Auditors to weigh up bond deals

Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis is expected to call in international auditors to establish whether purchases of bonds by pension funds had been transacted at a fair price, in a bid to ease fears over poor management cutting into asset values, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. The move follows recent revelations that a public servants’ pension fund had overpaid about -five million for a government bond, leading to accusations that inexperienced and corrupt managers were making important investment decisions. Ministry sources said the investigation would be conducted by foreign auditors and cover 22 pensions funds that have invested in structured bonds over the last two years. The auditing firms will be selected from among those certified by the Bank of Greece. Speaking on state television NET yesterday, the minister pointed out that he could only assess the legality of investments and that he was not ‘an investment consultant.’ Tsitouridis, whose ministry oversees pension funds, has come under heavy criticism for not taking adequate legal steps to protect pension funds against poor management practices. Agapios Simeoforidis, the head of the Civil Servants’ Auxiliary Pension Fund (TEADY) involved in the overpriced bond purchase, has since resigned and the government has decided to change the way fund presidents are appointed. In an amendment submitted to Parliament yesterday, fund presidents will in future be appointed by a committee rather than by ministerial decision. The committee will be made up of representatives from the Capital Market Commission, the Bank of Greece and worker and employer groups. Meanwhile, sources said the investigation into the overpriced bond purchase had reached England, where British authorities were making good progress and offering assistance to the probe. Local sources added however that due to insufficient manpower, Greek authorities were struggling to trace the trail left by those involved in the controversial bond transaction.

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