Sat, 31 Jul 2021

7 take-aways from the PIC inquiry

15 Aug 2019, 07:13 GMT+10

The PIC commission of inquiry on Wednesday concluded its public hearings. The commission was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year and was tasked with investigating allegations of impropriety in the corporation's investment decisions.

The PIC manages R2trn in public funds and invests on behalf of the Government Employee Pension Fund.

Over the past eight months, the commission heard from 77 witnesses. Among the witnesses were business people who had had dealings with the PIC, former board members, including former chairperson Mondli Gungubele, and axed CEO Dan Matjila, who responded to several allegations made against him.

The commission was led by Justice Lex Mpati and assisted by former Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus and veteran stock broker Emmanuel Lediga. They will prepare a final report for the president, to be submitted by October 31.

Mpati commented that during the course of the inquiry several more "questionable transactions" have been brought to the attention of the investigating team. This means their investigation is still ongoing and if warranted more public hearings will be scheduled.

PIC inquiry wraps public hearings, commission to prepare final report

Fin24 looks back on some of the key things the inquiry heard:

Matjila: Allegations against me too 'malicious' to be from a whistleblower

In an update to the commission, evidence leader Advocate Jannie Lubbe said that there have now been six investigators who have tried to uncover the identity of Nogu or rather the author of the emails. "The investigation is now with the sixth investigator, with little hope that anything will come of it," Lubbe told the commission.

PIC inquiry: Lifestyle audit finds no criminal conduct by ex-head Dan Matjila

Mpati has ruled that van Tonder's affidavit will be made available on the PIC website, but the confidential information relating to the individuals will not be made publicly available.

The lifestyle audit also looked into an allegation that Matjila received a R2.5m loan from VBS as a kickback for the PIC's investment into the mutual bank, which has since been liquidated. There was no evidence in the lifestyle audit that Matjila benefited from the loan.

Matjila: There will always be bad investments

Former chief investment officer of AYO Technology Solutions, Siphiwe Nodwele, who resigned in August 2018, said the IT company was valued between R700m and R1bn - and not R14.8bn as the PIC determined. AYO is linked to Sekunjalo Group, of which businessman Dr Iqbal Surve is the executive chairman.

Another former executive, Abdul Malick Salie, who resigned in May 2019, has said that the value of AYO was "stretched out" in its pre-listing statement. AYO had listed on the JSE in late 2017.

The PIC is currently in litigation to recover the R4.3bn in AYO. Surve said there was no reason for the PIC to recoup its R4.3bn investment in AYO saying it was sound and Matjila says that the PIC has not lost money on the investment.

Matjila: The PIC has not lost money on AYO investment

The IT group's share price has since declined from its listing price of R43 a share to R8 a share.

Email trail between Iqbal Surve and ex-PIC head Dan Matjila probed at PIC inquiry

Surve said that the PIC did not invest in Sagarmatha and this was a "missed opportunity". "For the first time a (technology) unicorn would emerge from the African continent," he told the commission. He compared Sagamartha to Uber and said it could have a market cap of $10bn.

Results of PIC staff survey manipulated to create rosy picture, inquiry hears

Assistant Portfolio Manager Victor Seanie, who was suspended in January 2019, after being linked to irregularities of the AYO investment along with executive head of listed investments Fidelis Madavo, testified of the culture of intimidation at the asset manager. He said sound investment recommendations by professionals was ignored and the work culture at the PIC was one of forced compliance where no questioning was allowed.

7. No investment is perfect

The commission heard of several investment the PIC made which went awry. This includes Steinhoff, the retailer's share value plummeted 98% on allegations of accounting irregularities, as well as an investment into Erin Energy linked to Nhlanhla Nene's son in which the PIC lost R333m.

Matjila, who had made 12 appearances before the commission, said that investments aren't always perfect. "You cannot get everything right in investments. There will always be bad ones, as long as you learn from bad ones so that you do not repeat them again. There will be new bad ones for some other reasons - that's investment," he told the commission.

He also has said that he cannot make investment decisions unilaterally and that there is an investment team at the PIC from whom he trusts to take advice.

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