SPONSORED: The new CEO of the Government Pensions Administrations Agency (GPAA) has her eye on the future with reforming strategies that target decentralization for better client reach and the development of female employees
Kedibone Madiehe, the recently appointed head of the GPAA, was an only child raised by her late grandmother (a retired nurse) in Bohlokong outside Bethlehem in the eastern Free State, and later by her mother (a retired radiographer) in Soshanguve, Pretoria. With four degrees and more than 8 years of service at the GPAA, she worked her way up to senior management, then threw her hat into the ring when the position of CEO was advertised. Her most recent position was as a general manager: client relations management, and the experience she gained there, combined with the knowledge of the institution, meant she knew exactly what she wanted to do when given the opportunity - the first of which is to bring the institution into the 21st century, making sure it is fully automated while still catering for those clients who may not be tech savvy. She believes that to fulfil her GPAA mandate of paying benefits timeously, reducing internal turnaround times, and reducing employer turnaround times, the agency needs to “adapt to the new way of working, and that applies to how it provides its services to its clients as well as to how and by whom it is run. If we do not adapt, we die.”
An eye on gender
Madiehe is well aware of her responsibilities as the agency’s first female CEO. Her values and strength stem from her well-grounded upbringing and she is particularly passionate about empowering girls. Madiehe may have grown up in a matriarchal family, but she has felt the effects of South Africa’s patriarchal society in the workplace throughout her career.
She’s fought to change that for herself, and now plans to do the same for other women.
“To correct the ills of society, you need to invest in the girl child. It’s extremely important to teach them how to stand their ground, because we come from a patriarchal society. Investing in girls through education and skills development will ensure that we curb several societal ills.”
Her answer is to open up more opportunities within the institution.
“If you look at the statistics [from the most recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey], you’ll want to cry. If we don’t adopt certain policies that address the triple challenge [unemployment, poverty and inequality], we are in trouble. It can be painful and there will be resistance to change. We have to be cognisant of the fact that, as a government component, we have a moral obligation to implement the principles underpinning the National Development Plan  and the seven priorities of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework [2019 to 2024], which include economic development, providing a reliable, ethical and capable state, and a better Africa for the world, to mention but a few.”
Filling a talent pool
Succession planning, training and development is one way she plans to rectify the fact that the majority of female employees at the GPAA are in junior positions – something she did successfully when she was general manager: client relations management, where her unit managed to retain, retrain and upskill internal staff, and 90% of internal promotions were due to her initiative.
“This will not be achieved overnight, however, I am putting in place a medium - to long-term plan to achieve this. I have engaged with our corporate human resources unit, and we’ve mapped out a talent development pool that we can identify and have put people into one of four quadrants of success management pools. This offers you an opportunity to see that there are people who are meant to be managers, others want to be specialists and have the potential and all the right attributes.”
A passion for service
Madiehe studied for her undergraduate and honours degrees in international relations and political economics at the University of Cape Town. She followed these with a postgraduate diploma in organisational and business management and completed her master’s degree in business administration in 2015. Though she dreamed of being an ambassador, she landed a job in the broker services division in a trusted long-term insurance company.
“My background in client relations management happened by default and not by plan, but that default happened to be my passion. I made a career out of my default. I love keeping a smile on members’ faces, and it gives me great pleasure to resolve members’ escalations and ensure that we pay them within the stipulated time frames and provide them with first contact resolution.
“Nothing beats the feeling of keeping a member’s smile on their face. I love it, I love it, I love it.”
Her career in client relations also means she has the perfect vantage point to see what the institution needs now to service its large client base.
CHALLENGES: SUPPORT, UNCLAIMED BENEFITS AND PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
Some of the main challenges Madiehe hopes to address are offering clients the support they need, dealing with unclaimed benefits, as well as helping clients plan better for the future and resist taking lump sum payouts before it is really necessary.
Her first plan of action is to decentralize the GPAA’s services, enabling them to reach people in every part of the country, including the most rural areas. Madiehe believes this will not only speed up payment times, but will, in time, also reduce call centre queries and lead to fewer in-person service centre visits for clients. The biggest challenge for the agency has been member education. Despite all the effort that goes into this, behavioural change on the part of clients is not yet at the right level, and Madiehe wants to change this too. The rigorous expansion of mobile offices aims to tackle both the member education, the decentralization and unclaimed and unpaid benefits. These mobile offices will travel to the furthermost corners of the country to get as broad a coverage of clients as is possible, and is tailor-made for clients who are not able or confident to go online.
At the same time, she says the GPAA will upgrade its digital offering to speed up and streamline services. The automation drive will ensure that those who are online at home get accessible services too, through means of a contact centre.
“For our tech savvy clientele, our outreach always assists them in enrolling digitally via the GEPF app, and we deploy resources to ensure that our members who prefer digital communications are registered online via road shows and other means of online communication.”
To mitigate the issues of unclaimed benefits and delayed payments, the GEPF has set up a task team to resolve the issue of red tape with departments and fast-track processes. It is also setting up measures to hold employer departments more accountable and so reduce delays in payouts.
Madiehe sees potential problems arising when government’s 2022 Draft Revenue Laws Amendment Bill comes into effect, which aims to solve the ongoing problem of people resigning from their jobs just to access their pension funds, and creates long-term hardship. The agency will need to be ready to process client withdrawal requests quickly and efficiently, and Madiehe says they are anticipating an influx of claims, but “we are already starting to do feasibility studies and doing the planning work to see how that will be affecting us.”
The GPAA is also working on strategies to address the problem of lump-sum withdrawals and no planning for the future by offering more options beyond just withdrawing from the fund, and attracting clients who want to preserve their pension instead of withdrawing it when changing jobs.
With her mind focused on a more inclusive organisation internally and ensuring better-serviced and advised clients externally, Madiehe certainly has her work cut out for her.
MORE ABOUT THE GPAA
The GPAA, a government agency, administers pension and other benefits on behalf of its two clients, National Treasury and the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF). The agency will now also administer military veterans’ pensions. The various benefits administered by the GPAA are governed by several acts, each of which influences the way these benefits are administered, as well as the services provided.
The agency is predominantly funded by the GEPF and, to a lesser extent, National Treasury. The agency also reports directly to the office of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, who appointed Madiehe as CEO in November and has administrative reporting lines to the GEPF and its board of trustees.
The GPAA services about 400 government departments with approximately 1.8 million members, beneficiaries and pensioners.
In the 2021/22 financial year, the agency paid about R134 billion in benefits to more than 499 000 pensioners and beneficiaries. The funds and schemes that are currently administered by the GPAA include:
- The Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF) in terms of the Government Employees Pension Law of 1996 on behalf of the GEPF’s board of trustees.
- The Temporary Employees Pension Fund in terms of the Temporary Employees Pension Fund Act 75 of 1979 on behalf of National Treasury’s programme 7.
- The Associated Institutions Pension Fund in terms of the Associated Institutions Pension Fund Act 41 of 1963 on behalf of National Treasury’s programme 7.
- Post-retirement medical subsidies as provided for and regulated by Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council resolutions on behalf of National Treasury’s programme 7.
- Military pensions in terms of the Military Pensions Act 84 of 1976 on behalf of National Treasury’s programme 7.
- Injury on duty payments in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 on behalf of National Treasury’s programme 7.
- Special pensions in terms of the Special Pensions Act 69 of 1996 on behalf of National Treasury’s programme 7.