Business

PIC inquiry looks at deals, leaks, witch-hunt, cover-up

2018-10-21 07:03

The long-awaited terms of reference (ToR) for an inquiry into the affairs of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) target only very recent controversial investment decisions.

They include CEO Dan Matjila’s hunt for those leaking information against him and a golden handshake paid to one of the several executives who was suspended this year.

The inquiry will be led by Judge Lex Mpati, the former president of the Supreme Court of Appeal. He will be assisted by former SA Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus and businessperson Emmanuel Lediga.

The inquiry was announced by former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in July, with a directive to the PIC board to simultaneously conduct a separate forensic investigation into allegations contained in an email that claimed Matjila was funding his alleged “girlfriend”, Pretty Louw, last year.

This forensic investigation by advocate Geoff Budlender has been completed and the outcome was leaked to the media this week.

The main revelation coming out of the probe is that Louw is not Matjila’s romantic partner. But, according to reports in Business Day and the Pretoria News, it found that the then minister of state security, David Mahlobo, had asked Matjila to fund Louw’s company.

The newspaper reports claimed Budlender confirmed that Matjila then asked a recent beneficiary of a substantial PIC funding, Lawrence Mulaudzi, to help Louw with R300 000.

This version of events, excluding Mahlobo’s involvement, was known at least as early as May this year when City Press reported on it.

The ToRs for the inquiry into the PIC revolve around investment decisions last year and this year. However earlier transactions are excluded from scrutiny.

That means the inquiry will not look at allegedly suspect PIC funding decisions, such as the R4 billion 2014 investment in an oil company headed by Kase Lawal, a benefactor of former president Jacob Zuma.

Included in the stipulated time frame is a loan to a company called MST, which had ties to Louw, but which Budlender reportedly found to be above board.

Also squarely within the 2017/18 period are the two giant investments the PIC planned to make into companies controlled by media mogul Iqbal Survé.

The first was Ayo Technology Solutions, which received R4.3 billion from the PIC late last year, and the second deal, which fell through, was another substantial investment into Sagarmatha, a media company that was meant to list on the JSE this year.

A late inclusion into the investigation could be the PIC’s involvement in a deal to acquire a palm oil refinery in Mozambique that involved Nene’s son Siyabonga.

The ToR charges Mpati to examine specific allegations raised in the media.

One item is the allegedly adulterated minutes of a PIC board meeting on September 29 last year – the one in which the PIC board initially purported to clear Matjila of wrongdoing in the Louw affair.

The minutes were allegedly edited after the fact to remove criticism of Matjila’s conduct, but the original minutes were subsequently leaked.

The leak was apparently one of the reasons the PIC company secretary Bongani Mathebula was suspended and is undergoing a disciplinary process.

The ToR calls for Mpati to ascertain whether the PIC’s internal investigations into who had leaked information, spearheaded by Matjila, “were justified”.

City Press revealed in April how Matjila had requested access to the email servers of six senior staff members of the PIC in October last year.

Another item in the ToR is whether “mutual separation agreements concluded in 2017 and 2018 with senior executives of the PIC complied with internal policies of the PIC and whether payouts made for this purpose were prudent”.

This appears to refer to R7 million allegedly paid to Vuyokazi Menye, the PIC’s head of IT, earlier this year.

This followed her being suspended and subjected to a disciplinary process.

Menye was one of the executives whose email records Matjila requested.

The ToRs also ask whether “there are discriminatory practices with regard to remuneration and performance awards of PIC employees”.

This appears to relate to accusations made by the PIC’s former human resources financial officer Sandile Sibiya.

He filed an affidavit at the Brooklyn police station this year alleging the PIC’s chief financial officer, Matshepo More, irregularly manipulated the corporation’s bonus pool.

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August 18 2019