THE GEPF STATUTORY VALUATION RESULTS AS AT 31 MARCH 2021

The GEPF recently published the statutory actuarial valuation report as at 31 March 2021. Actuarial valuation reports are quite detailed, long and difficult to understand for the layman. This article aims to summarise the content of the actuarial report and explain the results in a simplified manner.

The purpose of statutory actuarial valuation

As suggested by the name, a statutory valuation is required by regulation. The GEPF is Governed by the GEP Law and Rules. According to the GEP Law, the fund is required to submit a statutory actuarial valuation at least once every three years. Hence one of the purposes is to satisfy this regulatory requirement. Though the report is meant to cover the aspects required by the GEP Law, there are additional disclosures included which are not requirements of the GEP Law. These are more aligned with the Pension Funds Act  and are included in the valuation report as best practice.

A valuation presents a good chance for the fund to assess its financial health. This is done by assessing whether the existing assets are sufficient to meet all the fund’s obligations. The valuation also serves the purpose of assessing the level of employer contributions required in the future years as well as reviewing the level of additional reserves required to further protect members’ benefits.

A glance at the valuation results

The fund reflected a healthy financial position as at 31 March 2021. A healthy financial position is one where the assets and investments of the fund are worth more than the fund’s obligations. As at 31 March 2021, the fund’s net assets were about R2.041 trillion compared to total liabilities of R1.854 trillion reflecting a surplus of around R187 million. This reflects a minimum funding level of 110.1% which is an improvement from the previous funding level of 108.3%. The funding level of 110.1% means that the fund has R110.10 set aside as assets for every R100 that it owes to its members.

The valuation report reflected a required employer contribution rate of 17.3% of pensionable salaries for Services members and 13.5% of pensionable salaries for other members. The contribution rate reflects what is needed to meet the benefits that members are expected to earn over the next two years, provided that all assumptions work out as expected.

Membership statistics

The valuation of the fund was based on an increased membership of 1 270 444 active members and 485 633 pensioners and beneficiaries.  The pensionable salaries of members who contributed to the fund throughout the valuation period increased by an average of 6.2% per annum, during the valuation period. Annual pensions increased by an average of 4.0% per annum during the valuation period. The employer contributed at 16% and 13% of pensionable salaries for services and other members respectively.

The valuation assumptions and why they are required

The GEPF is a defined benefit fund which means that the formula to determine the benefits payable to members when they leave the fund are prescribed. The fund does not guarantee the exact payment to be made at the point of exit. In addition, it is not possible to predict with certainty when exactly a benefit payment will be triggered and for how long the pension payments will be made for. Assumptions are then required to approximate these factors.

Assumptions on how salaries and pensions will increase in the future are then required. These are referred to as salary and pension increase assumptions and form part of the economic assumptions. Assumptions relating to how likely members are to withdraw from the fund and how long they are expected to live for, are also required. These are referred to as the demographic assumptions.

It is important to note that the fund’s obligation relates to the promise made to members to pay their pension benefits for life. This is a financial commitment and is based on benefits payable in the future. There is a need to standardise these future payments in today’s terms. To do this, we need to attribute a time value to money and express these future payments as a lump-sum value in today’s terms. This is done by discounting all future cash flows using the discount rate assumption, which is part of the economic assumptions.

As you can see, the assumptions are required to estimate a value today of all the expected future benefit payments.

Why the assumptions change and why they are best-estimate

The economic assumptions are based on the long-term market expectations and conditions as at the valuation date. As the assumptions are based on market expectation, these values change as market views and sentiments change. The assumptions provided by the market are referred to s best-estimate assumptions. Such assumptions allow for a long-term view of the market and take account of expected peaks and troughs and expects these effects to cancel each other out over time. These best-estimate assumptions are then used to determine the fund’s liabilities. It is important to note that the best-estimate liabilities are expected to cover for all expected payments.

What has led to the improved minimum funding level?

The 2021 economic assumptions are higher than in 2018 and result in a wider gap between the discount rate and the salary /pension increase assumptions. This gap is the biggest driver of the liabilities. The higher the gap is, the lower the overall fund liability. The minimum funding level has improved mainly due

  • to salary and pension increases being lower than allowed for in the previous projections
  • to the wider gap between the discount rate and salary and pension increase assumptions for the current valuation,
  • pension increases being higher than previously projected.

Though the investment returns were lower than expected and the demographic assumptions were less favourable compared to expectations, this was not enough to outweigh the surplus generated by the above factors. The fund, therefore, experienced an increased surplus and reflected a higher minimum funding level.

The required employer contribution rates

Part of the disclosures of the valuation are the recommendations on the future contribution rates to be adopted by the employers going forward. The recommendation is based on the benefits that are expected to be earned by active members over the next two years, which in turn is based on the valuation assumptions adopted. The required employer contribution rate is equal to 17.3% of pensionable salaries for Services members and 13.5% of pensionable salaries for Other members. This is lower than the previously required rates of 18.9% and 14.4% of pensionable salaries for Services and Other members respectively. The reduction in the required contribution rate is mainly due to the less stringent valuation economic assumptions adopted for the current valuation.

What the long-term funding level represents

It is important to note that both the minimum and long-term funding levels look at the long-term position of the fund. The only difference is that the minimum funding level does not make an allowance for contingency reserves. Instead, the minimum funding level only considers the best-estimate liabilities, which are the funds set aside to cover for the expected future benefit payments. Contingency reserves are additional amounts that are set aside to cover unexpected events over a prolonged period. These events include

  • prolonged periods of low economic activity and low returns; and
  • prolonged mortality improvements resulting in pension payments being made for longer periods than expected.

The GEPF liabilities are of long duration and payments are expected to be made over a long period of time. It is highly unlikely that the fund would. Unlike the banking and insurance industries, pension funds are expected to withstand periods of depressed economic activity over the medium term. Furthermore, the GEPF has the government as a guarantor of last resort which adds further protection to members’ benefits. This means that there is no strict requirement to hold contingency reserves in full. Holding the full contingency reserves is an ideal position but is not a requirement for the fund.

As previously mentioned, the fund is governed by the GEP Law, and the GEP Law does not make any allowance for contingency reserves. The fund reports on contingency levels to try mirror the Pension Funds Act (“PFA”), which is applicable to all other funds. However, even under the PFA, a fund is only considered to be in a deficit if its assets cannot meet the best-estimate liabilities only. This means that contingency reserves are not allowed to put a fund into a deficit and a fund would only be required to hold the level of contingency reserves supported by its assets. The contingency reserves should not be viewed as an additional obligation but should be viewed as an additional buffer that is set aside to cover unexpected events.

The full recommended contingency reserves amounted to R892m. The fund’s assets can support holding 20.9% of the full contingency reserves. This represents an additional buffer in addition to the amounts set aside to meet the best-estimate liabilities.

Summary

In summary, the fund is in a healthy financial position and has reflected an improved minimum funding level from the previous valuation. This fund can afford to meet all expected benefit payments in full and allow for a buffer of R187m to cover unexpected events.  The recommended employer contributions rates have been reduced from the previous valuation due to the more favourable long-term assumptions.

In closing, the fund is in a healthy position and aims to provide further protection for its members” benefits.

Brian Karidza is the Head of Actuarial & Benefits Administration Services at the GEPF

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GEPF and PIC sign a new unlisted investment mandate

03 May 2022 

PRETORIA – The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) have signed a new unlisted developmental investment mandate. The GEPF is the largest pension fund in Africa, with assets in excess of R2.1 trillion, which are managed by the PIC.

The GEPF first introduced the unlisted developmental investment mandate in 1997 under the name Isibaya Fund and subsequently renewed it over the years. The developmental investment funds are aimed at generating financial and socio-economic benefits by addressing structural imbalances in the economy to facilitate transformation, economic growth, job creation, and environmental and financial returns.

The developmental mandates focus is on South Africa and the rest of Africa. The target of developmental investments for South African is between R300 million and R500 million per entity although attractive investments starting at R100 million will be considered per entity. The Rest of Africa developmental investment portfolio shall mainly comprise of investments between USD20 million and USD40 million.

The PIC encourages interested institutions to submit proposals to this portal: https://www.pic.gov.za/apply-for-funding/isibaya Proposals will be assessed in accordance with the prescripts of the funding guidelines of each mandate.

End…/

Issued by
PIC Corporate Affairs

Email: media@pic.gov.za

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DURBAN GEPF OFFICE CLOSURE NOTICE: 13 APRIL 2022

  • The GEPF Durban Office in 407 Anton Lembede Street is currently closed due to the flooding caused by the recent heavy rainfall.
  • A further announcement will be made when the office is ready to reopen.
  • Kindly note that all the other GEPF/GPAA walk-in centres and the call centre (0800 117 669) remain open to the public.
  • Clients can also use the following communication channels:
  • Clients who wish to claim Funeral Benefits can forward their claims via email to funeralclaims@gepf.co.za or FAX 012 319 3655
  • All other correspondence can  be directed to the email: enquiries@gepf.co.za

Stay healthy and safe as we do our bit to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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GEPF CAPE TOWN OFFICE RELOCATES

Cape Town: Tuesday, 29 March 2022

The Western Cape regional office of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) is relocating to new premises. The office, previously located at Thibault Square, Standard Bank Building in Long Street, Cape Town, will start operating from the Buitengracht Centre at 125 Buitengracht Street from Thursday 31 March 2022.

The new premises have a much bigger working area and office space; thus, the walk-in service center will be able to accommodate more people inside as opposed to clients queueing in the streets where they are often forced to contend with the harsh elements and may potentially be exposed to threats to their safety.

According to Mario Johns, GEPF Branch Manager in the Western Cape, the GEPF is committed to ensuring that its members, pensioners, and beneficiaries receive quality services and that those services are offered in the most comfortable, safe, and client-friendly environment. The operating hours are from 07:00 to 16:00.

In trying to get services closer to the people, the GEPF has nine (9) walk-in centers and seven (7) satellite offices across the country.

The GEPF is Africa’s largest pension fund with more than 1.2 million active members and over 473 000 pensioners and beneficiaries. It is a defined benefit fund that manages pensions and related benefits on behalf of government employees that currently boast assets worth more than R2.09 trillion.

Ends

For more information please contact:
Rakgwatha Mokou (Manager: Media and Stakeholder Relations)
Telephone: +27 (0) 12 319 1126
Mobile: +27 (0) 81 814 0030
Email: Rakgwatha.Mokou@gpaa.gov.za

Mack Lewele (Senior Manager: Communications)
Telephone: +27 (0) 12 399 2543
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 450 5076
Email: Mack.Lewele@gpaa.gov.za

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THE GEPF LAUNCHES THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES PENSION OMBUD (GEPO) OFFICE

01 July 2021

The Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), today officially launched the Government Employees Pension Ombud (GEPO). The Ombud, which is an independent internal structure of the GEPF has been set up to deal with administrative complaints against the GEPF from its members, pensioners and beneficiaries.

“The purpose of the GEPO is to facilitate, investigate, determine and resolve complaints lodged by members, pensioners and beneficiaries of the GEPF in a fair, impartial and timely manner”, says the Chairperson of the GEPF, Dr Renosi Mokate. “Furthermore, the GEPO provides an informal yet accessible and cost-effective alternative to other remedies, such as court proceedings.

I would like to express our appreciation to retired Judge Bakone Justice Moloto and Advocate Makhado Ramabulana for the work done to establish the Ombuds Office”, she concluded.

Advocate Makhado Ramabulana will act as the Ombud effective from 1 July 2021. Advocate Ramabulana graduated with a BA Law and LLB degrees from the University of Venda, before joining the Cape Bar where he practised as an advocate from July 1999 to July 2004. He has held various roles within the pension funds industry including in the office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator, Financial Services Conduct Authority (FSCA) and remains a Trustee on various Pension Fund Boards. A detailed profile of Advocate Ramabulana is provided with this press release.

The GEPO, which is a first for the GEPF, is mandated to investigate administrative complaints lodged against the Fund by GEPF members, pensioners and beneficiaries. Amongst others, the Ombud will engage on matters related to:

  • Unreasonable delays in processing of payments that are due
  • Failure of officials to perform their duties in terms of the Fund’s law and rules
  • Breaking of a commitment without a justifiable reason
  • Providing incorrect or misleading information

Detailed guidelines on how to lodge a complaint is available for the benefit of members, pensioners and beneficiaries on the GEPO website at www.gepo.co.za with the option to lodge the complaint on the website. Complaints can also be submitted in writing or emailed to the:

Office of the Ombudsman Attention:

Complaints Manager, PO Box 11005 Hatfield, Pretoria, 0028

Email: enquiries@gepo.co.za

Telephone: 012-110-4950

Issued by Government Employees Pension Fund

About the Government Employees Pension Fund

The Government Employees Pension Fund is among the largest pension funds in the world, with over 1.2 million active members and over 450 000 pensioners and beneficiaries. It is founded and regulated in terms of the Government Employees Pension Law (1996) and its mandate is to manage and administer pensions and other benefits for government employees in South Africa.

We work to give members, pensioners and beneficiaries’ peace of mind about their financial security after retirement. We do this, by ensuring that all funds in our safekeeping, are responsibly invested and accounted for and that the benefits due, are paid efficiently, accurately and timeously.

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Hostage incident at GEPF eThekwini Regional Office

Date: 10 June 2021

Pretoria – Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) is aware of reports of a hostage incident at its eThekwini regional office. We have been informed that an aggrieved GEPF client held officials of the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA) hostage at the office.

The GEPF has been informed that there was no harm to anyone. The member has been detained by the South African Police Services (SAPS) and remains in their custody.

The GEPF is appreciative of the efforts of the South African Police Service, office security personnel and employees in dealing with the incident. The necessary counselling will be provided to the affected officials.

The GEPF remains committed to engaging with its members with respect to any concerns they have.

END

For more information, please contact:

Matau Molapo, Communications

T: +27 (0) 12 424 7315

M: +27 (0)79 1910 757

E: matau.molapo@gepf.co.za

 

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Government Employees Pension Fund Stakeholder Perception Survey

NOTICE TO:

Members, Pensioners and beneficiaries

We at the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) are constantly striving to improve the level of service that we provide to our stakeholders. To arrive at a deeper understanding of the needs of our stakeholders, we have commissioned AfricaScope South Africa to undertake a comprehensive perception survey within our stakeholder group.

The focus of the survey will be to ascertain our stakeholder perceptions of the GEPF by means of telephonic and/or online questionnaires. The results of the survey will assist the GEPF in its efforts to be more efficient and effective.

AfricaScope will be drawing a completely random sample of individuals from out datasets. We wish to stress that the process is completely scientific and random and in no way targets any particular individuals or groups of individuals. Under their code of professional ethics, they may not divulge to GEPF any personal details of any participating individual and therefore you can be assured that any responses you provide will be totally anonymous.

If you are selected to participate in the survey, we respectfully urge you to please participate and to give your honest answers to the questions asked. In that way we at GEPF will be able to fully understand the needs and wishes of our valued stakeholders.

The survey began during the month of February and is currently in an advanced planning stage. AfricaScope will be contacting the first respondents within the next weeks.

You will be given the choice of completing the survey telephonically or on-line.

Thank you

Issued by the:

Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF)

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