PIC whistle-blowers only have until Thursday to come forward
Lawyers have three weeks to finalise a forensic investigation into allegations of impropriety levelled against executives at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), with requests for information only sent out five days ago.
The investigation, which was initiated by the PIC board following an instruction by finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in July, follow allegations that surfaced last year that PIC CEO Dan Matjila and CFO Matshepo More acted improperly in awarding funding to a business linked to an alleged girlfriend of Matjila’s. He has denied any romantic links with the woman and the board previously cleared him of wrongdoing.
The PIC, which manages about R2-trillion worth of government employees’ pension funds and other monies, is under pressure to provide more transparency about its investment portfolio and decision-making processes.
In a letter to the PIC, dated September 5, lawyer Doris Tshepe from Cheadle Thomspon & Haysom, who works with advocate Geoff Budlender SC on the matter, urged potential whistle-blowers to send any documented evidence to an access-restricted e-mail account by September 7. Interviews could also be set up for between Tuesday and Thursday for people to provide information.
UDM president Bantu Holomisa, who took Nene to court to suspend Matjila and institute an independent investigation into the allegations, expressed concern about the short timeline, saying it "looks like it [the investigation] was designed with a specific outcome in mind". He also said the executives should have been suspended while the investigation continued, as PIC staff wouldn’t otherwise feel confident to step forward with possible information.
But Budlender, who is heading the investigation, said the request for information and the invitation to attend an "initial round of interviews" were only some of the first steps taken to collect information. These dates are not "cut-off dates" and all relevant information will be considered, even if received after these dates, he said.
They will "attempt" to meet the September 30 deadline for their report, as set by Nene, he said.
Budlender said it is using a secure e-mail address for whistle-blowers, will conduct interviews "off-site", and will "take the necessary steps to protect the confidentiality of any whistle-blowers who come forward".
Any information received from whistle-blowers that isn’t relevant to its investigation will be passed on the independent inquiry into the governance and structures of the PIC that is due to be set up by Nene, Budlender said.
According to the Treasury, the terms of reference of this inquiry will be "announced shortly", as the relevant parties are "crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s", the Treasury said.