Edition: Dec 2014 - Feb 2015
Editorials

GRAVY

There’s no need to feel sympathy for Baleka Mbete, ANC national chair and Speaker of the National Assembly. The hard time she’s been having is cushioned by money, not only for what she doesn't do (getting R25m or so from the BEE deal in Gold Fields which claims she has to do nothing for it) but also for what she does do in her role as Speaker (where the latest Budget estimates of national expenditure don't reveal her precise remuneration).

However, it must be sufficient to keep the wolf from the door. The 2014-15 Budget estimate for the Office of the Speaker is R43,5m.

This is obviously not for Mbete alone. It includes remuneration for a handful of support staff, one of whom is Arthur Moloto as her special advisor. Moloto is a discarded ANC MP who wasn't reappointed to chairmanship of the Government Employees Pension Fund, so appeared in need of a job. He got this one allegedly without it being advertised.

Mbete needs all the advice she can get, provided it is sound and impartial and worth the money. Clearly, it isn't.


On the subject of appointments, Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke has called for the powers of the cabinet to be reviewed. He is concerned about a "remarkable concentration of the President’s powers of appointment" and provides a long list of public-sector appointments made by the President.

One example he omitted is government nominees to the GEPF board. Although appointed by the Minister of Finance, they're within the collective cabinet responsibility. It’s right that government, as the employer, appoints half of the GEPF board.

But it would be utterly wrong, and a danger to be avoided, if the process tended to favour friends who might not be too fanatical about their independence. Hold thumbs.


“There are two things I like about him,” explained a man to a friend. “He’s honest and he’s not a fanatic.”


It gets to me about the “dismissal” of John Oliphant as GEPF principal executive officer that competent people in the public sector are kicked out and incompetent people are kept in. But has Oliphant been kicked out? Perhaps not, because the post hasn't yet been advertised.

Another reason is that TT, having asked the GEPF under the Promotion of Access to Information Act for access to minutes of the board meeting from which the GEPF announced his dismissal, got this response:

‘Kindly be informed that the GEPF cannot at this stage assess your request as it relates, either directly or indirectly, to the disciplinary process currently underway. The GEPF would not want to prejudice any parties to that process.’

So on the one hand the GEPF announces his dismissal; on the other it says that the process is still underway. Go figure.


Over at the Public Investment Corporation, the post of chief executive officer has been advertised following the resignation of Elias Masilela.

Such are the qualifications required that it’s doubtful whether anybody other than Dan Matjila, the chief investment officer, is capable of meeting them.


The PIC, as we all know, prides itself on intervening for good governance at investee companies and on voting against directors’ remuneration that it considers wonky. Now peek inside the PIC’s glass house.

For the past six months, SA’s biggest asset manager has not had a chief executive officer. In the 2013-14 financial year, its CEO was paid R8,5m (inclusive of an ex gratia amount and a short-term incentive) while the CIO was paid R14,7m (inclusive of short and long-term incentives).

These amounts aren't outrageous by the standards of big asset managers. But compared with top salary scales in the public sector, they are. Also, the bulk of the PIC portfolio is passive and it hardly has to compete for clients.


Intaxication: The euphoria in getting a tax refund. It lasts until you realise that it was your money in the first place.