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OPINION: Unions worry about R16bn BEE investment

FIN24.COM / 29 0CT0BER 2017 - 14.30 / TERRY BELL

About R16bn of public sector workers may have already been handed over to politically motivated investments, writes Terry Bell.

IT has begun to dawn on public sector trade unionists that a very large sum of money from their pension funds may already have been handed over to politically motivated investments under the guise of promoting Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

Image - Terry Bell

The government employee Pension Fund (GEPF), that probably accounts for at least R1.6 trn of the funds handled by the government controlled Public Investment Corporation (PIC) allows for 5% of such funds to be placed to the advantage of BEE.

But 5% of GEPF funds is equal to at least R16 bn. This is a considerable amount of money and the unions, notably the PSA (formerly Public Servants Association), have realised that they should have greater oversight over how this money is invested.

PSA general manager Ivan Fredericks has already lodged a demand that the labour movement be represented on the board of the PIC.

And he has pointed out that failure to comply could mean the unions moving their funds away from the PIC. He has called for a full list of BEE investments “including actual investments made and the current value of each to be made public”.

There is a range of such investments, some of which seem to have no commercial rationale.

However, although the PIC is empowered to invest a portion of government pension funds in order to promote BEE and other “social areas”, this should not be to the detriment of positive returns.

In recent months questions have been raised about the rationale behind the investment in the Airports Company (Acsa) and in Independent News Media (IMSA). Several other apparently unprofitable investments, is other unlisted entities are also being queried.

Fredericks has also requested that, when listing all investments, the PIC includes “a list of politically connected persons” involved in such deals. The PSA also wants the unions to be represented on the boards of companies where employee pension funds are invested.

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LINK - http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Labour/unions-worry-about-r16bn-bee-investment-20171029

Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER

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