In the wake of the debate on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on insurance/pensions benefit conversion to US$ (the Commission), by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development (Parliamentary Portfolio), the question is pertinently being raised whether Insurance and Pension Commission (IPEC) in its current governance format is fit and proper for the regulatory and supervisory function it stands to carry out to the pensions and insurance industries.
IPEC should carry out these functions primarily to protect consumers of pensions and insurance services, and more secondarily to drive economic growth from savings harnessed by the services.
In Zimbabwe the consumers have topically become synonymous with pensioners.
The question of whether IPEC is fit and proper has been heightened by several events not least the ostensible resignation of Mr Karonga as Commissioner of IPEC, just over a year after he had been appointed after he had done much more in just a year, when compared to his predecessors who only served to plunge the two industries into serious problems; and only a few months after Mr Cuthbert Munjoma joined IPEC, after the latter reportedly hijacked the Commission of Inquiry and meddled with the Commission report, apparently in return for this IPEC job as guaranteed by high ranking officials of the Ministry of Finance.
Mr Munjoma is former Secretary to the Commission, seconded from the Ministry of Finance.
More directly the question of whether IPEC is fit and proper has been raised as the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development debate the Commission recommendation that IPEC drive the pension compensation program.
Pensioners submitted to this Parliamentary Portfolio that IPEC could strictly not run a program to compensate pensioners, as it (IPEC) prejudiced them (pensioners) in the first place, and has been found so guilty by the same Commission of Inquiry.
In simple terms pensioners submitted that the Commission recommendation was a bit a like asking a guilty criminal to decide when and how much will constitute reparations to their victim.
The Commission recommendation plainly and grossly violates good corporate governance.
From these events IPEC is clearly overtly involved with Mr Munjoma to the extent it recruited him (hopefully) above board.
IPEC is, however, covertly involved with Mr Munjoma to the extent an inappropriate recommendation was made by the Commission, to which Commission Mr Munjoma was a secretary and in which Commission Mr Munjoma is reported to have hijacked the Inquiry and meddled with Commission report.
The inappropriate Commission recommendation was apparently in favour of IPEC, which now employs Mr Munjoma.
On the other hand the inappropriate recommendation disfavours pensioners.
This puts IPEC, and of course Mr Munjoma in questionable official positions regarding pensioner interests and rights.
In order to examine whether or not IPEC is fit and proper for the regulatory and supervisory function of the industries, the veracity of whether or not Mr Munjoma was indeed an agent of ministry high ranking officials must be established.
It also needs to be established whether he was an agent serving to manipulate the Inquiry and meddle with the Commission Report, for the benefit of the high ranking Ministry officials.
Clearly the high ranking officials had, and still have an objective for so assigning Mr Munjoma, and clearly the objective on the part of the officials could not be aligned to the objectives for which the Commission of Inquiry was set up, neither would their objective be aligned to pensioner objectives, interests and rights — there would otherwise not have been a need for these apparently clandestine interventions in this Commission of Inquiry.
It should here be noted that, overall, the Commission objectives were simplistically to establish whether pensioners were entitled rightfully, and the appropriate action if they were not entitled rightfully.
Now, that Mr Munjoma was indeed an agent of the high ranking officials planted in the Commission of Inquiry, to hijack and meddle with the Inquiry, and ultimately entrench the inappropriate recommendations, stem from Mr Munjoma’s secondment to the Commission of Inquiry, as Commission Secretary by the Ministry.
Obviously the high ranking officials had the ultimate say on this secondment.
The Commission of Inquiry therefore did not choose its Secretary, and was therefore not independent from the Ministry.
It remains to be verified whether the Commission briefed Mr Munjoma, and/or whether Mr Munjoma was even amenable to briefing.
Therefore on probabilities, given the events, Mr Munjoma was an agent of the ministry officials.
That the high ranking officials had interests in the outcome of the Inquiry, stem from the direct oversight that they had, and still have over IPEC, when IPEC failed to ensure that pensioners were entitled rightfully — this creates that need for them to cover their tracks for failing to direct IPEC as appropriate over this very long time.
At this stage the high ranking officials should be identified by their designations as covering at least the Minister of Finance, his Deputy and the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance.
They are responsible for putting together a competent IPEC Board that is representative of all stakeholders to the pensions and insurance industries.
These high ranking officials would be responsible and accountable for all IPEC failures.
Getting IPEC in a façade of compensating pensioners for the prejudice that it (IPEC), inflicted on the pensioners would just do the job of covering the tracks of the officials.
And entrenching a Commission recommendation in this regard, through a pliant corrupt seconded Commission Secretary, would be the perfect way of officialising IPEC to drive the pensioner ‘compensation’ programme.
Guaranteeing the Commission Secretary a more rewarding job at an institution within the control of the high ranking officials would ensure effective execution of the strategy to achieve a corrupt end.
The plan worked well until penultimate days of the Inquiry when a Commissioner of the Inquiry smelt a rat and resigned, inviting curious journalists on the scene.
Clearly IPEC is operating under the tight, exclusive control of high ranking Ministry officials whose interests are diametrically opposed to those of pensioners.
This is why the IPEC Board is appointed behind doors with no single pensioner representation.
It is time the President of the country intervened to ensure that all stakeholders participate transparently in setting the direction IPEC and hence of the two industries.
This is the practice in all progressive economies.
Martin Tarusenga is General Manager of Zimbabwe Pensions & Insurance Rights, email, [email protected]; telephone; +263 (0)4 797 020; Mobile; +263 (0)772 889 716; Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not represent those of the organisations that the author represent