Terminated in February 2018 at the head of Saham Assurances Togo following an inspection mission sent by the group in Lomé, Magloire Dochamou broke the silence. The Beninese executive, who boasts fourteen years of professional experience in the insurance sector, including seven executive directors, gives his version of the facts in this interview with Financial Afrik in Lomé. Exclusive!
Interviewed in Lome by Nephthali Messanh Ledy
You left the General Management of Saham Assurances Togo since February 2018 in a context where the company knew a constant increase of its turnover. What has been your news since your departure?
First and foremost, I would like to thank your magazine for the opportunity that you offer me to finally express myself on a file that remains an enigma for myself and my loved ones on this date. First, I stayed with my wife and children. I caught rest days and also read and write. I had to step back to take stock and almost six months after I left, I feel ready to take on new challenges with even more determination and envy.
According to the information, you were dismissed following an inspection mission sent by the Saham Group Holding in Lomé. What is it exactly?
Listen, dear journalist. Your question allows me to give my share of truth on this unfortunate episode of my young professional career. Today, untied of my obligation of reserve, I considered that the moment is propitious to enlighten the national and international opinion and especially the African financial community of insurers and banks. [Editor’s note: Financial Afrik contacted him at the height of the crisis, but he did not want to comment].
Indeed, as it was relayed in December 2017, Saham’s Life and non-Life subsidiaries, which I headed in my dual capacity as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Executive Officer, were the subject of an anonymous e-mail via the professional mailing of the company. Apparently, this practice, if I stick to its recurrence, has become the hallmark of a fringe of the staff of this group. Following this e-mail that seemed to charge the general manager that I was, a panoply of excesses and alleged acts of prevarication, the group sent an inspection mission to Lomé which lasted for two weeks overall in January 2018.
This mission benefited from my full cooperation and ended, as is customary, with a verbal restitution which, obviously, had nothing to reproach me for the litany of grievances against me. This inspection, however, it must be recognized, revealed a number of malfunctions in the management of commissions internally, particularly with regard to direct portfolio transfers to general agencies, brokers and commission collection by some staff on contracts that are supposed to be in direct business. Following the return made to me by the Inspection Director of the group, I found it useful to seek from my hierarchy including the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the subsidiary, an interview for the purpose of submitting to him for opinion, a series of measures that I planned to take to alleviate this situation and reassure the council, all this while respecting the procedures in social matters.
It was a big surprise to me that during this interview I requested, I was told of measures that the group would have taken following this inspection, the report of which had not yet been sent to the subsidiary for its elements of the answers. That is to say that sanctions were taken against the agents of the company without even having the opportunity to explain what they are accused of. Among these measures, it was to dismiss employees and resign myself later.
You can imagine my astonishment at this situation where I was asked to dismiss employees and resign without respecting the minimum procedure internally, even though I had not received the inspection report at the moment. I immediately understood that something was happening.
You have just mentioned an interview that you would have requested from the Chairman of the Board of Directors. What happened after?
Once back in Lome, I asked for written confirmation of the said instructions. I especially asked for the inspection report to become aware of any disciplinary measures. These requests were unsuccessful and with regard to the inspection report, I was simply sent back to the group authorities to obtain it. It was for me a second black point in this soap opera which was played and which reinforced my anxiety. Everything was happening as if it was too much to ask for an inspection report that finally had to shed light on the alleged wrongdoings alleged to the Director General and some of his staff. This attitude has not, however, dulled my ardor; and I continued to relaunch the hierarchy and instances of the group in vain for almost ten days, and it was not until the twelfth day, on the 7th of February, that the report was finally sent to me.
What exactly did you criticize in this report?
This report of about twelve pages did not find fault with the Director General because at no time, this document composed of eleven annexes and a single page of comments proper, does not incriminate me in any way. At most, he quotes the names of some of my associates as having favored fraud practices on the commission without scientifically determining the incriminated amount and its impact on the activities of the company. In fact, his reading reinforced me in the idea that I had nothing to reproach myself for the allegations contained in the anonymous mail. Better still, he reinforced me in the idea that a dismissal of collaborators as I was asked without receiving the inspection report, would have been suicidal for the company since it inevitably opened the way to unfair dismissal procedures against the society that can be avoided by respecting sanction procedures.
You agree with me that a director general must manage the company entrusted to him as a good father. And this notion imposes on him, even if he must take drastic measures against the staff members in case of faults that seem obvious, to make them respecting the rules laid down in social matters in order to avoid the society of the harmful remedies for unfair dismissals.
But we learned that it was as a result of this control that would have confirmed serious malfeasance, and of which you would be the conductor, that you were fired?
Have you read the inspection report? You do not; I do. Have you read my letter of dismissal? No, yes, yes. So, reading these two elements would have strengthened you in the answer that I will bring to your question.
In my opinion, it was simpler for those who claim that I was fired as a result of wrongdoing to communicate clearly about these items to whom it is entitled. Do not do it and hide behind journalists who are manipulated with bank notes to undermine the image of an honest executive is totally pitiful. Yes, I say it because you know, I’m not someone’s son. And if I got there today, it’s the strength of my work and especially thanks to people who believed in me and who trusted me. It soon brings me fifteen years of professional experience in the insurance sector in the CIMA (Interafrican Conference on Insurance Markets), including seven as General Manager of Insurance Company. I have proven myself wherever I went, from Benin, my native country to Togo, through Côte d’Ivoire.
And speaking of evidence, I have just spent four years at the head of SAHAM Group’s Togolese subsidiary and the results speak for themselves. If those who have benefited from it have suddenly become amnesic, I am not. From 2014 to 2017 and under my leadership, the non-life subsidiary saw its issuance increase by more than 70%, from less than 5 billion in 2013 to 8.5 billion in 2017, picking up the number 1 spot of the property and casualty insurance market to the local subsidiary of NSIA, which had held this title for ten years. This growth did not come at the expense of emissions, since at each balance sheet date, budgeted results were largely exceeded, recording an increase of more than 200% in the last four years, from around 200 million to around 750. millions after taxes in 2016.
In addition to that, I, along with my teams, launched the Life subsidiary which, during its first financial year, made nearly 600 million with a market share of around 2.3%, just behind a life insurance company. the place which has existed for at least seven years, and which has achieved, in the same year, less than 1 billion.
These figures are verifiable and the company’s financial statements regularly validated by the Group’s audit department, approved by the Board of Directors, certified by the Statutory Auditor and finally approved by the Ordinary General Meeting.
It is the same for budgets that have never been rejected and which, as I pointed out earlier, have always been exceeded both in terms of turnover, and the result. Better still, following the frequent checks carried out by the sub-regional supervisory bodies, the last of which was carried out in 2016 in Saham Togo, the said institutions took note of the financial situation of the company and no deficit in terms of commitment and margin was blamed on the company. So what are we talking about?
How do you explain then this brutal separation that led you, according to our information, to take legal action against your former employer?
As I said earlier, I did not respond to this request for the resignation of the group since I did not blame myself and finally, the inspection report did not do it either. But apparently, the leaders of the group had already sealed my fate since a series of events in the days that followed finally convinced me that there was a clear desire to separate from me. But you know, we are in a very sensitive corporation where trust and reputation are the best assets of a manager of my level. So, when you have served a cause with as much determination and dexterity and can be said with the successes recorded, you expect even when you no longer want you, which is legitimate, to respect your status of to be human, of frame that you are with the states of services that I have explained. Things have not been done that way, and that’s a shame. So you’re talking about legal action, which is true. But this is not the main subject in my opinion, which leads me to answer your questions. My only purpose in giving this interview, is to enlighten the opinion on the real circumstances of my departure from Saham Assurance Togo which are in no way related to any wrongdoing.
Let’s go back a bit, if you do not mind. What has really happened since your refusal to resign, until the appointment of an interim?
After this refusal as I told you, I received an email, February 7, 2018, prohibiting me to make commitments on behalf of the company. The same day, I received the inspection report after several reminders. On February 9th, I received a letter of layoff of eight days without pay on the grounds that I did not inform the group of commission fraud situations in the subsidiary and that they learned it by Press. But how does one give information to one’s hierarchy when one becomes aware of it at the same time as it is through the press?
Three days later, against all odds, my offices were opened in my absence with the help of a bailiff by the Acting Director General who was asked to remove the keys from my office and my vehicle. while, you know, I was still under the penalty of the February 9th layoff. On February 13, I handed over the keys and other materials of the company against discharge and returned home. The following day, reception of a convocation to a session of the board of directors of the subsidiary in Casablanca on February 16th whose items on the agenda were among others, dismissal of the Director General and appointment of an Acting Director General while a temporary worker had already been appointed and taken possession of my offices two days earlier, still in the period of layoff, do you figure.
With hindsight today, what about this file?
Listen, I wanted to give my share of truth about what happened and especially, to proclaim loud and clear that contrary to what we have made believe, my departure from the head of group companies in Togo is not bound to no wrongdoing. During my four years in office, I have had irreproachable service. In addition, I have never been the subject of any disciplinary procedure or specific unexplained observations concerning the governance of the company, despite the frequent controls and reporting sent back to the group. In view of all this and in front of this breakthrough against my modest person, I tell myself that we were not far from the thesis of non-assistance endangered framework since everything recommended from my ex-employer at least , a statement exculpating me after the inspections that have nothing against me.
You know, I’ve always been aware of the model I represent for the new generation of insurers in our community space and this posture puts a lot of seriousness and professionalism in my work. I will never deviate from this path and what I wish is that public opinion continues to keep me, the image of a young dynamic and honest executive who has always fulfilled the missions entrusted to him. The results obtained bear witness to this.
In recent days, we learn that you would be wanted by the Togolese police for a theft of nearly two billion in the coffers of the company. It is even said that you would have left the country for Benin.
It’s a hoax, and that can not be true. Two billion is not 200,000 F CFA. Regarding my supposed flight, it is not so and you can testify since we realize this interview in Togo and I am totally free of my movements. But beyond this denial, I can only be saddened by what I have been reading for a few days actually on social networks. To this end, I took steps to prosecute the journalist who instigated this grotesque lie.
I can not help but note that these kinds of jokes of bad taste and detrimental to my honor were fueled by allegations of wrongdoing that were knowingly made against me a few months ago when I left Saham . But how would it be possible to substitute such an amount of the funds of an insurance company, while there is the double signature of the means of payment and that as soon as the level of an expenditure reaches 100,000 CFA francs , procedures recommend the establishment of a check? It is really sad, and I hope that my action in defamation against this journalist will serve as a lesson to all these people who amuse themselves to invent untruths on peaceful populations without any proof.
To hear you, you would have a critic who would be at the base of these serious accusations?
I will be well inspired if I knew who is behind this dirty work. But hey, you know, in life, there are people who do not like to see their neighbor succeed. I only hope that the person or persons who play this dangerous game will understand that they are going too far and that we must stop. Otherwise, they and their accomplices will be unmasked sooner or later and regret their actions.
After the Saham episode, what are the new horizons you are exploring?
My eyes are now turned to other challenges and I am convinced that the experiences acquired over the last fourteen years are very serious assets for better results. I wish to have peace and that the free will against my person stops so that I can rebound quickly and invest myself in what I know to do better, to speak about this formidable mechanism of solidarity which is the insurance through insurance companies who are the main ambassadors.
Your last word?
First of all, I wanted to thank my wife, my parents and friends who supported me in these difficult times and who continue to believe in my values and principles and especially in my potentialities. Then, reassure the financial community of the CIMA area about my integrity and my desire to take on new challenges and also to seize this opportunity to give my version of what really happened from December 2017 to February 2018. My approach is not intended not to say that everything was perfect during my management because finally what management is? Frankly, I have executed over the last four years my mission with determination, faith and the desire to positively mark the story again. There were probably mistakes, all humility kept and above all remember that perfection is not of this world. But fortunately, a lot of success and it is the balance of our mistakes and our successes that made us recorded the exceptional performances with as a bonus, the status of number 1 of the branch of property insurance acquired from high struggles on a Togolese market very narrow and highly competitive.
Rédacteur en chef de Financial Afrik. Basé à Lomé, Nephthali Messanh Ledy représente Financial Afrik depuis deux ans. Outre l’économie et les finances africaines, il est passionné de l’actualité internationale. Diplômé en Commerce International et en Marketing – Communication, il s’intéresse également aux réseaux sociaux et au football.