Allan Greenblo: A loud FSB silence – Annual Report oddities. | Fin24
 
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Allan Greenblo: A loud FSB silence – Annual Report oddities.

Feb 11 2016 00:14

It looks as though all is not well at the Financial Services Board, soon to be morphed into the Financial Sector Conduct Authority. The group’s integrity is in question following the allegations executive officer Rosemary Hunter made against the institution, and it seems there’s now a discrepancy with the group’s 2014/15 annual report. The report is unavailable and hasn’t been made public yet but the 2015/16 financial year is almost finished.

Allan Greenblo looks at the potential reasons and scenarios as to why this is the case and be sure of one thing, fireworks are set to fly. – Stuart Lowman

By Allan Greenblo*

To put it benignly, there’s a “misunderstanding” on when the annual report of a public body actually becomes publicly available for public discussion. In the case of the Financial Services Board, which reports to Parliament through the Minister of Finance, there should be no misunderstanding.

Evidently, however, there is. And the longer it takes for the “misunderstanding” to be resolved, the longer it will take before the report can be tested for completeness and veracity.

The tests in this instance are whether, and if so how, the FSB has reported to Parliament on the grievances of deputy executive officer Rosemary Hunter.

Alternatively, if the report sidesteps the grievances, is economical in revealing the status of various legal and forensic inquiries, or otherwise fails to deal with the “irregular expenditure” of which Hunter complains, then what will Minister Pravin Gordhan and the parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (SCOF) do about it?

Fireworks will be in order. The annual report of the FSB, for its financial year to end-March 2015, is still unavailable on the FSB website.

The timing looks to be running tight as already the FSB is within weeks of reaching the end of its 2015-16 financial year. This report will possibly be its last before the FSB morphs into the new Financial Sector Conduct Authority.

There’s something distinctly odd in a process that allows the earlier report to be withheld from perusal while preparations for the later report are about to begin. Or perhaps not so odd, contends FSB spokesperson Tembisa Marele: “The reason that the FSB’s 2015 annual report has not yet been published is purely procedural. We cannot publish it until it is tabled in Parliament. We are waiting for Parliament’s schedule to accommodate us.”

On the other hand, it’s particularly odd. David Maynier, DA shadow finance minister and member of SCOF, states: “I have confirmed that the FSB annual report for 2014-15 was tabled on 28 August 2015 in Parliament.”

Once tabled – which means simply that it has been logged onto a parliamentary database and given a case number – the document is public and available to anybody capable of finding it. There’s no constraint on the FSB to publish the report on its website, or in any other manner that it wishes. There’s no obligation either, except in so far as the FSB wishes to be seen enhancing the principles of transparency and accountability.

Pertinent to the FSB’s 2014-15 annual report is Hunter’s first “statement of non-compliance” submitted to the FSB board in July 2014. It contains her grievance against FSB executive officer Dube Tshidi, arguing that Tshidi had engaged in a “concerted campaign” to have her leave the FSB and had “sabotaged my ability to ensure that the Retirement Funds Department properly fulfils its mandate”.

In the course of these efforts, says Hunter, “Tshidi has incurred expenditure for the FSB in substantial amounts”.  Thus the battle shifts up a gear to whether there has been compliance with, or contravention of, the Public Finance Management Act.

It’s reasonable to expect that the FSB annual report, with integrity as its hallmark, will have made the necessary disclosures. But on the off-chance that it hasn’t, the disclosures – and reasons for non-disclosures – will have to be prised from FSB officials when they appear for examination at SCOF.

To have compiled and signed off the 2015 report, on the assumption that Hunter wouldn’t go public, might be exposed as one hell of a gamble.

• Allan Greenblo is editorial director of Today’s Trustee (www.totrust.co.za), a quarterly magazine mainly for principal officers and trustees of retirement funds.

* For more in-depth business news, visit biznews.com or simply sign up for the daily newsletter.

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