John Oliphant, the suspended head of South Africa’s giant ZAR1.2 turn (€101bn) Government Employees Pension Fund, is stepping down from his roles at the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the Code for Responsible Investment in South Africa (CRISA) while he tries to clear his name.
Oliphant’s suspension from his role as Principal Executive Officer at the GEPF, Africa’s largest pension fund, was announced in a brief statement from the fund’s Chairman Arthur Moloto.
The move was “pending the finalisation of a disciplinary process relating to the outcome of a forensic investigation into supply chain management practices at the fund”.
GEPF said the disciplinary hearing will be chaired by an independent chairperson and Oliphant is being replaced on an interim basis by the GEPF’s Head of Corporate Services Joelene Moodley.
“I have decided to review my participation on various industry bodies until I have cleared my name,” Oliphant has now said in a statement.
These include his role at the PRI where he sits on the initiative’s strategy body, the 16-member Advisory Council and its Nominations committee, his chairmanship of the CRISA Committee as well as his role at the Principal Officers Association (POA), the non-profit organisation.“These institutions have been critical in driving issues of improved governance within the asset owner community (pension funds) and they continue to play an important role,” he said.
“I serve on these organisations voluntarily with no compensation because I truly believe in their mission and vision.
“It is important to me that PRI, CRISA and POA continue to pursue their mission without being distracted by questions relating to my situation at GEPF.
“I have therefore opted to recuse myself from the institutions until such time that I have cleared my name and that the process currently within GEPF has been finalised; the outcome of which I am confident will exonerate me.”
PRI Managing Director Fiona Reynolds told Responsible Investor: “We support John Oliphant’s decision to stand down from the PRI Advisory Council and other PRI committees until this matter has been resolved.”
Oliphant, instrumental in GEPF’s responsible investment policies and the setting up of the PRI South African Network, sits on various other bodies such as the Johannesburg Stock Exchange SRI Index Advisory Committee.