- Lack of transparency in management of offshore investments riles pensioners
ZIMBABWE railway pensioners are up in arms with the trustees of the National Railways of Zimbabwe Contributory Pension Fund amid allegations that millions of United States dollars in offshore accounts are being diverted to personal use while pensioners wallow in sub economic pay-outs.
The parastatal has strategic assets jointly owned with railway companies of South Africa and Zambia while the Fund owns properties across Africa and in the United Kingdom.
The properties which constitute the Contributory Pension Fund were valued at US$376.7 million as at December 2015 by Pentact (Private) Limited.
However, many pensioners believe hundreds of millions of United States dollars which have accrued to the Fund, over five decades, have not translated into any meaningful pension to the 10,743 NRZ pensioners who are earning paltry amounts.
On average an NRZ pensioner is earning ZWL$1,500 (US$15 on the parallel market).
“Very little has been paid as benefits to pensioners compared to what is being generated as income by the local and foreign assets,” an aggrieved pensioner, who asked not to be named fearing reprisal, told Zim Morning Post.
“It’s a tragedy, millions of dollars are being pillaged while the ordinary pensioner suffers.”
A recent audit of the National Railways of Zimbabwe Contributory Pension Fund done by Ernst & Young Chartered Accountants raised alarm over the Fund’s non-compliance with the Pension and Provident Funds Act (Chapter24:09).
“The Fund is not in compliance with the provision as 21 percent of the assets are held offshore,” reads the auditor’s report.
According to the report as at December 31 2018, the balance of the fund stood at US$447,881, 635.
Zim Morning Post established that part of the 21 percent of the National Railways of Zimbabwe Contributory Pension Fund assets were being run by a vehicle called Lenster Investments Limited.
Some of the directors of Lenster Investments are also trustees of the Fund in a murky arrangement that leaves the Fund open to abuse, sources say.
Zim Morning Post was able to track down the Financial Statement of Lenster Investments done by James Cowper Kreston, for the year ended December 2016.
The holding company’s principal place of business is 28 The Crescent, Maidenhead Berkshire SL6 6AD, United Kingdom.
It made a profit of £4 million for that year after taxation, the report reads.
“The company’s issued share capital is owned by the National Railways of Zimbabwe Contributory Pension Fund. The fund is regarded as the ultimate parent. The National Railways of Zimbabwe Contributory Pension Fund is incorporated in Zimbabwe,” further reads the report.
It also came to light that one of the directors who was also a trustee on the Pension Fund was pocketing £84 447 a year (US$105,672.54) at a time the ordinary pensioners were wallowing in poverty.
At that time of the aforementioned audit the directors of Lenster Investmen were Zimbabwean nationals Kamurai Moyo and Lewis Mukwada. The other directors were C Brangwin, K Walmsley and R Williams.
Suspiciously, Moyo and Mukwada were trustees of the pension Fund in a murky arrangement which has left pensioners livid.
Other asset managers whom the Fund makes use of to manage investments abroad include Bolmur Properties (UK) and Investec.
Zim Morning Post was still making frantic efforts to uncover the directors of Bolmur Properties and Investec at the time of publishing.
Efforts to get a comment from one Kamurai Moyo who is one of the Fund Trustees and also a director of Lenster Investment in the UK were unsuccessful at the time of publishing.
Zim Morning Post will incorporate Moyo’s response once he has sent it.
One pensioner told Zim Morning Post that anti-corruption authorities need to visit the doorsteps of the Fund’s Trustees to establish the whereabouts of millions of United States dollars which have not benefited pensioners.
“Administrators of the Pension Fund are not denying that US$23 million was paid to pensioners in the year 2018, a greater percentage of that amount came from foreign investments,” he said.
“Now that the official Reserve Bank rate is at 57 which is well short of the current rates which are almost at 105, still the amount that has been subsidising the local revenue if converted at 57 would still go a very long way in taking care of the pensioner but that’s not the case,” he said.
Some pensioners have since written to Insurance and Pensions Commission seeking full disclosure.
“Through our contributions the Fund amassed all this wealth but it’s a few individuals who are filling their bellies and enriching themselves,” said another pensioner.