/ 28 January 2019

Gungubele will not appear before PIC commission, for now

'It is up to them now to call me if they so fit because I have communicated and that’s all I could do
'It is up to them now to call me if they so fit because I have communicated and that’s all I could do,' says deputy finance minister Mondli Gungubele. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The Public Investment Corporation’s (PIC) commission into issues of impropriety at the state asset manager will continue with its second sitting of public hearings on Monday, but the chair of the board, deputy finance minister Mondli Gungubele, will not form part of the list of witnesses set to appear.

Last week Tuesday, the board suspended Fidelis Madavo — the executive head for listed investments — on the morning that he was supposed to give testimony before commission chair Justice Lex Mpati. A visibly displeased evidence leader advocate Jannie Lubbe accused the board of running a parallel investigation and said that it may be critical for Gungubele to appear before the commission and explain the actions of the board, even at the early stage of the hearing.

READ MORE: Suspension of PIC executive did not follow normal procedure, Mpati inquiry hears

However, Gungubele told the Mail and Guardian that although he has indicated that he is willing to appear before the commission he has not received any correspondence asking him to come forward.

“It is up to them now to call me if they so fit because I have communicated and that’s all I could do,” said Gungubele. He added that the commission was handed the report last week.

Madavo was suspended after a preliminary internal audit report given to the board last week Monday found that he blatantly flouted the governance and approval processes of the PIC in handling the controversial Ayo Technology Solutions transaction.

In 2017, when Ayo listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the PIC invested R4.3-billion in the company associated with independent media owner Dr Iqbal Survé, despite concerns that the company was overpriced.

The commission said the decision to call Gungubele would be decided “in due course”.

“The commission did discuss the issue but for now we are still studying the developments emanating from the PIC board and we have not decided whether or not to call the chairperson,” said spokesperson Thabi Leoka.

Gungubele said in hindsight, they realise that it would have been prudent to inform the commission about the suspension beforehand but the board was not anticipating that they would have to suspend people when they were called into the urgent meeting on Monday.

READ MORE: Editorial: PIC wakes up at last

“We explained to the commission and now the commission understands … We could not wait for the commission because on a daily basis we analyse the potential risk the PIC could be exposed to. When we suspect that there could be a risk we do investigations” Gungubele said.

“What happened, coincidentally, that report was given to us and there is no way we could not act because of the nature of the information that was there,” he added.

On Monday, Naledi Forensic Investigators — the company which was subcontracted by digital telecommunications and IT company BCX to retrieve the emails of six PIC executives — will appear before the commission.

Former CEO Dan Matjila used the company in his quest to uncover the whistle-blower who had accused him of using his position to influence the use of corporate social investment money to fund his alleged girlfriend’s failing business.

READ MORE: PIC caught in row over blunders

This will be followed by testimony from the executive head of property Vuyani Hako and the Association for Monitoring and Advocacy of Government Pensions.

The hearings will end on Tuesday where Dr Claudia Manning, the non-executive director who resigned from the board in July last year, will be the last witness.

At the time of Manning’s resignation, Business Day reported that she was unhappy with Gungubele’s decision not to oppose a court application by United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa’s call for Matjila’s suspension for his role in the girlfriend saga. Matjila has denied the relationship.