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Coming out of the hotels- Sharif Mahmud Khalid writes

Coming out of the hotels- Sharif Mahmud Khalid writes

I recently read your latest article on the hotel sales. I approached it with the expectation of hearing from the Board Chair of our National Pension Pot, but found it to be laden with partisan undertones rather than the balanced perspective expected of a steward of such an important institution. Comparing this to the world's largest pension fund, 's $1.4 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund, whose Board Chair, YAMAGUCHI Hirohide, is a consummate finance expert, your piece falls short of the principles of responsible investment, which should be the cornerstone of our national pension management.
Your comparison of the blood, sweat, and tears of pensioners to Ian Smith and Rhodesia, in an attempt to criticize a military regime, was inappropriate and overshadowed the national shame you intended to highlight. It would have been better left unwritten. It's noteworthy that some media outlets describe you as “the respected stateswoman and veteran international journalist.” We leave that to the jury of your writing club of the last 7 years or so.

Front Page

You correctly noted that every decision you and your board make ends up on the front page of the . However, you failed to mention that you can personally generate such headlines, as evidenced by your recent piece. For a Board Chair to admit on a national daily that she did not follow closely the discussions regarding the sale of investments worth millions of dollars under her stewardship is a tacit admission of failure. Additionally, labelling the resistance to the SSNIT hotel sale as ‘ideological resistance' is a mischaracterization. This issue is more about ethics, principles, transparency, and meritocracy than ideology. It's time to move beyond your obsession with President . Hello! It is the Hon Ablakwa here not President Rawlings.

Despite claiming not to have paid attention, you assert with utmost certainty that the process of selecting Rock City as the Preferred Bidder was clean and above board. Can your board address the following concerns:
* How is it that Rock City's bids were always close to or slightly above SSNIT's targeted amount? Should we be worried about insider information?
* As a Board Chair familiar with assets declaration, did you review the Minister's asset declaration form?
* How will the acquisition be financed? If through a loan facility, which bank approved it and what compliance process was followed, given the volatile nature of the hospitality industry?

Political Coloration

Your statement, “I accept that this being an election year, everything takes on a political coloration and being the owner of Rock City is obviously the main reason the decibel level of the discussions has gone so high,” is flawed. Why reduce such an important public interest matter to election-year political coloration? Do you consider it ethical for a sitting Minister to be involved in this transaction? If you had paid attention, you'd realize it's not the transaction itself that's being called secretive, but the details that were exposed by the Hon Ablakwa. There is a significant difference here.

Strategic Investor

You claimed, “[…]one can safely say that some people in , at the very least, the members of the were aware that SSNIT was seeking to divest 60 percent of its stake in the hotels and the members did not sound like they thought it was such a terrible idea, nor that something untoward was going on.” Do you assume that if no member of the Public Accounts Committee publicly raises a red flag, the transaction is good? That's a problematic conclusion.
Furthermore, let me ask:

When you assumed your role as Board Chair of SSNIT, were you briefed about the South African property management firm, Legacy Group, which managed the Labadi Beach Hotel? The Legacy Group manages executive and luxury hotels, resort lodges, and golf courses across Africa and has a track record that even attracted the Libyan Investment Authority. Are you aware of their history and significance?

Penning articles from during your exile days might have been a thrilling exercise in criticism, but the current context demands a more responsible approach. Demonstrations might seem appealing, but it's the depth of governance and ethical responsibility that truly matters.

Is your pen mightier than the sword?

Sharif Mahmud Khalid, PhD, FRSA

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