Issue: September 2012 / November 2012
Editorials

PENSION FUNDS ADJUDICATOR

Luk of the draw

Welcome the new Adjudicator. The pensions industry looks fortunate to have a personality with so much promise in this leadership role.


Lukhaimane...more than law

A blast of fresh air has entered the Office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator. Warm and personable, but with an uncompromising eye on operational deficiencies, Muvhango Lukhaimane brings to her new position a combination of skills and experience that give her the confidence to query convention.

It goes beyond the churning of complaint determinations, for which she’s trained in law, to reviewing the entire working model of an office beset by backlogs. “The volume of determinations doesn’t bother me as much as being able to run the office in an orderly fashion,” she professes. “At present, where every team has its own database and every team member has his or her own spreadsheet, work flow is impeded by silos. What’s needed is a new case-management system that can track the progress of each complaint on adjudication, conciliation and arbitration so that we don’t keep repeating ourselves.”

Get that right and the backlog, which she describes as “staggering”, can quickly diminish. A basic question that worries her is why many complainants come to the office even after they’ve received perfectly correct responses from their funds or its administrators. Is it that the responses aren’t believed, reflecting a lack of trust? Or is it that complainants are hoping to wheedle more than their entitlements? Or is it that they simply don’t understand?

“This office plays an important role in helping ordinary people,” Lukhaimane insists. “In discharging our mandate, we must grow them and assist the industry. I’m happy to explain determinations. I’m averse to acrimony.”

Appointed from June as the Deputy Adjudicator, to all intents and purposes she is the Adjudicator. The “deputy” bit should probably be seen as an employer’s temporary caution not to go the whole way until the employee is tested on the job. It’s a lesson well learned from experience with a previous adjudicator. Lukhaimane’s appointment comes with full support from Financial Services Board executive officer Dube Tshidi, amongst others in a circle of industry players likely to widen as her impact is felt.

Coincidentally, it was through the FSB some years ago that she got into the pension-fund industry. By the time she applied there for a job as an in-house lawyer, it was too late. The FSB had already made the appointment, and mentioned to her a firm that was looking for a person with her qualifications.

Thus began her career at Sanlam Employee Benefits as research consultant for Kobus Hanekom. By another fortunate coincidence, in the predominant culture of Sanlam operations back then, Afrikaans stood her in good stead. She was in the last LLB class at Pretoria University to have been taught entirely in Afrikaans. “Whereas other black recruits to Sanlam battled with the language, I had no problem at all.”

On she moved briefly as a legal consultant at Liberty Personal Benefits, , then for longer to the Eskom Pension & Provident Fund as its principal officer. She left out of boredom, once it was decided against conversion to a defined-contribution fund, to maintain a defined-benefit. Then onto the State Security Agency, mainly on human resources, and then to the Ministry where she chaired the Intelligence Services Council that similarly had much to do with human resources and conditions of service.

ACADEMIC HIGHLIGHTS

Having matriculated from a Venda school in 1988, Lukhaimane obtained a

  • B Iuris from University of Venda (where she later lectured);
  • LLB from University of Pretoria (while also working at the Centre for Human Rights);
  • LLM in Constitutional/Labour Law from Unisa (dissertation on whether the constitution protects the right to die);
  • Postgraduate diploma in management studies from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College;
  • Postgraduate diploma in financial planning from University of Free State;
  • Certificate in compliance management, in conjunction with the Compliance Institute of SA, from University of Cape Town;
  • Global certificate in knowledge management from J T Frank Academy;
  • Global remuneration professional from World@Work/SA Remuneration Association.

And if all this weren’t sufficient, she’s now in her second year of a part-time MBA at Wits Business School.

Wanting to return to financial services, she asked the Principal Officers Association whether it might know of funds interested in her skills to become a trustee. Yes, it suggested, but perhaps try the Pension Funds Adjudicator too. The rest is history. Rather, perhaps, history in the making if her shake-up intentions are realised.

“Training in law is a great grounding, but this is not just about law. It’s about fitting into an environment, about dealing with stakeholders. It’s about making the sort of difference that can help fund members as well as the industry.”