South Africa - Pretoria - 28 May 2019 - Former Ecobank CFO, Altu Sadie give evidence on the PIC investment in Ecobank during the PIC Commission of Inquiry held at Sammy Marks Square, Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Former PIC executive Dan Matjila acknowledged in court papers that the PIC should have never invested in the Togo registered Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) after it emerged at the Mpati Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday that the institution was plagued by serious problems related to corporate governance.

Testifying before the commission, former CFO of Ecobank Altu Sadie revealed that in a court case against Matjila, he revealed that he should have never invested in Ecobank yet still proceeded to invest tow more times in the company.   

“It also seems that the CEO tried to improve the governance problems as evidenced by an Ernst and Young audit report. Ecobank has a history of dismissing staff for exposing wrongdoing.” 

In his submission at the commission, Sadie revealed that he was also dismissed from the bank when he was CFO fr Cards and Electronic banking in early January 2017. According to Sadie, he was dismissed for raising an accounting irregularity.  

“Mr Matjila did not contest that the Ernst and Young report, which the ETl board of directors has refused to present to the Court, revealed serious problems of corporate governance within the group; and that Matjila declared and confirmed that if PIC which he represents within ETI had been aware of this fact it would not have invested in the capital of the group.” 

Sadie revealed that in the defamation case involving matjila and Ecobank, both parties were ordered to pay $15m while the complaiaint who is a former CEO was awarded $11.6m for wrongful.

According to Sadie, another employee who went by the name of 'Ms do Rego accused Kolapo Lawson, the chairman of Ecobank as well as Thierry Tanoh, the chief executive, of attempting to sell off non-core assets at ‘well below the market value'.

“She alleges that she was asked to write off debts owed by a real estate company Mr Lawson chairs and to manipulate the bank’s 2012 results to improve those of 2013 when Mr Tanoh was confirmed as CEO,” the commission heard.

Sadie further explained in his submission how a series of events led to him discovering unauthorized and illegal transactions, bordering on securities fraud, share price manipulation and illegal trading of ETI  shares all orchestrated by the then management of Ecobank Nigeria, acting under instructions of the Executive Management of the parent company ETI.

Using a number of traceable sources, he claims that the Board of ETI was given false information in the effort to conceal these matters.

“These transactions have led to the drastic reduction end devaluation of ETI shares to the detriment of shareholders and investors.”

Furthermore, various corporate governance processes within the PIC also too centre stage at the PIC Commission of Inquiry when Chris Pholawane, the organisation’s executive head of human resources stuck to his guns about being clean of any wrong doing including the victimisation of employees who were suspended under former CEO Dan Matjila’s tenure.

Explaining himself before retired Judge Lex Mpati,, Pholwane said the PIC’s HR Department under his leadership has always acted independently and objectively in assessing allegations of misconduct on the part of employees brought to it by other units within the PIC including the office of the CEO.

In this regard the fact that almost all the employees who made these allegations and who went through a disciplinary hearing were found guilty of the charges they were facing Including of serious misconduct, by an independent chairperson body such as the CCMA.

He further highlighted to the Commission that none of the employees who are complaining about victimization and intimidation alleged that the HR and the PIC in general is not acting on similar acts of misconduct by other employees.

“It is my view that in order for them to sustain their argument that disciplinary proceedings are used as a mechanism to victimize and silence them, they have to show that there are other employees within the PIC who have committed similar acts and in respect of whom no action is taken. As a matter of fact, the PIC has consistently been taking and continues to administer and instil discipline indiscriminately without fear, favour and prejudice,” he said. 

He further pointed out in his testimony that since the HR Department is tasked with the primary responsibility of leading disciplinary charges on behalf of the organization for the administration of discipline, it is not inconceivable that fingers will always be pointed 

The hearings continue.