Gordhan to appear before Public Protector over Pillay pension approval

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is on Wednesday set to appear before Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane after he was subpoenaed to answer questions relating to his approval of early retirement of the former deputy commissioner of the SA Revenue Service Ivan Pillay in 2010.

Gordhan was finance minister at the time.

Mkhwebane, in a statement on Monday, said Gordhan was subpoenaed to appear before her in person to respond to allegations that he irregularly approved Pillay’s retirement, "bought off his pension balance and later allowed him to be re-employed by the SA Revenue Service in 2010". She said she issued the subpoena after Gordhan failed to provide written responses to her questions, adding the investigation was at a preliminary stage which involves the gathering of data. 

Lawyers acting for Gordhan have disputed that the minister of public enterprises failed to reply to Mkhwebane. In a media statement on Saturday they argued they did respond on his behalf to say they required "the particulars and evidence of the alleged dishonesty and impropriety on the part of Minister Gordhan". 

They further said the Public Protector's preliminary investigation covers similar ground to the fraud charges that Gordhan faced in 2016 when he was investigated by the Hawks. These charges were withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority in late October 2016. 

In November 2016, after the charges were withdrawn, the complaint against Gordhan was lodged with the Public Protector. 

This complaint, according to Gordhan's lawyers, alleged that his approval of Pillay's early retirement amounted to "maladministration, dishonest and improper conduct by the Minister in dealing with public funds".

Pillay was re-employed as SARS deputy commissioner on a contract basis.

The Public Protector, meanwhile, said on Monday that while the criminal case was withdrawn, her mandate empowers her "essentially to investigate any conduct alleged or suspected to be improper [...]. Not all improper conduct or maladministration constitute a criminal conduct or offence."

Gordhan will next Monday give evidence before the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture. His appearance at the inquiry was initially slated for Thursday, but has been delayed due to the subpoena.

Mkhwebane said the timing of the subpoena was unrelated to Gordhan's evidence before the state capture commission, as she did not know he was originally set to give evidence on Thursday when she issued it. 

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