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THE Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) decision to institute investigations into the alleged mismanagement of pension funds at Saturnia Regna Pension Fund vindicates demands for a thorough audit of the fund.

The laxity with which relevant authorities have handled revelations of suspicious activities surrounding the management of the Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Fund particularly after the Pensions and Insurance Authority (PIA) released its inspection report is worrisome.

According to the PIA inspection conducted into the Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Fund between 11th and 19th April, 2016, K399, 472, 260 was arbitrarily invested in BIFM World Equity Fund and Blackrock Global Income Fund both of which are incorporated in Luxemburg.

The PIA report states, “… the Fund does not have ministerial approval to invest in offshore investments and has not complied with the law.”

By law, Pension Schemes are under Statutory Instrument Number 141 of 2011 allowed to invest in offshore accounts but with the approval of the Minister of Finance. Section 11 (1) of the SI states “A pension may invest not more than thirty percent of its Funds outside the Republic as may be authorised by the Minister under the Act.”

Why was this offshore investment unauthorised? What was the intention of making this investment without the express knowledge of the Board of Trustees?

With such colossal sums of pension funds illegally invested overseas, we question the PIA’s position that the pension industry is stable and that members’ accrued benefits are safe. Are Saturnia members’ accrued benefits really safe? Is Saturnia financially sound and compliant to the PIA legislation? Why is the PIA economical with the truth?

We are certain the PIA knows that all investments of pension funds should be done to enhance value of the members’ accrued benefits via diversification of the investment portfolio with the approval of the Trustees.

And when the fund managers decide to make offshore investments without the knowledge of the Board of Trustees, demands from interested parties to hold Benefits Consulting Services Limited and African Life Financial Services Limited accountable are justified.

It is this lack of transparency in the manner the Saturnia Pension Fund has been managed by those entrusted with the responsibility that raises eyebrows. The impact of mismanagement of pension funds on the country’s economy cannot be ignored.

The ceaseless tug-of-war between the Board of Trustees elected by the representative institutions of the Fund and the companies appointed to manage the Fund clearly reveals deep rooted mistrust on how management of the Fund should be improved to the benefit of pensioners.

It is public knowledge that the managing companies of Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Fund, Benefits Consulting Services Limited and African Life Financial Services Limited, which are owned by Menel Management Limited whose shareholders are UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, Munakupya Hantuba and Valentine Chitalu have not only been seeking to restrain the current Board of Trustees from performing their duties but also scheming to remove them at the next Annual General Meeting (AGM) in a ploy to conceal a plethora of illegalities.

Surely, such intentions should be closely monitored in the interest of protecting Saturnia members from losing out on their benefits.

Justifiably so, brazen attempts by managing companies of Saturnia Regna Pension Trust Fund, Benefits Consulting Services Limited and African Life Financial Services Limited to disregard a directive of Minister of Finance Felix Mutati for a special audit to be done before the pension fund could hold its AGM yesterday exposes manipulative manoeuvres to toss Trustees out of office at all costs.

How would the Board receive and consider the Annual Financial Statements of the Fund and the Reports of the trustees and Auditors before an independent audit is complete? What are the fund managers afraid of? Is there anything they are trying to conceal?

In any case, the High Court Judgement which dismissed the injunction after it was discovered that Mr Hantuba had neglected to tell the court he was not only a director of African Life financial Services and Menel Management Services Limited but that he was also the virtue owner of Aflife reveals the dubious methods the fund managers intend to employ to derive personal benefit to the disadvantage of fund members.

We urge the ACC to thoroughly probe the alleged mismanagement of the Saturnia Pension Fund and prosecute individuals for financial misappropriation.

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