/ 9 April 2019

Ayo financial tampered with on Survé’s instruction, says ex-chief exec

Survé, testifying before the commission for two days last week, had said that AYO had done nothing wrong and the PIC's R4.3bn investment was sound.(Lerato Maduna/Gallo)

Former AYO Technology Solutions CEO, Kevin Hardy, has testified that Iqbal Survé, the head of investment holding company Sekunjalo, interfered in the running of the technology company and issued an order to tamper with a financial report.

Hardy was one of two former key AYO executives who testified before the judicial commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation on Monday.

The commission is investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the state-run asset manager, which manages R2.2trn in investments on behalf of public servants.

The PIC invested R4.3bn in AYO in late 2017. The group’s share price has since plunged from R45 a share to R15 a share

Hardy told the commission that around the time that AYO was set to release its maiden interim results, its Chief Financial Officer, Naahied Gamieldien, was instructed to tamper with the numbers “to reflect an inflated number to the market”.

He said the instructions had come from Survé and Khalid Abdulla, the CEO of Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI), who, together with Chief Investment Officer Malick Salie, had amended the numbers.

“She [Gamieldien] was not happy with the the changes, but said she was comfortable that we could make up the shortfall in the second half off some of the acquisitions,” reads Hardy’s affidavit, which he submitted alongside his testimony on Monday.

AEEI holds 49.36% of AYO’s shares, according to its website. AEEI, meanwhile, is a subsidiary of Sekunjalo, of which Survé is the executive chair.

Survé, testifying before the commission for two days last week, had said that AYO had done nothing wrong and the PIC’s R4.3bn investment was sound. He said that, as chair of Sekunjalo, he would make sure that “every cent that’s in that business [AYO] is utilised for the benefits of the shareholders”.

‘Very uncomfortable’

Hardy said he was “very uncomfortable” with the decision to inflate the numbers, but was informed the instruction had come from above.

He states in his affidavit that, “given the media noise, we could not deliver an average set or results”.

Hardy resigned from AYO in August. He told the commission that he could not run the business without interference, as no decisions could be taken without the consent of Survé.

Survé, testifying last week, had pushed back against similar accusations, saying that companies in the Sekunjalo group that have received funding from the PIC have “superb boards [and] superb management teams across the board”.

“I play no decision in those businesses,” he said.

Bribe’ to relocate

Hardy said that Survé had tried to bribe him with an all-expenses paid move to Cape Town after he expressed his desire to resign from the company.

The offer to move him and his family was presented to him during a meeting on August 16. He said Survé had offered to relocate his family to an “Waterfront apartment in Cape Town” complete with a chauffeur service and the payment of school fees.

He testified that he “respectively declined the offer which was an outright bribe”. But Survé was persistent, said Hardy, and even offered to call Hardy’s wife to present her with the offer.

The inquiry resumes on Tuesday.