The scandal involving questionable and irregular payments to suspended Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief operating officer, Vuyani Hako have raised more dust on why it is taking longer for his suspension to be resolved amid calls for the assets from the latest PIC scam to be forfeited.
Hako, appointed as PIC COO in 2020, was suspended in June last year. However, according to details from an investigation into his conduct as COO of the PIC, there had been calls from within the company and the board that he be fired from his post as early as the beginning of last year.
Sources at PIC said it had taken longer for PIC chief executive Abel Sithole to finally approve his dismissal. The dismissal “only came because it was becoming embarrassing for the PIC as allegations kept piling,” said one of the sources, declining to be named.
“There were whistleblowers too and these kept coming. Sithole ultimately had no option but to suspend him and institute an investigation,” added the sources.
Documents from the investigation into the conduct of Hako also confirm this, highlighting that in February last year a recommendation from the audit committee asked Sithole to deal with Hako, specifically calling for his removal as the head of properties for the PIC.
The audit committee also preferred that a probe be carried out into the conduct of Hako.
Allegations from the whistleblowers and internal complaints against him are that Hako received questionable and irregular payments to his home-loans, Amabhungane reported Tuesday quoting a report from the forensic investigators appointed by the PIC to probe Hako’s conduct.
These included “suspicious transactions” and payments amounting to R4.5 million that were made to Hako’s home loans. Amabhungane further revealed that Hako, who did not comment to the allegations and the reports, had “failed” to explain the source of funds.
“I don't understand why this process takes so long!! If he's corrupt and cannot explain the source of funds, arrest, asset strip and close this matter,” said one observer.
Others said “weak financial controls, temptation and an environment where corruption is the norm” at the PIC had become breeding grounds for corruption and sleaze at the government fund manager.
Reports show that Hako had two home loans for two residential properties with Rand Merchant Bank bought over in 2015 and 2018. Dust was raised, prompting whistleblowers to step up together with other internal complaints over the controversial and irregular payoffs of these loans in a space of two years, starting off in 2021, just after Hako’s appointment.
“Fundudzi Forensic Services, the company the PIC appointed to conduct a lifestyle audit on Hako, reported that Hako made repayments of at least R1.9 million for the two properties over a few months. Over a period of six months, an additional R2.7 million allegedly flowed from accounts belonging to a relative of Hako's by marriage,” reported Amabhungane.
The news of Hako’s questionable source for his homloan payoffs has torched a storm across South Africa, especially as such high profile corruption cases keep popping up but without any meaningful convictions or arrests.
This was denting South Africa’s reputation and its committment to fighting corruption, say anti-corruption watchdogs. They also questioned why it was taking long for the PIC to resolve Hako’s case amid concerns that the latest scam may not be referred for prosecution.
“In the aftermath of Judicial Commission of Inquiry PIC, expectations were high for a turning point in restoring fund manager's tarnished reputation, marred by allegations of reckless distribution of state worker pension funds,” said another observer.