Gill Marcus, Justice Lex Mpati and Emmanuel Lediga at the Commission of Inquiry into PIC. PIC head of research and project development Sholto Dolamo has told the commission of inquiry into the entity that he has no knowledge of impropriety. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA

PRETORIA - The Public Investment Corporation's (PIC) head of research and project development, Sholto Dolamo, has told the commission of inquiry into the entity that he has no knowledge of impropriety at the PIC.

Dolamo was testifying on Monday - the first day of the public hearings of the inquiry - led by evidence leader Advocate Jannie Lubbe SC. 

Justice Lex Mpati - former president of the Supreme Court of Appeal - is heading the commission. 

"You have been with the PIC for a brief period, but in that period, to your personal knowledge - you have read the media reports of 2017/18 about the alleged contravention of legislation, policies and contractual obligations etc - do you know of such improprieties?" Lubbe asked Dolamo.

The collected PIC executive responded: "No, sir".

Lubbe continued: "Do you know of any director or employee that used his or her position, privileges or confidential information for personal gain or to improperly benefit another person?"

Dolamo responded: "No, sir".

Earlier, Dolamo told the inquiry that he joined the PIC in October 2014, initially as a portfolio manager in the listed investments division. In September 2015, he was appointed as an executive head of research and project development - a newly-formed division. 

"Part of the division I'm responsible for is research, and it's strategic objective is really to provide the PIC with quality and relevant research that allows for informed investments to be established in order to further enhance the client's returns as well as simultaneously looking at how that could stimulate economic growth in line with the National Development Plan," said Dolamo.

As the commission started, Mpati appealed to individuals to come forward and submit evidence. 

“We are this morning commencing with the hearing of evidence from witnesses in relation to the issues the commission has been instructed to investigate, and for which it was set up," Mpati said in his opening remarks at the Tshwane Council Chambers. 

"The commission has sent out notices ... inviting anyone with information relevant to the terms of reference to come forward, to assist the commission in its task.

“Responses to that call have been received, but the invitation still stands. I want to repeat, I invite any person with information that may be relevant to the commission’s terms of reference to contact Advocate Setati, or the evidence leader Advocate Jannie Lubbe SC. Their contact details are available on the commission’s website.”

He said there provision had been made for protection of witness identities. “So people should feel free to come forward, and we give the undertaking that witnesses will be treated fairly, and with dignity at all times,” said Mpati.

The chairperson was flanked by his assistants - former South African Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus and veteran asset manager Emmanuel Lediga.

PIC employees Wilna Louw, who is acting secretary, and Roy Rajhar - the executive head of Impact Investment - also testified around the legislative procedures on how the PIC operates.

Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the commission to probe allegations of impropriety at the PIC, the biggest asset manager in Africa, which is responsible for almost R2 trillion in government pension and other funds. It has been mired in controversy regarding some of its investment decisions.

Among the 16 terms of reference, the commission must probe whether any alleged impropriety regarding investment decisions by the PIC in media reports in 2017 and 2018 contravened any legislation.

The commission must also probe whether PIC policy or contractual obligations resulted in any undue benefit for any PIC director or employee or any associate or family member of any PIC director or employee at the time.

Ramaphosa also wants the commission to probe whether investment decisions at the PIC resulted from ineffective governance and/or functioning by the board, or whether any PIC director or employee used his or her position or privileges, or confidential information, for personal gain or to improperly benefit another person.

The period under investigation is January 1, 2015 to August 31, 2018, but the commission has also been given leeway to work outside these dates. An interim report has to be submitted to Ramaphosa by no later than February 15 and a final report by not later than April 15 this year.

The public hearings will this week run until Wednesday.

African News Agency (ANA)