PIC inquiry expects 'formidable' witnesses in next round of hearings

The Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of the state asset manager the Public Investment Corporation says it expects a "formidable line-up of witnesses" in the upcoming round of public hearings, which resumes later this month.

The inquiry, which is probing allegations of impropriety, has already heard evidence from a number of senior employees at the PIC, who have detailed some of the corporation's business dealings.

Among other investments, the PIC manages the pensions of public employees. The Government Employees' Pension Fund is its biggest client.

The first round of hearings mainly focused on a controversial R4.3bn investment by the PIC in AYO Technology Solutions. The inquiry heard testimony stating that acquisition of shares in AYO was approved without following due process.

Spike in submissions

"Since the commission held its first public hearings, we have experienced a spike in people coming forward to make submissions and we are grateful for the assistance they are giving to the commission," said a statement.

The inquiry, headed by former president of the Supreme Court of Appeal Lex Mpati, is compiling its interim report, which is expected to be submitted to President Cyril Ramaphosa by February 15. 

PIC Assistant Portfolio Manager Victor Seanie testified that there had been numerous irregularities in the AYO deal, including  former CEO Dan Matjila allegedly using his influence to finalise the the investment into the company controlled by media mogul Iqbal Surve.

The PIC has been mired in allegations of poor governance and impropriety in recent years, including allegations of corruption and bribery against senior managers. Matjila also faced graft claims before his resignation in November.

Some of the allegations of misconduct against PIC officials have been circulated by an anonymous whistleblower who goes by the name of "James Noko".

The commission said it had noted with "great concern numerous anonymous messages circulating on various platforms, including emails and on WhatsApp – alleging improprieties and implicating various individuals within the PIC or with links to the PIC".

"This has the effect of unduly putting in question the reputations of those named with no access to the necessary recourse mechanisms."

The inquiry said a "formidable line-up of witnesses will be shared" before the next sitting on February 25.

On February 1, the PIC was dealt a fresh blow when all of its nine non-executive board members quit, citing recent events that have "destabilised the institution".

The board, headed by Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele, said there had been various allegations against at least four directors.

The commission has invited anyone who wishes to give evidence to come forward, including those who wish to make anonymous submissions or provide information in-camera.