/ 16 August 2018

Ramaphosa to appoint commission of inquiry to probe PIC

If President Ramaphosa makes good on his promise
If President Ramaphosa makes good on his promise, the effect will be to strengthen property rights by making it much clearer when the state can take land without compensation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has agreed to appoint a commission of inquiry into alleged impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the finance ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The commission’s terms of reference will include a review of the PIC’s governance and operating model, possible changes to the PIC’s founding legislation and its memorandum of incorporation, and its investment decision-making framework.

The names of the chair of the commission and the supporting team — as well as the detailed terms of reference of the commission — will be announced in due course, the statement said.

Last month finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, met with the PIC board and informed it of his intention to launch an independent inquiry into governance at the state-owned asset manager.

READ MORE: PIC caught in row over blunders

The PIC is responsible for investing R2-trillion worth of public pension money, as well as the assets of various social welfare funds such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

The PIC recently announced it was appointing a forensic investigator to look into its investment in the embattled VBS Mutual Bank, after allegations of serious impropriety emerged against executives who were the PIC’s board representatives at the bank.

Ernest Nesane — the PIC’s former executive head for legal counsel, governance and compliance — resigned in July, shortly after testifying to investigators appointed by the South African Reserve Bank looking into the collapse of the bank.

The PIC dismissed the other PIC-delegated director on the VBS board, Paul Magula, earlier this year for poor performance.

Allegations of wrongdoing against the PIC’s chief executive Dan Matshile have also persisted, notably after opposition leader Bantu Holomisa pressed ahead with a lawsuit to try a force an investigation into Matjila. Allegations against him include that he loaned money to a company belonging to a supposed girlfriend. Matjila has however strongly denied these allegations, while the PIC’s board had previously exonerated him.

READ MORE: Court gags Holomisa over PIC corruption claims

The ongoing strife has created divisions on the PIC’s board, with the Business Day reporting the resultant resignation of two board members Claudia Manning and Tantaswa Fubu in July.

The PIC’s investments into companies linked to businessman Iqbal Survé has also garnered controversy. 

The Mail & Guardian has previously reported how, in 2013, it helped Survé to acquire Independent Newspapers and, in December last year, it invested R4.3‑billion in his AYO Technology Solutions through a private placement.