Samson takes on the hot seat

Current Epangelo Mining Company Board Chairperson, Mandi Ellaine Samson (35) has taken over the reins at the troubled Government Institution Pension Fund (GIPF) as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees.

She takes after Helmut Ruppel and Gordon Elliot who jumped ship amid the Developmental Capital Project (DCP)controversy.

Samson comes to the Institution amid intense pressure from the pensioners and Government for the fund to bring the former management to book after the GIPF lost N$660m in pension money through a failed loan scheme - DCP - to Black Economic Empowerment(BEE) companies in 2006.

The DCP also saw other trustee members including Peter Nevonga who represented trade union interest being called back.

Former chairperson,Ruppel resigned last year after Elliot threw in the towel together with outgoing Chief Executive Officer Primus Hango.

Samson is tasked with whipping the GIPF into shape and identifying a credible Chief Executive Officer to run the Fund after current CEO, Hango retires.

This month, Samson told Prime Focus Magazine, that the challenges she faces at the helm of the GIPF that include cleansing the corporate’s image for the organisation are herculean.

Samson added that she has crafted a plan to erase the bad publicity associated with GIPF through introducing a new working formula.

“This feels like the most immense and incredible challenge of a lifetime. This assignment will call upon me to find in myself the most that I have to offer in terms of experience, knowledge and the ability to steer a board. GIPF is a very complicated organisation which will call on the Trustees to develop a sense of cohesion with regards to GIPF members.”

DCP’s failure was a result of slack corporate governance in institutions and tables have changed now with GIPF adopting the latest corporate governance policies including the King Code III which is used world wide to promote efficiency and sound decision making.

“DCP was not ‘intentional’ but well thought through decision. Those people behind the DCP were competent people in their own right and made their decisions according to what they believed was the right thing at the time. People must understand that DCP was done during an era of not very strong corporate governance,” she says.

She says the main challenge that faces the GIPF is to find a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to fill in the shoes of Hango who was forced to resign mid 2010 after failing to address the DCP issue and also to change the current public perception of the fund.

“According to audited financial statements released March this year, GIPF is worth approximately N$43b and we must safeguard and grow this fund for the pensioners and its members. However, due to the current situation there is a need to re-instill the public perception of the fund. Instilling the sense that we are a sound entity in terms of financial ability. Members must know there is no cause for fear,” she says.

She also notes, “There is need to develop robust stakeholder relations by keeping all parties involved up to date with the performances of the fund as well as other issues relevant to members.”

Samson, who brings 11 years of legal experience, stresses that while she holds dear lessons taken from her predecessors, some must be done away with.

Samson attained her primary and secondary education in Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle and returned to Namibia in 1996 after completing a law degree at the University of Namibia before furthering her studies in Cape Town and the Netherlands.

Samson is currently a PhD candidate of the Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands.

Having gained experience as an intern and casual employee at the Attorney General’s office during holidays, Samson easily secured a position of legal officer at this office upon completion of her studies abroad.

She has also worked Namibian Airports Company rising through the ranks to the position of general manager of Corporate and Legal Services.

She added that the board has put in place an Asset Liability Module which is used to ensure that the fund’s assets matches its future liabilities.

“I will hold true to this because we adopted this in 2009 after a great deal of effort, I will not change it, perhaps update it in the future.”

GIPF will be in a stronger financial postion over the next two years and will certainly still be making a positive contribution to Namibia.

“I want to assure Government employees that we will do our best to deliver the pension promise,” she says.