Finance committee chairman Yunus Carrim. Picture:TREVOR SAMSON
Finance committee chairman Yunus Carrim. Picture:TREVOR SAMSON

Parliament’s standing committee on finance is considering whether to a delay the passage of proposed amendments to the way the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) is governed to allow a commission of inquiry into the entity to finish its work.

The PIC, which manages R2-trillion in government pension and other funds, is the largest asset manager on the continent.

President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the commission following allegations against PIC CEO Dan Matjila and criticism over the way the board dealt with them. It will inquire into and make findings on whether certain “transactions contravened PIC policy or resulted in any undue benefit for any PIC director or employee”. 

He has given the commission until February 15 2019 to submit an interim report and until April 15 2019 for a final report. The problem is that the current parliament will come to an end before elections — expected in April or May next year. This means that the existing finance committee will not be able to incorporate the commission’s findings into a comprehensive PIC bill and it will be difficult for it to direct its successor to carry forward unfinished committee work.

There are two PIC bills before the committee, one proposed by DA finance spokesperson David Maynier and the other by the committee itself. Public hearings have already been held on the proposals.

Carrim said in an interview on Wednesday that the committee wants to avoid a scrappy amendment process as the commission of inquiry is also expected to make recommendations on amendments to the PIC law. 

‘Objective and technically sound’

Carrim noted that the commission will be undertaking a focused probe into the PIC, including into governance issues, and will do so in an ‘‘objective, technically sound way’’.

This is in contrast to the highly charged political context within the committee, where the different parties have adopted strong ideological positions. Many of the issues to be investigated by the commission overlap with issues raised in the two bills.

Carrim said one option was to process the two bills before parliament rose, but not vote on them, and to submit a report on decisions taken to the next committee, which could take this into account when considering proposed legislation. The other option is to to finalise the amendments, and have another amendment process based on the commission’s findings.

Carrim was adamant that the ANC would not support the DA’s proposal that the finance minister take account of the recommendations of the National Assembly when appointing the chair of the PIC. The minister must appoint the chair, he said, and this should preferably be the deputy finance minister, as is currently the case.

However, the ANC wants to tighten the criteria applied in the appointment of board members.

Both bills also require the PIC to disclose all its investments, both listed and unlisted, and provide for trade union representation on the PIC board. In terms of Maynier’s bill, all directives issued by the minister to the PIC would have to be tabled in the National Assembly and published on the PIC website.

The judicial commission of inquiry appointed by Ramaphosa will be headed by retired judge Lex Mpati assisted by former Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus and businessman Emmanuel Lediga.

The role of the board will also be probed, while internal matters ranging from the treatment of whistle-blowers to alleged discrimination in remuneration policy are also included for investigation.

The inquiry is limited to events that took place in 2017 and 2018.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za