Carol Paton Writer at Large
Wait and see: Public Investment Corporation CE Dan Matjila told MPs the asset manager had rejected SAA’s initial request due to poor governance. File picture
Wait and see: Public Investment Corporation CE Dan Matjila told MPs the asset manager had rejected SAA’s initial request due to poor governance. File picture

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has paid its chief IT executive Vuyokazi Menye about R7.5m to leave the organisation, while the organisation signed an acknowledgment that she had done nothing wrong.

Her subordinate, head of IT security Simphiwe Mayisela, was dismissed following a hearing last Friday.

The PIC is the biggest asset manager in the South African economy and manages close to R2-trillion in government pension and other funds.

The two are casualties of a frantic attempt by PIC CE Dan Matjila and his board to unmask the identity of an anonymous whistle-blower who e-mailed executives and board members with allegations that Matjila had corruptly funded "a girlfriend".

However, the attempt to find the whistle-blower, who went under the name of James Nogu, went awry when the South African Police Service decided it was more apt to investigate the whistle-blower’s claims than to discover his identity.

Both staff members were suspended on a charge that they had failed to inform Matjila that he was the subject of a corruption investigation by the police.

Mayisela also faced several other charges.

The details of the events are recorded in the judgment of Mayisela’s hearing, presided over by advocate Nazeer Cassim. While Menye is subject to a nondisclosure agreement, Mayi-sela had decided to speak out.

The saga dates back to September when executives and directors of the PIC received the Nogu e-mail.

Matjila responded to the claims with a written rebuttal to the board and was also interviewed on his statement by the head of PIC’s internal audit.

Although the internal audit report was not conclusive in certain important regards, the board cleared Matjila of the allegations. Menye and Mayisela were instructed to find the sender of the e-mail.

Mayisela says the e-mail was traced as far as a server in France, and for him to continue any further required the assistance of the police, who could subpoena the company concerned. On Matjila’s go-ahead, Mayisela reported the matter to the Brooklyn police station.

However, on taking his complaint, the police decided the crime that needed investigation was the allegation of corruption against Matjila, not determining the source of the e-mail.

These facts are not in dispute, and in his judgment against Mayisela, Cassim said he believed the police did the right thing in prioritising an investigation into the veracity of the allegations over the identity of the sender. Cassim also found that the employees were following the instructions of Matjila in going to the police who, he said, "erred" in sending employees who reported to him to make the complaint when, in fact, as he was implicated he should have kept well away from it.

Menye’s hearing was settled midway through proceedings. Business Day has, however, ascertained from three people close to the matter that Menye’s payout was equivalent to 29 months’ salary, amounting to about R7.5m.

While Menye was deemed to be not responsible for the charge of failing to inform Matjila of the corruption probe, Mayisela, who reported to her and kept her abreast of developments, was found guilty. This, said Cassim, was because he had a duty of good faith to his employer, which he did not uphold.

Mayisela saw the police on two separate occasions. On the first occasion he went on Matjila’s instruction and was told by the police that they wanted to investigate Matjila. Mayisela says the police had told him he was now a witness and had enlisted his co-operation. At first he told neither Menye nor Matjila that this had happened.

However, later, when the police called him for a further interview, he informed Menye and took her along.

Cassim said Mayisela’s omission to inform his superiors after the first occasion was deliberate and done in bad faith.

Mayisela was also found guilty of being in possession of confidential documents, which he argues he obtained with the access permissions granted by Menye after the two of them discovered a breach of IT security. Mayisela also says he was keeping the documents to give to the police.

Cassim implied that Mayisela’s co-operation with the police was not innocent.

The transcript of his cross-examination also shows that he made a particular mission of investigating Matjila. Cassim said Mayisela "had an agenda against the CEO" and that he admitted that he "was accessing information because he was targeting the CEO".

Cassim was also highly critical of the way Matjila was cleared of the "girlfriend" allegations, saying he found the conduct of the board wanting.

"The nature of the allegations levelled against the CEO requires a more profound investigation, and the process itself ought to have encompassed the hallmarks of transparency and accountability…. The CEO should have extricated himself completely from any investigation," Cassim said.