South African forensic investigators have uncovered no less than 39 bank accounts used to peddle and launder millions of pula obtained fraudulently from the BPOPF to different beneficiaries. Investigators have managed to draw a connection in a network of multi-million pula transanctions that originated from accounts that received funds from the BOP drawdowns but later spread into different accounts held in different banks, particularly in South Africa. The millions would later be withdrawn and/ or used to purchase luxury vehicles and other assets, acquire properties in up market leafy suburbs.

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The BPOPF board has already passed a resolution authorising management to engage the services of forensic auditors to investigate and ponder the BOP transactions to follow  the money trail, in pursuit to recover the lost millions. So, determined is the BPOPF that their investigators have already started making startling discoveries implicating high ranking officials, including board members. In one incident, a Trustee was found to have received loans from a CMB director while in another, a spouse of one trustee had a construction company which used to enjoy a lot of construction jobs passed to them by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).For the company to undertake such major contracts they also enjoyed the backing of CMB -through 'soft loans' amounting to millions. On the other hand, the spouse used to brag to their peers inside BPOPF about furniture and other fittings in their home which cost hundreds of thousands of pula.

Another example is a R5 million mansion bought for a high ranking government official in Ballito, a holiday resort town located in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa about 40 kilometres north of Durban. Further revelations will show that the embattled civil servant made numerous trips to South Africa where he received cash in batches of a cool R100 000 as pocket money. Upon returning to Botswana the powerful technocrat would send his driver/ messenger to a Forex dealer at a local bank to convert the stashes of Rands into local currency to continue living the life of a porn star. However, in the haste and greed to loot, the civil servant forgot to cover his tracks and was easily persuaded by an errands boy who delivered the cash to sign on some obscure notebook for 'audit purposes'. The errand boy (names withheld) was an accountant at two local companies where CMB was heavily invested using BOP money.

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Signatures on official documents and the secret note book signed by the implicated civil servant confirm receipts of R100 000 stashes in South Africa, have been confirmed as authentic and from the same person. The spouse of the civil servant has also been found to have received funds sent to her number by one of the CMB Directors through an e-wallet service, ranging from P5 000 -P10 000 daily for an extended period.

A Trustee tells The Patriot on Sunday that they already have a plan up their sleeve, to pursue CMB Directors and their cabal through alternative legal routes to recover their millions should government (DPP) fail to pin them down. "One such option is to use evidence gathered from our investigation to pursue a civil suit against CMB, and those they sponsored who may want to kill the case before courts," the source said.

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Weak Board

Elsewhere, there are growing concerns that perhaps the numerous failures/ blunders that happen repeatedly in BPOPF investments as enumerated in e) above are predominantly caused by poor oversight from the Board of Trustees who fail to perform their fiduciary functions diligently because most, if not all including the Chairman, are clueless about financial matters. Such ineptitude is also cited in the CMB saga, where the then Chairman ursuped the powers of the board and unilaterally entered into transactions that led to loss of millions of pula by the Fund. 

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Perhaps in appreciation of the inadequacies, a two day retreat was organised for BPOPF Board of Trustees at the end of last week at Big Valley lodge, near Lobatse where an assessment on the competency board members was carried out by SquareLink – an Human Resource Consultancy firm owned by Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.

COVID-19 losses

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As the COVID -19 virus ravages the world, particularly China where it started in the city of Wuhan, its effect is felt hundreds of miles away in the Kalahari desert, where the Principal Officer at Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), Boitumelo Molefe is having sleepless nights.

Without the benefit of foresight akin to fortune tellers, last year Molefe led a forage into the hirtheto unknown yet lucrative Asian financial markets, primarily Hong Kong and mainland China. The Board, after being whisked across the Indian Ocean on long haul flights to the far East on purported due dilligence missions, endorsed proposals by the Asset Consultants at Riscura about China hook, line and sinker. Impeccable sources tell The Patriot on Sunday that only at the end of last year did the Board authorise Molefe and her team to spalsh billions in the Asian market, to invest in China/ Hong Kong markets at the beginning of 2020. 

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Molefe is quick to confirm that indeed BPOPF has given asset managers their billions in China where investors are pulling out escaping from the deadly COVI -19 virus, a development which compromises any investment. She, however, maintains composure resigning herself because as she puts it "such is the risk of the investments we make. Who knew that Corona Virus will be found in China?"

In fact, Molefe has been proactive to caution the Board about the looming crisis that threatens to compromise investments in the luctrative Asian markets, where BPOPF was looking to make a killing and rake in billions in profits. "I have already pre-warned the board about the looming risk.  It would be disingenuous to pretend that our investments are not going to be affected, it is going to affect everybody everywhere around the world".  

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She, however, declined to discuss the amount invested in China because of confidentiality.

Mascom deal

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To an ordinary bystander, BPOPF should have grabbed the opportunity to increase stake in the lucrative telecommunications sector by acquiring more shares at Mascom Wireless, where one their own is the Board Chairman - Tobokani Rari of Botswana Sectors of Educators Union (BOSETU). That development seemed more logical considering that the Regulator -Non bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) had done the unthinkable, granting BPOPF a waiver to extend shareholding beyond the legally stipulated ceiling thus increasing risk. That waiver was granted at the height of tensions between Mascom shareholders after it emerged that the majority shareholder- MTN was in the process of disposing its stake to the lowest shareholders -Econet.

Taking a cue from suggestions that Mascom should be listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) to enable citizens to invest in it, which was made by Masiyiwa at a Youth Indaba in Gaborone last year, the BPOPF Board strongly support increasing shareholding. But that will remain wishful thinking. Now that BPOPF has quashed Strive Masiyiwa's Econet attempt to acquire majority shareholding at Mascom Wireless from the South Africans (MTN) behind your back, are you looking to increase your stake, I ask Molefe. "It is a big no. We cannot afford to take too much risk in that investment. No," she blurts out the answer, without hesitation.

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Fund Administration

How far are you with outsourcing of the Administration of the Fund since NBFIRA called for compliance with new RFA which outlaws self (inhouse) administration? Who is BPOPF targeting to outsource to? What model has BPOPF adopted for this outsourcing e.g. Joint Venture; engaging independent firm or returning to Alexander Forbes?

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We have assembled a project management team (assisted by independent consultants)  that has already identified a technical partner. The technical partner is bringing a great system for the administration of the Fund compared to the manual one we have been using.

(non disclosure) Lecha administrators (pty) ltd 51% investment ... 100% BPOPF subsidiary 49% ... NMG consultants

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Fiducia (owned by Finance Minister Dr Matsheka), Alexander, AON 

Horrible failures

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In an attempt to grow local industries BPOPF has experienced major setbacks and horrible failures by asset managers, losing millions of pula in some instances. Examples include BONA Life, Choppies/ African Alliance, CMB and other asset managers like Afena Capital (now Kgori Capital), Flemming, African Alliance etc. What is the attitude of BPOPF towards all these developments?

We are still positive,

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To demostrate confidence in the P1 billion into private equity...

Stealing can happen at any corner...its inherent risk...report crime to the authorities to deal with criminals

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We are not mean and cruel ... our stakeholders should be ethical and professional ...

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Management did not have horrible failures...shareholders  tally tshekiso, serwalo tumelo, de castro, had entered into an agrreement to delist and smile home rich with everybody suffering a huge loss fom p3.78 to p0.40

corporate action is for investors

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Institutional investors

bpopf can't control EGM,  took action, barclays, dpf (7 billion), (parastatal AA)

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dpf... nchindo, de castro

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Kgori have tendered for new tenders



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