July 29, 2020  

Supplied by Minx Avrabos from SAIEE



The purpose of this communication is to give background and an overview of the Past Presidents Forum so that readers understand the history behind this forum, its status and meaning, and its relationship to the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE).


The SAIEE Past President’s Forum (PPF) was formed about ten years ago by a group of Past Presidents with the prime objective of providing financial assistance to cover some of the costs for the serving President. In the past, serving Presidents were required to cover their SAIEE related entertainment costs themselves, for example, the refreshments that are served after Council meetings. In most instances, these expenses were in effect covered by their employer. As the Presidents elected began to come from local government and government institutions who did not provide their employees with such expense accounts, previous serving Presidents recognised the need for a fund at the time. Thus, Past Presidents personally contributed to a separate fund to assist the serving President. This was the embryo group of Past Presidents who invested the proceeds of their contributions in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and made disbursements as seen fit. The Honorary Treasurer of the SAIEE was nominated to manage this fund, called the President’s Purse.

Over time the PPF’s purpose has also evolved to providing support, advice and guidance to the President and Office Bearers of the Institute using the vast amount of institutional knowledge and experience that resides within this group of living Past Presidents. The funds that have been accumulated by the PPF within the Past President’s Purse have also over the years been used to grant scholarships and bursaries to candidates with exceptional academic records and to fund a pension scheme for the SAIEE staff recruited from the defunct AS&TS.


In terms of governance, it is essential to note that the PPF is an independent body and is not subject to the Constitution or By-Laws applicable to the SAIEE. The PPF and any of its assets exist separately from the SAIEE, and this includes the Past President’s Purse which was created using funds donated by previous Past Presidents and invested wisely and not funds derived from the SAIEE’s operations. However, for the time being, the funds within the Past President’s Purse are managed by the SAIEE, and for this, the PPF pays the SAIEE an annual management fee. This arrangement is like any of the other external funds (e.g. SAUPEC) that are managed by the SAIEE.


The PPF is chaired annually by the Immediate Past President (IPP) and in terms of its policy is required to meet twice a year. At its first meeting which is held around May, the Past Presidents may deliberate on the composition of Council in terms expertise, racial and gender mix, and make recommendations to the President including possible candidates for co-option onto Council. It is also at this meeting that the Past Presidents will discuss and decide on any new scholarships or bursaries that are to be awarded from the Past President’s Purse.


At the second meeting which is held in November, the Past Presidents discuss and agree on a nomination for Junior Vice President for the following year which is presented to Council by the IPP at the Council meeting at which the Junior Vice President is elected. The PPF nomination for Junior Vice President fully aligns with the requirements for this position as laid down in the SAIEE Constitution and By-Laws and competes against any nomination for Junior Vice President made by any other members of Council.


In conclusion, the PPF is simply a social gathering of living Past Presidents. It has no official or decision-making responsibility or power within the SAIEE, and there is no obligation on the part of the President or the Office Bearers to heed any advice or recommendations made by the PPF. It is responsible for its own funding which it uses to support the award of bursaries or scholarships as well as to finance its own operations.


George Debbo

Immediate Past President