South African government pension chief Oliphant suspended

Head of leading responsible investment institution

John Oliphant, the Principal Officer at South Africa’s Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) who sits on the Advisory Council of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), has been suspended from his post at the GEPF.

He was suspended before a disciplinary inquiry relating to supplier contracts, according to South African media reports. Neither the GEPF’s Board of Trustees nor Administration Office could be reached for comment.

Oliphant is Principal Executive Officer, Head: Actuarial and Investments at the ZAR1.2 turn (€101bn) GEPF, the largest pension fund in Africa and an influential voice in responsible investment on the continent. Earlier this year, for example, it allocated ZAR13bn to three new funds aimed at boosting employment and economic growth.
South Africa is one of the leading countries in the world for responsible investment, with its Code for Responsible Investing in South Africa (CRISA), which Oliphant chairs, and Regulation 28 on ESG integration, alongside the King reviews on corporate governance and the long-standing Johannesburg Stock Exchange SRI index.Oliphant has been instrumental in the GEPF’s responsible investment policies and the setting up of the PRI South African Network as well as sitting on the JSE’s SRI Index Advisory Committee.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by GEPF’s Head of Corporate Services Joelene Moodley, according to a statement from GEPF Chairman Arthur Moloto cited by local media. Moodley sits on the three-person GEPF Executive Committee with Oliphant and Adri van Niekerk, Head of the Board Secretariat.

The news comes barely a month after Oliphant opened the PRI in person conference in Cape Town, saying: “Responsible investing is no longer a peripheral discussion but rather the core – the new normal of doing business in the 21st century.”

Last month Oliphant welcomed the publication of a new guide, titled: Responsible Investment and Ownership: A Guide for Pension Funds in South Africa. He was named as ‘The Up and Coming Future Leader of the Year’ at the Africa investor Investment and Business Leader Awards 2013.