South Africa’s Government Employees’ Pension Fund confirms dismissal of suspended chief Oliphant

Removal of Principal Executive Officer follows yearlong inquiry

John Oliphant has been dismissed from his role as principal executive officer of South Africa’s R1.43trn (€102bn) Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF) it has been confirmed today, following a 12-month inquiry into suspected misconduct.

A statement from the GEPF – with 1.2m members Africa’s largest pension fund – said Oliphant, who was suspended from his role at the fund in October last year after reportedly breaching GEPF policy on payments to suppliers, has been dismissed after being found guilty of charges of misconduct by a disciplinary board.

The fund said: “GEPF’s Board of Trustees noted the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, and said it was satisfied that due process was followed.”

Oliphant at the time recused himself from his roles at the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), where he sits on the initiative’s strategy body, the 16-member Advisory Council, and the Code for Responsible Investing in South Africa (CRISA), where he is chair.

Oliphant was instrumental in the GEPF’s responsible investment policies and the setting up of the PRI South African Network as well as sitting on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange SRI Index Advisory Committee.

Since his suspension, his role has been handled by the GEPF’s Head of Corporate Services Joelene Moodley. Oliphant has told Bloomberg News that he is attempting to meet with GEPF Chair Dr Renosi Mokate to get clarity on the matter, but did not comment further.The PRI said that while the investigation into Oliphant was taking place, GEPF sent ESG Manager Adrian Bertrand as a replacement. Oliphant’s term was in any case coming to an end at the end of this year.

A spokesperson added that GEPF Chair Mokate, a former Executive Director of the World Bank Group and a former Deputy Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, has automatically qualified for the Africa/Middle East asset owner position: “She will take up her position in March 2015.”

Details about the suspension and subsequent inquiry into Oliphant have been hard to come by. Last November, the Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party and Oliphant himself urged for access to a PwC report detailing the events leading to the suspension.

David Ross, Shadow Deputy Minister of Finance with the DA said he believed the report contained details of how Oliphant “irregularly approved payments” to advertising company MojoMotherRussia and “multiple instances” of contravention of the fund’s supply chain requirements. Ross said at the time: “The DA is committed to finding the real reasons for the suspension, in the best interest of all government employees who belong to the GEPF.”

Around the same time, Oliphant had tweeted that he was calling in lawyers to try to get the report made public. And, prior to the release of the DA request, Oliphant tweeted: “Never thought that the most difficult thing to resist is the temptation to set the record straight. Now I know!”