Carol Paton Writer at Large
PIC chief investment officer Dan Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
PIC chief investment officer Dan Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Employees of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) say they have knowledge of numerous irregularities and instances of impropriety, which they want to expose, but that CEO Dan Matjila and CFO Matshepo More need to be suspended so that the staff can testify freely to investigators.

On Thursday, both anonymous and former staff members wrote to PIC chairman Mondli Gungubele, appealing to him and the rest of the board to suspend the two top executives.

The board holds its regular board meeting on Friday, at which it will also decide on how to proceed with the two investigations — an independent inquiry and a forensic inquiry — announced by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene. A key decision will be whether to suspend implicated individuals while the investigations are under way.

Asked whether Nene thought that Matjila should be suspended during the independent investigation, spokesman for the minister Jabulani Sikhakhane said: "Your question puts the cart before the horse. The PIC’s memorandum of incorporation states: “The board shall, with the approval of the Minister, appoint a suitably skilled and qualified person as the chief executive office of the company.” It therefore follows that the decision to suspend is also that of the board. Once the board has decided, it can then seek minister’s approval".

In their letter, the PIC employees say they have been privy to much impropriety but have not before had the protection to speak out. The investigations provide a “new dawn” to do so.

“The board will understand that we, as employees, are at an operational level. We are involved from the inception of transactions up to the final approval. We are exposed to irregularities and impropriety that the board or even the minister would not be exposed to.

“We are aware when a deal is urgently executed based on an instruction from an executive director. We are aware when a sponsor approaches the PIC through an executive director. We also have information of when an unknown/unrelated party to a transaction sponsor is introduced by a PIC executive to a deal, when it’s already been submitted to the PIC and they are instructed to work with them. We are also aware of investee companies who have also been instructed by executives to do some favours. There is a litany of irregularities in relation to human resources processes,” the letter says.

In the months following the corruption allegations against Matjila in September 2017, several staff members have been dismissed or suspended. In some cases, the employees were dismissed due to a witch-hunt by Matjila to track down the “whistle-blower”, whose allegations included that Matjila had funded a business connected to an alleged girlfriend and called in favours for her from companies that the PIC had funded.

“We therefore request that before the board implements the minister’s directive, it places the CEO and CFO on suspension. This will allow the forensic inquiry to be independent, free from influence by implicated parties and we, as employees, can provide relevant information without any threat to our careers and futures,” the letter states.