The Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF), valued at N$150 billion and responsible for civil servants’ and some parastatals’ pensions, has shortlisted six candidates for the position of chief executive officer (CEO).
The shortlist reportedly includes Development Bank of Namibia boss Martin Inkumbi, Namfisa’s deputy chief executive Erna Motinga and GIPF operations executive Elvis Nashilongo.
The others include EOS Capital managing director Immanuel Kadhila, GIPF chief legal Melkizedek Uupindi and Nedbank Namibia’s corporate and investment banking executive Tjivingurura Mbuende.
Motinga confirmed that she had applied for the post and was awaiting the outcome of the process.
However, none of the other shortlisted candidates responded to requests for comment.
Sources familiar with the recruitment process claim that Kadhila and Uupindi do not qualify for the position because they don’t have 10 years of executive management experience.
Their names were allegedly not on the initial shortlist.
However, their supporters argue that they have worked closely with GIPF’s bosses and are highly regarded within the state pension fund’s hierarchy
David Nuyoma, who is due to retire as CEO next month, is reportedly seeking a 12-month extension to run the fund. The recruitment process is still ongoing, and it is not clear when a decision will be made.
A board meeting was scheduled for this month to discuss his request.
POWER AND MONEY
The position of GIPF chief executive is highly influential due to the organisation’s extensive involvement in Namibia’s economy.
Since its establishment in 1989, the fund’s assets have surpassed the national budget, making it the largest pension fund in the country with over N$150 billion in assets.
GIPF primarily caters to civil servants and employees of certain parastatals, offering retirement, death and disability benefits.
That kind of money draws attention and controversy.
The state pension fund has over the years faced allegations of enriching the elite through the management of pension funds, and experts in the financial sector are reportedly keeping a close eye on the process and outcome.
The Namibian understands that there is ongoing lobbying behind the scenes, including factions in the ruling elite and unions.
A senior investment banker said the wrong appointment could sabotage the financial and investment sector, as well as cause the local economy to shrink.
An alleged request was made by a GIPF board member to join the interviewing panel. However, the individual was advised against it due to concerns about maintaining transparency and upholding corporate governance standards.
Sources said Eskom’s pension fund head was suggested as an independent panellist. There was also a move to get Sven Thieme on the panel as an independent panellist from Namibia.
Thieme confirmed yesterday that he was approached, but said he declined to be on the panel due to his busy schedule.
Board meetings taking place this month are expected to be crucial in appointing the next GIPF chief.
The competition was allegedly so tight that even GIPF head of investment Conville Britz did not make the shortlist.
The successful candidate who secures the top GIPF job will assume responsibility for leading an institution that is under pressure to undergo reform.
Former Windhoek mayor Job Amupanda has over the years campaigned for the fund to allow members to access a portion of their pension to finance their houses
“GIPF is an instrument in the hands of the elites, operating like how missionaries operated in telling our people to wait for imaginary rewards in heaven while suffering on earth,” he said two years ago. “The point remains that our people must access housing now, directly from their pension, not when they turn 60 years old.”
Despite its deep pockets, GIPF has invested not more than N$2 billion into housing, one of the country’s biggest challenges. Namibia’s current housing backlog is over 100 000, while almost one million people live in informal settlements.
The GIPF has invested in housing, along with farms in Zambezi and the Grove Mall in Windhoek. Other local investments are in textbook publishing, solar power, hospitals and countless residential flats and commercial apartments.
However, there have been concerns that GIPF has been pumping money into companies owned by the elite.
More than 50 companies and individuals manage the fund’s investments, including Namibians, but also managers in Dubai, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
GIPF has also faced allegations over the years of corruption and cronyism.
Two years ago, former prime minister Nahas Angula said he knew there was corruption at the fund during his time in office.
GIPF’s reputation is still stained from the millions it lost in the Development Capital Portfolio (DCP) scandal.
The scandal saw over N$660 million of civil servants pension money invested in very questionable start-up companies, many of which were owned by politically connected individuals.
The government’s reliance on GIPF to fund its operations has been another controversy, essentially making the GIPF a major lender to the treasury.
For instance, the government borrowed N$34 billion from GIPF in the last four years, a sign that the state is increasingly relying on the national pension fund to pay for its operational budget shortfalls.
This practice has raised concerns from experts, who warned that the GIPF could fail to pay pensioners on time if the government goes broke.