Former PIC CEO Dan Matjila testifies at the PIC Commission of Inquiry. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Dan Matjila says the asset manager followed due process in transactions involving various companies including Lancaster and Sagarmatha.

He says the PIC’s head of the internal audit (IA) division, Lufuno Nemagovhani, was present in portfolio management committee (PMC) meetings that took decisions on such investments.

On his third day of testimony before the Mpati Commission of Inquiry Into Allegations of Wrong-doing at the PIC yesterday, Matjila also told the commissioners he bore no grudges against former deputy finance minister and PIC chairman Mondli Gungubele and UDM leader Bantu Holomisa.

The duo publicly accused Matjila of maladministration, irregularities and poor investment strategies.

Matjila denied claims that the PIC had flouted due processes.

“The IA was aware of the due processes that had been followed in the MST funding application, but chose not to tell this to the board,” he said.

Matjila said a claim by Nemagovhani’s division that it did not have the requisite capacity to conduct an investigation into allegations of irregularities in the MST transaction was surprising given that it readily conducted a similar probe into AYO Technology Solutions.

This followed media claims that the PIC’s R4.3billion investment in AYO was irregular.

“Mr Nemagovhani was suddenly able to conduct an in-depth investigation from scratch into the AYO transaction at the behest of the chairman and come up with a 94-page report, whereas he was ostensibly unable to do so in respect of the MST transaction.”

He said Nemagovhani’s unwillingness to get to the bottom of the MST transaction was an attempt to prolong damaging allegations made by whistle-blower James Nogu in a series of emails he sent to the PIC board.

Matjila dismissed claims by company secretary Bongani Mathebula in her testimony in April that he had victimised her.

He said Mathebula was very much involved in the approval process of the MST funding, including the signing of the PMC resolutions relating to the approval process.

“She knew quite well that due process was followed. It’s quite surprising that she pretends that the matter is foreign to her when the company secretary is responsible for the record of proceedings at these sort of meetings,” Matjila said.

He rejected allegations that he ruled the PIC with an iron fist, saying an investigation conducted by Geoff Budlender cleared him. The PIC also cleared him based on its own information.

Matjila blamed the allegations on the manipulation of the media by his critics, saying it was clear that journalists had been fed lies.

He conceded to tensions between him, Gungubele and Holomisa, but said he held no grudges against the two politicians.

“I had not met Ngungubele in my life until the PIC. I had no reason to suspect anything. I just treated him like any other chairperson and deputy finance minister. I have no idea what he had against me.”

Matjila said he knew Holomisa only as a political party leader whose interest in the PIC intrigued and equally concerned him. To curb scathing media reports and Holomisa’s criticism, Matjila said he planned to invite the UDM boss to a meeting with a view to explaining PIC operations. However, the plan never materialised. 

When Gungubele took over as PIC chairman, Matjila added, media attention on the asset manager was at its highest. Matjila said that at a meeting held at Gungubele’s office at Treasury in June last year he sought to outline the PIC’s strategic issues, address attacks on the PIC, discuss the MST transaction and propose that the PIC chairman call an urgent board meeting and arrange induction for all members. 

“To my surprise, he was not interested in these issues and wanted me to take him through the PIC investment strategy. I suspected that he was being briefed by some other parties and indeed the evidence by Mathebula (the company secretary) bears out that suspicion.” Matjila said it took Gungubele six months after taking over to finally conduct an induction. 

The events that unfolded “were an example of how governance is failing at the PIC”, he maintained. Matjila said the current “paralysis” at PIC had significant implications for the asset manager and the economy.

Bonus payments were not paid on time, he insisted, resulting in employees being resentful. He said he raised concerns with Gungubele’s adviser, Teboho Mokoena, but was told to rather focus on building a better relationship with the then deputy minister. 

Matjila said Mokoena had also asked him to help a poor family by buying books worth R5 million as part of corporate social investment.