Right those FNPF wrongs
Saturday, June 11, 2011
The Fiji National Provident Fund might not be attracting fans right now but you have to give credit to their executive team for rolling up their sleeves and facing criticism head on.
In the west this week was chief executive officer Aisake Taito.
To be visible at a time of mounting tension takes guts and courage, especially when members are on a mud-hurling competition, all suspicious and anxious about the planned reform of the FNPF laws and the pension scheme.
In recent weeks, members have been asking a lot of questions in and out of the symposium.
They have been responding to the talanoa about cooked books, inflated pay and allowances, dodgy characters getting cosy with each other, and bad investments. Ultimately, members just want answers from the people holding "our money".
Enter the CEO and three executives of FNPF Taito, Alipate Waqairawai, Jaoji Koroi and Tevita Nagataleka.
"This is not a public relations exercise," said Taito after the Rakiraki meeting.
"We have identified a problem and we want to fix it. My managers can be out here but I decided on the three executives out of respect for the retired pensioners. I also cannot decide on changes sitting in my office. I am out here to hear it from the pensioners themselves, a key stakeholder in this whole exercise."
The CEO has so far been largely unscathed in the west meetings. He instead has received praise and admiration from participants who think he has demonstrated excellent leadership.
Even when fronting aggressive and angry members, Taito has remained calm and level-headed throughout. He politely listens while they vent their anger/frustrations before he answers any queries.
If some questions were unnerving, it was not visible in his response.
"Given the importance of this proposal and all the reports fuelled by hearsay, it is important for me to be here to answer questions and give information. This is to make sure there is no conflicting numbers, no ambiguity to cause alarm or distrust among members," he explained.
"The fact that we have undertaken to come out in public and seek members' views should mean something. It should mean something that we have opened ourselves to public scrutiny, with the ultimate objective of resolving the issue with the Pension Fund."
"I am here to listen and I assure all members that their submissions will be taken into account."
He says he wants to right past wrongs and hands on is the strategy even when criticism appears misplaced.
"None of us current executives were here when the FNPF laws and Pension Scheme was established. It was recognised way back in 1992 that the fund was not viable and yet past leaders, management and board did not take the necessary steps to fix it," he said.
"There is a lot of anger about the Momi and Natadola investments, but we were not here at the time and we did not make that decision.
"Members want us to invest wisely and they question the decision to recall overseas investment. That too was before our time and while restriction on overseas investment has been relaxed a little, the decision to recall was at the order of the Reserve Bank of Fiji."
"We wrote down $327 million for Natadola, Momi and GPH. Write down is different from a write off. It is a book entry with no cash outflow.
"We still have the assests, the hotels and the land and we know it is a long-term investment, we can recover our money over a period of time. We still have the assets which we can sell.
"With Momi, we have gone around the world for 18 months and nobody wants to buy something that is half complete, it is by the sea and corroding.
"We have told interested parties to come with cash as many come with the concept only and want FNPF to fund it. Now FNPF has to step in, complete the project and sell it.
"My point is this. It's no use looking back, it will resolve nothing. We can only learn from what happened and try to ensure those mistakes are not repeated. The proposed review allows for more disclosure and transparency. It is the members' funds and they need to know where the investments are and where their money is."
For a viable long-term option he said frank conversations with stakeholders were necessary. And now was a better time than ever, before the issues became insurmountable.
"We do not want to pass this on to our children where they will be paying for pensioners who have long overdrawn what they put in. The time to do it is now because as I said earlier, the current 10,800 pensioners paid in only $296 million but we have as of June paid out to them a total of $423 million.
"The excess is paid from the current contribution of current members, all these problems arising from the notion in 1975 when the Pension Scheme was established that lifetime pension would be for four years only. The expectation was that the member would die by then. The reality is many have lived longer and outlived the amount they had put into the fund."
June 14, 2011
FT: Right those FNPF wrongs
Now this is an article which clearly needs some balance.
I get that the author is saying its a tough job for the current FNPF CEO, Aisake Taito (brother-in-law to fugitive Roko Ului Mara), but giving them credit is really stretching it.
First of all, the CEO and his senior executives are well paid from the sweat of the brows of the working public who own FNPF, to represent their interests and this includes facing up to the music. The working public who own FNPF expect no less.
Second of all, the fact that Taito is already claiming that it is not a PR exercise remains to be seen. The working public who own FNPF will be the judge of that.
And third of all, making it seem as if he is innocent to past (read: bad) decisions of the previous management is a cop-out. The working public who own FNPF expect to see solutions, not a whinge-fest.
And just for the hell of it, we reproduce below a promise made to us, the working public who own FNPF, in 2010.
Now tell us, the working public who own FNPF, whether or not we have a reason to disbelieve.