Minister of Finance appoints new GEPF Board

The Minister of Finance, Mr Nhlanhla Nene yesterday convened the first sitting of the new Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) Board of Trustees following the end of tenure of the previous Board. 

The new Board elected Dr Renosi Mokate as Chairperson and Mr Edward Kekana as Vice Chairperson. Both Trustees have been re-appointed to the GEPF Board.
  
The Board of Trustees comprises of 16 members, eight nominated by employer and the other eight nominated by employees. The names of the new Board of Trustees is as follows:

Employer Representative Trustees

Department – Name
National Treasury – Mr Stadi Mngomezulu (Re-appointed)
Department of Defence- Maj Gen Mulungisa Sitshongaye
State Security Agency – Ms Jennita Kandailal
Department of Basic Education – Dr Morgen Pillay (Re-appointed)
DPSA – Mr Thabo Mokwena
SAPS – Lt Gen Lineo Ntshiea
Specialist – Dr Renosi Mokate (Re-appointed)
Specialist – Mr Themba Gamedze (Re-appointed)

Employee Representative Trustees
Department – Name
NEHAWU – Ms Kgomotso Makhupola (Re–appointed) 
SADTU – Mr Edward Kekana (Re-appointed)
NATU- Mr Alan Thompson 
PSA – Mr Pierre Snyman (Re-appointed)
DENOSA – Mr Sibonelo Cele
POPCRU – Adv Makhubalo Ndaba (Re-appointed) 
Uniformed Services – Col Johan Coetzer (Re-appointed)
Pensioner – Dr Frans le Roux (Re-appointed)

The GEPF Chairperson Dr Renosi Mokate welcomed trustees to the GEPF Board and wished them well in their term of office. She thanked the previous Board with whom she had worked with and congratulated them on their achievements over the last four years. GEPF Principal Executive Officer (PEO) Abel Sithole said, “The staff of the GEPF and I welcome the new Trustees to their positions and look forward to their contribution and guidance in the services of members, pensioners and beneficiaries”.

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Statement by the Government Employees Pension Fund on the suspension of PIC Officials

The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) is extremely perturbed by the latest announcement by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) that it has suspended its Executive Head of Listed Investments, Mr Fidelis Madavo and the Assistant Portfolio Manager, Mr Victor Seanie, following a preliminary investigation report that reflects the flouting of governance and approval processes with respect to the Ayo Technology Solution transaction.

Of serious concern to the GEPF is that the PIC had assured the GEPF on numerous occasions and in correspondence that correct governance processes were followed with respect to the Ayo Technology Solutions transaction. The GEPF views this as a serious breach of trust.

The PIC invested in Ayo Technology Solution as part of the listed portfolio mandate. Thus at the time of its listing, the investment in Ayo fell outside of the unlisted investment portfolio within which there are set governance processes and there are limits set for the PIC to engage the GEPF.

Although the total unlisted investments portfolio comprises less than 5% of the total assets of the Fund, it represents a significant amount of funds. These are funds that the GEPF invests into, contribute to the real economy of the country and to drive transformation but still aiming to realise it main objective of maximising returns. When the actions of officials bring this intention into question, it undermines the objective to invest in the real economy of the country and may lead to a review that may deprive the economy of greatly needed investment.

Despite the apparent failures on this and other investments, the overall performance of the PIC as an asset manager remains positive and in line with agreed criteria. Nonetheless, the GEPF continues to heighten its monitoring and oversight.

The GEPF requests of the PIC Board to urgently finalise its investigations of alleged impropriety with respect to the Ayo transaction and others and take appropriate action where it is warranted.

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GEPF change rules regarding pension debt on divorce

Following the gazetting of the Government Employees Pension Law Amendment Bill on 23rd May 2019, the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) will, once the amended rules are implemented, no longer subject a member to a debt model in executing a divorce settlement. Instead the new amendment provides for the reduction of pensionable service of the GEPF member that is equal to the value of the divorce settlement amount paid. 

This amendment to the law removes the pension debt that accrued to the GEPF member when a portion of their pension was paid out by the GEPF as a divorce settlement. This pension debt calculation created the perception that members could find themselves owing money to the GEPF when they retired. 

The amendment now ensures that rather than creating a debt, there will be an adjustment to the member’s pensionable service following the payment of a divorce settlement by the GEPF. This means that the benefit that will be paid to the member upon retirement will now be decreased by reducing the members’ years of pensionable service to take into account the pension interest of the member that was given to the spouse upon divorce. 

Therefore, members will receive their full benefit after the reduced pensionable service has been affected. Members who have more than ten years of pensionable service will still be entitled to a lump sum and a monthly pension upon existing the fund, however at a reduced value. Following this law change, the GEPF is currently developing and gazetting rules that will govern the implementation. It is expected that this process will be finalised in July 2019 and the implementation of the new rules will come into effect as of the 01st August 2019. 

Parallel to the process above, the GEPF will be writing to all affected GEPF members in July 2019 to inform them about how these changes are going to affect their pensions and service period and allow them the opportunity to opt from the old divorce debt model into the service reduction model. The affected members will have up until the 22nd May 2020 to indicate their choice of either remaining with the debt and interest model or move to the service adjustment model approach. Currently affected members who fail to indicate their choice by 22 May 2020 will automatically be converted into the new approach. Post 22 May 2020 all members who have a legal divorce claim against their pension will be subjected to the service reduction model. 

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Government Employees Pension Fund pensioners will receive a 5.2% annual pension increase.

Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) announced today that an annual pension increase of 5.2% to its pensioners with effect from 1 April 2019. 

The GEPF has granted this increase to enable pensioners to keep up with rises in inflation. 

The pension increase is based on the 5.2% inflation rate for the 12 months ending 30 November 2018 released by Statistics South Africa on 12 December 2018 thus making the increase equal to 100% of Consumer Price Index (CPI) and higher than the 75% of Consumer Price Index (CPI) provided in terms of GEP Law and Rules. 

Pensioners whose pensions commenced after 1 April 2018 will receive a proportionate increase based on the number of months they have been in receipt of a pension by 31 March 2019. 

It must be noted that increases such as this increase which is above what is provided for in GEP Law and Rules is granted at the discretion of the Board taking the Fund’s investment performance into account. 

An analysis of the assets held by the Fund in relation to the valuation of its liabilities undertaken in March 2018 showed that the Fund is 108.3% funded, which means that there are sufficient assets in the fund to cover its actuarial liabilities in full. 

This funding level as been achieved despite, amongst others, the: 

• increase in the number of pensioners 

• pension increases 

• increase in resignation pay-outs 

• increase in funeral benefits from R7 500 to R15 000 upon death of a member, pensioner or spouse as well as the funeral benefit increasing from R 3 000 to R 6 000 for eligible children 

• the introduction of the Child Pension which replaced the Orphan’s Pension. 

Benefit improvements over the years together with investment performance, salary and pension increases result in changes in both the minimum and long term funding level. 

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Board Letter to GEPF Members and Pensioners About the PIC Inquiry

Dear Members / Pensioners 

As many of you are aware, the Public Investment Corporation Inquiry established by President Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, to probe allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has begun. 

The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) supports the establishment of the inquiry as we believe it will result in a stronger and more effective Public Investment Corporation. In this regard, the GEPF has written to the PIC Inquiry indicating its willingness to cooperate fully with the inquiry. 

We have also noted with concern the recent suspensions of senior PIC employees as well as the instituting of a forensic investigation by the Board of the PIC into allegations of impropriety against certain directors of the Board. The GEPF views such matters in a very serious light and as such, we have written to the PIC raising our concerns with respect to these matters, including the alleged governance failures at the PIC. 

It is understandable that the revelations at the inquiry and the alleged governance failures are as much a concern to you, our members and pensioners, as it is to us at the GEPF. 

I would like to assure you that the GEPF is in a very sound financial situation and that such issues will not have an impact on your pensions and benefits. Despite the indications of apparent failures and or circumvention of processes with regard to a number of investments, the overall performance of the PIC as an asset manager remains positive and in line with agreed criteria. Nonetheless, the GEPF continues to heighten its monitoring and oversight. The board and management of the GEPF takes its fiduciary duties very seriously and is committed to ensuring that our fund continues to grow. 

Yours sincerely, Abel Sithole Principal Executive Officer GEPF

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ACTUARIAL INTEREST EXPLAINED

WHAT IS ACTUARIAL INTEREST?

The GEPF is a Defined Benefit fund. The Rules of the Fund stipulate that the benefit payable to a member on retirement is based on his or her pensionable salary and years of membership in the Fund. The benefit payable is not related to the contributions received on behalf of that member. Where a member retires with less than 10 years of service or withdraws from the Fund prior to retirement, the member receives his or her Actuarial Interest in the Fund, which is the estimated value of the benefit that the member has built up in the Fund to the date of exit. Put another way, it is the amount of money the Fund is holding in order to fund the expected future benefit payment to the member. 

The total of the Actuarial Interest values for all members and pensioners is compared to the total assets held by the Fund to determine whether the Fund has sufficient assets to meet its liabilities – this is done formally every two years as part of the Actuarial Valuation of the Fund by a valuator who an independent expert in this field and is approved by the regulator. An extract of the valuation results is also reflected in the Fund’s published Annual Report. 

Actuarial Interest values are calculated by applying a formula based on the following: 

1. The average pensionable (or basic) salary in the last two years prior to exit; 

2. The years of membership with the Fund; 

3. Any purchase of service or money transferred into the Fund from other funds; and 

4. A factor – called an Actuarial Interest Factor – based on the member’s age and whether the member is a “Services” member or an “Other” member. 

In calculating the actuarial interest, the Fund determines, for each member, the potential benefit that would be payable in each future year for each type of exit (that is, resignation, death, retirement, etc.). Since the Fund has no way of knowing when and how each member will exit and what the member’s salary will be at the date of exit, this calculation requires that various assumptions be made about the future economic conditions and the demographics (profile) of the entire membership. 

The demographic and economic assumptions are reviewed as part of each Actuarial Valuation of the Fund to ensure they remain appropriate and in line with the actual experience to give the best possible estimate of each member’s Actuarial Interest value in the Fund. 

• The demographic assumptions relate to the expected number of withdrawals, deaths and retirements of members at each age and how long pensioners are expected to live. These assumptions are specific to the Fund as they are calculated from the actual experience of the Fund- this is the best available indicator of what is likely to take place in the future. 

• The economic assumptions relate to the expected level of future inflation, interest rates and investment returns (which are calculated from investment market information), salary increases (which are calculated relative to inflation) and pension increases (which are based on the pension increase policy of the Fund). 

As the demographic experience of the Fund and economic circumstance change, it has to be reflected in the demographic and economic assumptions. The Actuarial Interest Factors, and therefore Actuarial Interest values, can increase or decrease as a result of any change in the demographic and economic assumptions. This will, in turn, reflect in a change in the current value of each member’s benefits in the Fund. These changes are not the result of a decision by the Board of Trustees, the employer (government) or employee representative (trade unions).

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GEPF pensioners and members untouched by new tax regulations

The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) assured its members and pensioners that the new Taxation Laws Amendment Actwill not affect their pensions or benefits. As a defined benefit pension fund, the benefits of the GEPF are already taken as one third lump sum gratuity and the two thirds is taken as a pension. It will however affect the recording and attribution of the employer’s contribution in respect of active members. It will also increase the amount that can be contributed to the Fund tax free for the majority of its members.

The new tax laws were put in place to safeguard the retirement savings of all South Africans who contribute to retirement funds. These changes will mostly affect members of provident funds who will now have to split their retirement benefit between a one third lump sum and two thirds pension on the portion of their benefits accumulated after 1 March 2016 while retaining the right to take all amounts accumulated until this date as a lump sum.

Principal Executive Officer Abel Sithole stressed that the Fund continues to work for the financial security of its members and pensioners. “Members of the GEPF will be able to access their pensions after 1 March 2016 in exactly the same way as they can be accessed currently. None of the calculations and benefits will change due to these changes” says Sithole.

Sithole urged members not to panic and consider leaving the Fund in order to access their full pension benefits. He said the new Act would not take away the right of pension fund members to withdraw their benefits before or at retirement as a lump sum.

He strongly reiterated the benefit for government employees of working until their retirement date in order to continue contributing to their pension as long as possible, which will lead to a bigger pension. Mr Sithole reminds members of the tax implications of an early cash withdrawal benefit.Any member, who is unsure about their pension benefits should seek clarity from their human resource departments or contact the GEPF on 0800 117 669.

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R10.5 billion financing injected towards affordable housing for government employees

PRETORIA -The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) through its investment manager Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has announced an investment commitment of R10.5 billion into SA Home Loans (SAHL) to facilitate housing financing for qualifying government employees and members of the public. 

The investment aims to provide government employees and qualifying members of the public with end-user home finance and development finance for approved affordable housing projects. The investment comprise of the following: 

• R 5 billion for public service employees; 

• R 2 billion for affordable housing end user financing as defined in terms of the Financial Sector Code; 

• R 2 billion to enable SAHL to extend home loans to the rest of qualifying home loan applicants; and 

• R 1.5 billion will be used to fund affordable housing developers. 

The investment in SAHL is part of the developmental investment mandate that the PIC is carrying out on behalf of the GEPF. Specifically, this investment addresses the social infrastructure element which has housing as one of the key components. 

Dr. Claudia Manning, Member of the PIC Board said: “The PIC is intentionally implementing a developmental investment mandate, which primarily seeks to achieve two types of returns, namely: financial and social returns. Financial return means that PIC must generate profit for clients and social return means our investments should positively affect the social conditions of the stakeholders. Our view is that members of the GEPF should benefit during their active working years and during retirement – and this is a social return. Investing in affordable housing finance schemes such as this, provides these members with a real benefit.” 

Lack of access to housing has been identified by the National Development Plan (NDP) as one of the challenges facing South Africa. In its diagnostic report, the NDP notes that: “the growth of property value has led to an overall average house price that has made housing unaffordable to many South Africans, and has further excluded participation in the property market by historically excluded groups. The growth has largely benefitted middle and higher income groups.” 

Abel Sithole, Principal Executive Officer of the GEPF, said: “We believe there are many GEPF members who often do not qualify for bank-issued housing loans and housing subsidies offered by the government. We are, therefore, excited about this investment as it will enable many government employees to own their own houses at a much more affordable rate. Most importantly, we believe home ownership can restore people’s dignity” The Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS), an agency of the Department of Public Services and Administration, will assist government employees to access funding from SAHL. 

Mashwahle Diphofa, Director General of the Department of Public Service and Administration, DPSA said: “The DPSA welcomes the participation of the GEPF through the PIC in the Government Employees Housing Scheme. The GEHS housing finance access service seeks to secure and deliver affordable and enabling housing finance for government employees. It is even more pleasing to see the PIC stepping forward as the first investor and participant in the GEHS housing finance service to bring this much needed value-added service to government employees.”Interface systems between GEHS and SAHL have already been developed and are operational. Government employees may also approach SAHL directly to apply for home loans. 

Kevin Penwarden, Chief Executive Officer of SAHL, said: “We are excited about this partnership. More than anything, this investment is an expression of confidence in our service offering. We believe we have the necessary capacity and skills to deliver excellent home financing services to clients that will be coming through the GEHS platform, as we have consistently done with all our clients.” 

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GEPF invests responsibly

GEPF exists to provide and pay benefits when due to public servants who are members as well as retirees. The GEPF would like to assure its members and pensioners that their pension benefits are safe. Members and pensioners are reminded that their benefits are paid in terms on the rules of the Fund and are not directly dependent on contributions by themselves and the employer and its investments. They should therefore not focus inordinately on the ordinary and normal fluctuations of the Fund’s investments, which is of greater interest to the Board of Trustees and the Minister of Finance. 

In making investment decisions, the Fund’s investment manager, PIC is guided by a mandate provided by GEPF that outlines which type of investments can be made, the percentage allocation for each asset class, benchmarks and performance targets, among other guidelines. 

To ensure that the Fund keeps to its objective of paying benefits to members and beneficiaries, a number of mechanisms are in place to ensure that the PIC acts within its mandate. GEPF’s investment policy and strategy is reviewed and updated regularly in line with GEPF’s Asset Liability Model. This review is carried out in consultation with the Minister of Finance in terms of section 6(7) of the GEP Law and Rules. 

In addition, the GEPF has a Responsible Investment policy as well as a Developmental Investment policy. The Responsible Investment (RI) policy is an overarching strategy aimed at integrating environmental, social and governance issues into investment decisions and ownership practices. The RI policy underpins all GEPF investments. The Developmental Investment (DI) policy focuses on targeted investments that contribute to positive economic, social and environmental outcomes for South Africa, while earning good returns for members. The DI policy is the foundation of the GEPF’s investments in economic infrastructure, social infrastructure, environmental infrastructure and priority sectors that generate job creation. 

GEPF is required to invest 90% of its assets in South Africa, and as such remains the single largest investor in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). It has an international allocation limit of 5% in the rest of Africa and 5% elsewhere internationally. 

The PIC makes investments in all asset classes guided by the Fund’s investment policies and mandates using robust and rigorous investment analysis based on sound investment philosophy, investment processes executed by qualified and experienced investment professionals. 

With regard to the investments such as Sanral and Eskom bonds, the PIC has a mandate from the GEPF to invest in the bonds included in the Bond Exchange of South Africa’s All Bond Index (ALBI), within specified risk parameters including a minimum rating of BBB. To the extent that these bonds are included in the ALBI, and they meet the minimum rating criteria, they can be included in the GEPF portfolio. 

Total exposure to any single bond issuer is subject to restrictions stipulated in the investment mandate. For example, not more than 5% of the total bond portfolio can be invested in bonds issued by an A-rated issuer, and not more than 2% can be invested in bonds issued by a BBB-rated issuer. 

These are some of the limits in place to mitigate the portfolio’s credit risk. An additional consideration is that investments in Sanral and Eskom are investments in the infrastructure on which the South African economy depends 

All investments that the Fund makes individually only constitute a small percentage of the GEPF’s total investment portfolio. Although the GEPF and PIC do not make any investment expecting to lose money and or not receive a good return, individual investments are therefore not a significant investment. 

The Fund’s risk management policy and framework provides the necessary processes to ensure the sustainability of the Fund. The mandate and responsibility of GEPF’s Board of Trustees is contained in the GEP Law and Rules that set out its fiduciary responsibilities to members, pensioners and beneficiaries, and which calls upon trustees to ensure effective and efficient administration of the Fund. 

GEPF is mandated to protect the members’ benefits as highlighted by the investment performance of the Fund in the past ten years which shows good standing. The assets of the Fund have grown from R416 billion to R1 591 billion from 2005 to 2015. 

The Fund’s ten-year investment performance is evidence that the Board of Trustees, through a good investment strategy with the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) is monitoring and directing the Fund’s assets in a professional manner. 

It is also important to note that in any investment environment, certain investments will achieve above expectation and others will not reach their targets, but the Fund’s overall investment performance over the last few years speaks for itself. While it is the task and responsibility of the PIC to focus on each and every investment to ensure a positive outcome, and for the Board of Trustees to monitor this, members and pensioners need not focus too much on them. 

During the past decade the Board of Trustees has granted pension increases which have kept up with inflation resulting in more than 400 000 pensioners’ buying power being protected. 

These pension increases need to be viewed in the context of the Fund’s Rules, which state that increases only need to be 75% of the change of the Consumer Price Index. Such adjustments, and the inclusion of additional benefits such as the Funeral Benefit, have only been possible because the necessary investment goals have been reached. In addition, GEPF is a defined benefits pension fund and therefore has very strict regulations governing the financial liability to its members and pensioners. The primary role of the GEPF is to protect the wealth of our members and pensioners by safeguarding their retirement benefits through proper administration and prudent investment.

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NOTICE TO GEPF MEMBERS, BENEFICIARIES AND SPOUSES

TO: 

(i) ALL CURRENT MEMBERS; 

(ii) BENEFICIARIES AND SPOUSES WHO BECAME ENTITLED TO BENEFITS SINCE 1 APRIL 2015; AND 

(iii) FORMER MEMBERS WHO RESIGNED SINCE 1 APRIL 2015 

NOVEMBER 2016 

1. In August 2016, the Public Servants Association (“PSA”) applied to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for an order directing the Government Employees Pension Fund (“GEPF”) to give written notice of the PSA’s court application to all current members, former members who resigned since 1 April 2015, beneficiaries and spouses who became entitled to benefits since 1 April 2015 (hereinafter “stakeholders”). 

2. The GEPF did not oppose the order that it give written notice of the PSA’s application to the aforementioned stakeholders. This order was granted on 13 September 2016. 

3. The PSA also launched an application for the review and setting aside of the decision of the board of the GEPF, taken in terms of the rules of the GEPF, to amend the actuarial factors used to determine certain benefits payable by the GEPF. The basis for the PSA’s review application is that the GEPF’s board did not consult it before making its decision. 

4. The GEPF is opposing the PSA’s review application and has to that end filed and served a notice of intention to oppose. 

5. The purpose of this notice is simply to inform GEPF stakeholders of the existence of the PSA’s review application and also to inform any stakeholder that the PSA’s review papers will be available at the GEPF’s offices below upon request. 

6. A copy of the PSA’s notice of motion setting out the relief the PSA says it will seek in the review application is attached to this notice. 

Yours sincerely 

Abel Sithole 

Principal Executive Officer

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