NBFIRA dragged into BPOPF fight

SHARE   |   Sunday, 15 March 2015   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Moakofhi Moakofhi

• Regulator fails to vet manual workers trustees
• Manual workers to sue NBFIRA

The Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) has been accused of frustrating manual workers union's effort to appoint representatives to the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) board of trustees.
For five months NBFIRA has failed to notify manual workers about the results of a vetting process, which started in October last year, despite that all other nominated representatives from other union parties have been confirmed as trustees to the BPOPF board. This has prompted the leadership of manual workers to express suspicion that the delay to vet their trustees could be a deliberate attempt to deny them representation in the BPOPF board.
Manual workers has since threatened to drag NBFIRA to court through an urgent application should the latter fail to pronounce on the status of their nominated trustees by Tuesday. In a letter written to the chief executive officer of NBFIRA on Thursday, and copied to board chairman Carter Morupisi and Lesedi Moakofhi - BPOPF acting CEO - manual workers union complain that the regulator has sat on their nominations since December 2014.
"The prejudice that the failure to advise our client of their status as employee trustees is overwhelming. The business of the fund continues to be transacted in their absence even though they have to be trustees on behalf of tens of thousands of members of the fund. Not only is the dilatory vetting process prejudicial, it also has the effect of frustrating the court order because the business of the fund continues to be transacted in the absence of our trustees contrary to the letter and spirit of the court order," reads part of the letter to NBFIRA delivered on Friday.
The nomination of Mmaophala Mokgosi and Betshobatsile Otsile came about following a settlement agreement reached after manual workers sued BPOPF and brought business of the board to a standstill. Although the court order instructed that "no further business of the board of trustees of the Fund shall be carried out until the terms of the settlement agreement had been carried out", the board has been meeting regularly and making decisions impacting on the business of the fund. Amongst the decisions is the short listing and recommendation for appointment of Cross Kgosidiile to take over as substantive CEO. The board also met in Maun last month to sign multi-billion pula contracts with asset managers.
Curiously, NBFIRA whose vetting process drags on for months had at some point expressed concern over delays to constitute a new board of trustees for the fund. In justifying the decision to proceed with business to the exclusion of manual workers trustees Morupisi said the issue should be addressed by the regulator and the union. Asked if continuing to convene the board before the vetting process is concluded for all nominated union trustees does not amount to contempt of court, Morupisi said no. "We do not know if they have been successful or not in the vetting process. Others (union trustees) who were approved have since joined us," he said ahead of the Maun meet.
In an interview on the eve of the Maun meeting where new contracts for asset managers were signed NALCGPWU national organising secretary Johnson Motshwarakgole and Administrative secretary Samuel Molaodi expressed shock that the board continues to conduct business in their absence. It was then that manual workers sought legal opinion on the matter. Documents of the Maun meeting show that NBFIRA has positively vetted nine trustees but the current position of Mokgosi and Otsile was not stated other than that they have not been vetted.
"We are hoping for a positive response from the regulator. Otherwise we will proceed with court action if we don't get an answer by Tuesday," said attorney Tshiamo Rantao who represents manual workers union in the matter.

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