By BENNIE MUNDANDO
A brazen attempt to disregard the authority of the Minister of Finance has landed Benefits Consulting Services Limited (BCS), fund manager of Zambia largest private pension fund into trouble.
Minister Mutati had ordered for a special audit before the Pension fund could hold an annual general meeting, but BCS yesterday published a notice calling for the AGM that was to be held today to the surprise and consternation of fund trustees, who want serious contentious issues resolved.
The Pension and Insurance Authority (PIA) has indefinitely postponed the meeting.
Registrar of the PIA Mr. Martin Libinga has postponed the meeting pending the completion of the independent audit ordered by the Minister following the discovery of serious irregularities including the unauthorised offshore investments amounting to K399 million and the disappearance of Title Deeds for 51 high value Fund properties.
BCS which is owned by Munakupya Hantuba, Hakainde Hichilema and Valentine Chitalu through their holding company Menel Management Services Limited and their partners Botswana Insurance Fund Management, wanted the AGM, to among other things remove some of the trustees accused of leaking information to the Daily Nation.
The holding of the AGM was always in doubt because of the order by the minister of finance for an audit to look into the governance of Zambia’s biggest pension fund.
Trustees feel that Fund Managers are in a hurry to replace the current Board of Trustees because they have expressed concern over the conflict of interest which has occurred due to the fact that both the Fund Manager and the Fund Administrator African Life Financial Services are owned and controlled by the same shareholders.
Two days ago, former BP Zambia employees petitioned Finance Minister Felix Mutati to halt the AGM which was aimed at replacing the current board of trustees until the ministerial audit is completed.
They charged that the current board of trustees may be found to have been negligent an must therefore remain in office until they clear the air on a number of issues which among other things, included payment of K37,000 for an Actuarial Evaluation on behalf of Puma Energy in complete contravention of the Rules of the Saturnia Trust Deed.
The notice of today’s cancelled AGM had consigned important items such as responses to pre-submitted queries, Trust Deed Amendment, Creation of an Independent Fund Secretariat, Appointment of Independent Property Manager and Trustee Elections under any other business.
The PIA has in past been accused of favouring the Benco and Aflife and the turn of events will please many Zambians who have complained about the lack of transparency in the management of Pension Funds in the country.