The article recently published by the Zimbabwe Independent: Ipec resort to lying under oath describes how Insurance and Pension Commission (Ipec) engaged in perjury, swearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development (the Portfolio Committee) meeting of January 14, 2019 that government mandated it (Ipec) to implement the recommendations of the Justice Smith Commission report, including implementation of pensioner compensation.
In truth, government did not mandate Ipec to do anything about this commission report, as no parliamentary and other statutory procedures were followed for public ratification of such commission reports.
Instead, Finance ministry officials, in complicity with Ipec, side-stepped the requisite parliamentary procedures, and irregularly incorporated the much-vaunted recommendation that Ipec implements the inquiry recommendations in the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, and later in the 2019 national budget.
This was part of an apparently pre-meditated stratagem by Finance ministry officials, and possibly some commissioners of this inquiry to meddle with the inquiry, with the report, and finally force the meddled commission report down the throats of parliamentarians and other stakeholders.
With hindsight, the stratagem involved the unilateral seconding of Cuthbert Munjoma from Treasury to the commission as commission secretary, with the possible planting of some crony commissioners via a divisive commissioner selection process, in which some commissioners were advised of their appointments through the media. The appointment of Munjoma at Ipec, as assistant to the commissioner of Ipec, after an apparently hurried inquiry would later serve to complete the final circuit of the stratagem.
Pensioner whistleblowing, however, succeeded in alerting the portfolio committee of this apparent stratagem. Several articles detail the shenanigans in the stratagem. It is reliably understood that the portfolio committee is set to table its findings from stakeholder submissions to the National Assembly.
It is clear that Ipec has not relented on its policy of public deception, and its apparent policy of public misinformation. This is being done with the sole objective of maintaining the prejudice that it (Ipec) permitted over years as regulator.
Lloyd Gumbo, Ipec public relations manager’s frequent radio utterances and appearances on TV pontificating that they are doing right unto pensioners, yet many pensioners are appealing directly to Ipec to intervene in many cases where insurance companies and pension funds refuse to pay pensioner rightful benefits, have witnessed Ipec evasiveness, pensioner often being referred back to the errant insurance companies and pension funds or being referred to appeal to the courts.
Pensioner groups have abundant evidence in this regard. These public statements, listened to, and watched dismissively by many pensioners, directly contradict Ipec’s proclaimed pensioner treatment. It is also apparent that Ipec is further sponsoring news items such as Zimbabwe assesses pension value losses, riddled with incorrect, inaccurate and uninformed statements. But more recently, the news item Pensioners to be paid in US dollars, in which Ipec announces the engagement of the World Bank “. . . to come up with a model . . .” for compensation, demonstrates that it is not apparent to Ipec that it would contractually be a breach to divisively select certain periods of the full contractual period for benefit payment in US$, and not the full contractual period.
Apart from the latter Ipec bungling, it is worth pointing out that by approaching the World Bank, Ipec chooses to ignore thousands of claim letters written by pensioner groups such as Zimbabwe Pensions and Insurance Rights Trust (ZimPIRT), on behalf of their member pensioners, to insurance companies and pension funds, setting out the valuation of pensioner rightful benefits.
Seeking the assistance of outsiders before comprehensive internal consultations in the country reeks of disingenuity, especially when the direct counterparty does have a presented proposition. Insurance companies and Ipec, in complicity, have wholly ignored responding categorically to these benefit propositions, apparently because none of them have the skills and hence capacity to interrogate the very technical benefit valuations therein in the claim letters from pensioners.
Therefore, approaching outsiders, firstly, helps hide their ignorance on these valuation technicalities, secondly, keeps the bona fide stakeholders (pensioners) away from public fora, so that none of the influential local authorities get to listen to them, and finally it gives Ipec (the local partner) that leeway to manipulate the outsiders. In all this, Ipec and insurance companies present the problem to the authorities as one beyond Zimbabwe’s capacity, requiring outsiders such as the World Bank, thereby preventing unsuspecting authorities from establishing Ipec incompetence.
In persistence with this public misinformation, Ipec hosted a workshop on May 24, ostensibly to disseminate the Justice Smith-led commission report findings, conclusions and recommendations to stakeholders.
Unashamedly ignoring that it (Ipec) had been caught red-handed attempting to rail-road the commission report past pensioners, and defiantly ignoring public allegations that the Inquiry was meddled with, together with the commission report, and that these allegations are before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Finance and Economic Development, Ipec invited former commissioners to the inquiry, Godfrey Kanyenze, Brains Muchemwa and Tapiwa Maswera, to present the allegedly meddled with commission report to very few divisively selected pensioners in a crowd dominated by Ipec accomplices (ZAPF, LOA, Zafa).
This was a token public consultation serving no real purpose, given that pensioners had already presented before the portfolio committee. Apart from the well-known prejudices that pensioners are suffering, the former commissioners presented wholly inaccurate and misleading information about when some pensioner groups such as ZimPIRT began operations, disingenuously ignoring that it is ZimPIRT that single-handedly persuaded government to set-up the very commission of inquiry that the commissioners are proud to be part of.
They further made some contestable conclusions about the operations of pension and insurance schemes, and compensation models thereof, presenting the recommendation that compensation would apply for the period only from 1996.
The latter recommendation ignores tens of thousands of pensioners or policyholders who began participating as far back as the 1960s.
In an apparent attempt to reduce the liability that insurance companies stand to face on compensation, Kanyenze’s presentation of the ranking of the causes of prejudice patronisingly attempted to justify the commission’s flawed qualitative ranking method and wrong ranking thereof, citing a lack of data, and a prevalence of the use the qualitative method.
A little research would have informed this commission that quantitative methods of rankings of such causes are trite, with the data required readily available, as it forms the daily data required to assess performance of the economy. It is apparent from the commission report that ZimPIRT submissions to this commission before the inquiry was terminated in apparent murky circumstances were ignored by this commission, but, in fact, laid a very good foundation for this work of ranking.
It is apparent that the commission sought more to traduce the organisation without substantiating. ZimPIRT’s commentary to the commission report submitted to parliamentary portfolio committee, after a closer examination, details fundamental errors, flaws and misinformation in the commission report, and apparently the inquiry itself.
The commissioners then proceeded to make totally inappropriate and condemnable recommendation that Ipec implements post-inquiry recommendations, requiring insurance companies to submit compensation models for Ipec approval, completely leaving pensioners, the counterparties to the contracts, out of the compensation program and negotiations.
These commission recommendations flagrantly breach good corporate governance principles and practices, and likened pensioners to a situation akin to a robbed person (the pensioners) approaching a thief (Ipec and insurance companies) for remedies of injuries suffered.
They are surprising recommendations firstly as they bely the professionalism and competence expected in the commissioners, straddling disciplines or skills such as economists, accountant, financier, lawyer and actuary. The recommendation, secondly, completely ignored that Ipec, in its current form and structure, was and is responsible for pensioner prejudice, and that this form and structure has not been subjected to any corrective measures.
The contradiction manifested by these commissioners’ shoddy output, contrasted with their skills set, does support the case for a pre-determined stratagem at Finance Ministry level to maintain pensioner prejudice, leading to the apparent meddling with the commission of inquiry, the commission report and, finally, with parliamentary process of publicly ratifying such commission reports, and leading to Ipec’s false claims that it was mandated by government.
This hired lot of commissioners could not have been expected to do better in the circumstances, and, therefore, allowed themselves to be part of the despicable misinformation.
Finally, the case for the pre-determined stratagem by the Finance ministry to maintain pensioner prejudice is plausible considering the conflicted control of the Ipec board by insurance executives for many years, with the former Finance Ministry permanent secretary sitting with these executives — until ZimPIRT made noise about this.
Even then, an inappropriate effete Ipec board is in place with a chairlady, apparently not fit and proper having been implicated in the failure of at least two institutions, including a pension fund.
Parliament, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government must not allow such malfeasance, for this is what leads to the many apparent failures in government.
Martin Tarusenga is general manager of Zimbabwe Pensions and Insurance Rights, email, email@example.com; telephone; +263 (0)4 797 020; Mobile; +263 (0)772 889 716