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Africa’s biggest fund manager given more board independence

‘When you impose a chairperson of the board it disrupts the normal chain of accountability.’

Finance minister Tito Mboweni gave the continent’s biggest fund manager more independence by breaking with tradition and not appointing his deputy to chair the custodian of the pensions of the country’s government workers.

The chair of the board of the Public Investment Corp. will be chosen from a list of appointees, that include union representatives for the first time, at its initial meeting after it takes office from July 12. The board is an interim arrangement, appointed for a year, as a judicial commission of inquiry into its governance is set to make findings this month.

The PIC’s new board has its work cut out for it. That’s as the South African manager of more than R2 trillion ($142 billion) faces the inquiry, is running several internal probes on key employees, and has its third chief executive officer in six months.

The previous board of directors offered to resign early February saying the PIC had entered a “state of paralysis” following misconduct claims against some board members, but offered to stay on until a new board was appointed.

That state of limbo will now be alleviated as the new board includes Sindi Mabaso–Koyana, Irene Charnley, Maria Ramos, Barbara Watson and Reuel Khoza, according to an emailed statement from National Treasury on Wednesday. Ramos is a former director general of the National Treasury and CEO of Absa Group Ltd., one of South Africa’s four biggest banks.

At the time the previous board resigned, the PIC started a forensic investigation into allegations of wrongdoing made by an anonymous whistle-blower against three board members. In the past year, half of the PIC’s executive committee have been suspended or resigned.

In January, a former board member told the commission of inquiry that the money manager would be better off without the deputy finance minister in the role because it inadvertently exposes the continent’s biggest money manager to the perception of political interference.

The break from the practice of appointing the deputy finance minister as the PIC chairman is probably an attempt to dismantle opportunities for corruption, according to Ralph Mathekga, an analyst and author of books on South African politics.

“When you impose a chairperson of the board it disrupts the normal chain of accountability,” Mathekga said by phone on Wednesday.“Empowering the board to choose its own chairperson is more to indicate to them that they will be in the hot seat if things go wrong.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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You CANNOT appoint that chair position for a one year term! No strategic decision will ever be taken in the context of measured-in-my-tenure.

Imagine you inherit a bowl of whatever and have a year.

End of comments.

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