Alleged bribe by Iqbal Survé was a ‘misinterpretation’
Sekunjalo says offering to relocate former Ayo CEO, all-expenses paid, is common practice — but Kevin Hardy says it was ‘an outright bribe’
Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo Investment Holdings has rejected the claim by former Ayo Technology CEO Kevin Hardy that the businessman allegedly attempted to bribe him to prevent his resignation from the company.
Hardy testified at the inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) on Monday that he had a meeting with Survé in Johannesburg on August 16 2018, after he had already told an executive at Survé’s African Equity Empowerment Investments that he wanted to resign from Ayo.
“He proceeded to offer that he would move my family to an all-expenses paid waterfront apartment in Cape Town. All our expenses would be covered, including school fees, a chauffeur at our beck and call, etc,” the former CEO said. “I respectfully declined the offer, which was an outright bribe, and said I would not be able to convince my wife to move to Cape Town and that she wanted me to have nothing to do with him.”
Sekunjalo said Survé’s offer was misinterpreted.
“In making the relocation suggestion, it was believed it would be in Mr Hardy’s best interests and those of the company, to have him and his family headquartered in Cape Town, where, importantly, Ayo’s biggest customers were located at the time,” the company has said.
“It is an industry norm for large multinational organisations to provide such relocation assistance to their top executives. It is regrettable that Mr Hardy chose to interpret Dr Survé’s gesture of goodwill, mediation and assistance as a ‘bribe’, as nothing could have been further from the truth.”
Ayo’s former chief investment officer Siphiwe Nodwele testified at the inquiry that the company had exaggerated its value at the time it was seeking an investment from the PIC, and had given the market misleading information on its revenue prospects.
Hardy and Nodwele quit in August 2018, joining four other executives who left at about the same time, saying the company’s leadership had failed to address their governance concerns.
The PIC’s decision, in December 2017, to buy 29% of Ayo at a price that valued the company at almost R15bn was considered suspicious because in previous months financial statements had shown Ayo as having assets of just R292m and a book value of R67m. Since then the shares have traded far below that valuation and were at a record low on Monday, valuing the company at R4.8bn.
The PIC, which manages about R2-trillion, mostly for government employees and pensioners, has vowed to recover its investment in Ayo.