Picture: AFP
Picture: AFP

The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) has distanced itself from any form of state capture.

Its chairperson and acting CEO, Fanisa Lamola, said late on Thursday that she wanted to make it clear to South Africans that "Saica and its entities have never been party to any form of state capture or been consciously involved with those accused of any such dealings".

Lamola’s statement followed a demand by the EFF that Saica CEO and former auditor-general Terence Nombembe be recused as leader of the investigations team, as the EFF believed he had a conflict of interest.

EFF leader Julius Malema said on Thursday that the EFF would write to Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo and ask him to recuse Nombembe.

The EFF’s gripe with Nombembe arose out of Saica’s acceptance of a donation from the Gupta-linked Trillian Capital.

Saica has repaid the donation to Trillian, which was made in March 2017 as a contribution to its bursary fund for disadvantaged students.

Malema said in a media briefing on Tuesday that by the time Saica had received the donation, it was common cause and public knowledge that Trillian was "used as a corruption vehicle by the Gupta criminal syndicate and had received more than R500m from Eskom".

Malema said the EFF had written to Nombembe to confirm and explain the donation, but Nombembe had merely responded via e-mail to arrange a phone conversation.

Malema also said in the briefing that Saica and its CEO (Nombembe) "were captured".

Lamola said Saica had noted "with great concern the accusations levelled at the institute due to misinformation about a student funding donation that one of Saica’s entities, the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, received from Trillian Capital".

SAICA wishes to outline the actual facts around the Trillian donation to SAICA."

She said the Thuthuka Bursary Fund provided money to historically disadvantaged students who were academically gifted but lacked the financial means to study towards becoming chartered accountants.

In 2017, the fund received R57m in donations, mainly from various public and private sector organisations, many of which had voluntarily approach Saica, as a result of awareness of the programme’s success.

"We would like to make everyone aware that the R1.272m donation received from Trillian was unsolicited; which was not unusual as many of [the fund’s] partners have become involved in [the fund] in this manner due to public awareness of the programme and its success.

"Trillian approached the Thuthuka Bursary Fund with an offer to contribute towards the funding of historically disadvantaged students…. [The fund] did not request funding from Trillian."

The fund’s board had resolved to repay the R1.2m to Trillian, following an investigation by advocate Geoff Budlender, who compiled a report on the allegations against Trillian after being commissioned to do so by Trillian chairman Tokyo Sexwale. The money was repaid in August 2017.

Lamola said Saica and the Thuthuka Bursary Fund had since "enhanced their donor vetting process".

"This is in order to ensure that the important work which SAICA and its entities do with regard to providing not only financial but academic and psycho-social support to historically disadvantaged students country-wide, is not compromised in anyway," she said.

Saica and the chartered accountancy profession continued to stand for strong ethical and governance standards, she said, and supported any initiative that would improve these standards, both in business and in the public sector.