Truth about PIC report

By Adri Senekal De Wet Time of article published Mar 24, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - When the Mpati Commission of Inquiry into improprieties at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) finally released its long awaited report, the state-owned asset manager’s interim board of directors met the following week and welcomed the findings and recommendations of the commission without any reservations.

The board said it was in the process of developing and finalising a plan to implement the recommendations, which would include instituting disciplinary action against all those implicated.

Sekunjalo also welcomed the outcome of the report and has undertaken to co-operate with the recommendations stipulated in the report.

Since the report was released, it has been scrutinised by analysts, journalists, regulators, and the public. For some, the report is a vindication of their position and for others, it spells a period to come that will include further investigation with potential criminal proceedings.

To understand why a small selection of personages in South Africa may well find the outcome of the report hard to swallow when it comes to Sekunjalo, it is important to grasp the background that set the scene for this commission of inquiry.

In 2017, a concerted campaign by Gupta-aligned individuals was launched with the aim of removing Dr Dan Matjila as CEO of the PIC. The desired outcome would have been to replace Matjila with a CEO who would be more in line, and favourable to supporting transactions that would benefit the Gupta family.

Matjila was cleared by the 2018 independent forensic investigation led by Advocate Geoff Budlender.

Strangely, this report was only made public in March 2019 during the commission.

As a reminder, it was Matjila who stood firm against a takeover of the PIC by the Guptas and their allies, when the PIC board was changed. This change brought about an ironic confluence of interest between the Gupta-aligned faction and the new dawn faction, headed by Deputy Minister of Finance (at the time), Mondli Gungubele, who was the chairman of the board of the PIC.

Gungubele tried to directly involve himself in PIC transactions.

While all of this was taking place, another battle was raging - the battle for media freedom and the desire for ownership of the country’s broadest and most influential titles that are controlled by Independent Media.

Independent Media remains nonaligned and objective in its reporting of all matters, especially those concerning South Africa, where a non-partisan voice is sorely needed. This approach does not toe the party line and can be a thorn in the side of those who have intentions that are not aligned with the country’s best interests.

The media should serve as a trusted and credible source of information but since time immemorial, the media has also been used for propaganda and personal gain.

So it was, with the storylines that began to infiltrate the pages, airwaves and online sites of many publishers in South Africa, insinuating improper business conduct and relationships between Independent Media, AYO Technology Solutions (AYO), Sekunjalo and Dr Iqbal Survé, and the PIC, as an example.

Next, the establishment of the PIC Commission of Inquiry with highly unusual terms of reference - only companies that had appeared in the media over the last two years was the subject of the investigation by the commission.

The commission focused on investigating black investors and entrepreneurs that the PIC had supported during this period. This narrow focus detracted from the fact that during the commission, several well established listed companies tanked and lost billions and billions of rand for the PIC and other investors.

Widescale reporting of the abject losses in Steinhoff, accounting irregularities admitted by the Board at Tongaat Hulett, and the cries of corruption at EOH that cost them the Microsoft contract, and countless others were not enough for the commission’s terms of reference to be broadened. This was a lost opportunity.

Sekunjalo said the group was aware of the repeated misrepresentation and distortion of the report by certain elements of the media. It highlighted:

There are no adverse findings against Sekunjalo, Dr Survé or the companies in which Sekunjalo and the PIC have invested contained in the report (in fact no findings at all against Sekunjalo are reported on) - pages 33 and 34 points 60-64

Of the 995 pages, fewer than 50 pages relate to Sekunjalo - Sekunjalo is therefore not the focus of the report as seems to be inferred by certain journalists.

The Sekunjalo Group chairman, Dr Survé, as well as senior executives of the Group, voluntarily presented themselves to the commission and made full disclosure of the transactions and presented the information as comprehensively as possible.

It was Sekunjalo that challenged why the commission was focused on black companies.

It was Sekunjalo that insisted that any commission of inquiry’s terms of reference should be extended to what role the PIC should play in transformation in the country.

It was Independent Media whose editors called for the release of the PIC report.

The report very clearly states that no PIC official or employee has benefited, in any way, from the Sekunjalo transactions.

The report is very clear that the issues at the PIC and that were covered during the Inquiry, relate to the ineffective governance at the PIC itself, which includes its officials and board members.

Sekunjalo has, from the launch of the commission, fully co-operated with all requests of it by the Commission and regulators and provided all information.

Sekunjalo maintains its position as operating with integrity in all of its business dealings.

The report acknowledges there was no bribery, no corruption, no underhanded dealings on the part of any Sekunjalo company.

Adri Senekal de Wet is the executive editor of Business Report.


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