Business

The real questions to be asked at the PIC Commission

The real questions to be asked at the PIC Commission

JOURNALISTS – both business and political from media houses – should attend the commission of inquiry into operations at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) at the Sammy Marks Building in Pretoria.

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Last week, I attended this inquiry, which was commissioned by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and would like to compliment retired judge Lex Mpati and his team.

Hard questions have been asked.

The reality is that we need to go back to the terms of reference. 

The intent of the inquiry is to investigate alleged irregularities at the PIC. What irregularities?

Investments made in various companies went very sour at the expense of the PIC’s clients, which include each and every employee of the government via the Government Employees Pension Fund.  

On Friday last week, PwC released the first version of the Steinhoff report.

What happened at Steinhoff is still a mystery.

All the hot-shot directors (who I hope will also appear and testify under oath), including the likes of Dr Johan van Zyl (Sanlam chief executive for years and a professor in agricultural economics at the University of Pretoria), are claiming they were unaware of what really happened behind the scenes at Steinhoff. 

Really? 

Let us be honest… one company has been used – so far – to investigate alleged irregularities at the PIC, a company that still, as we speak, employs hundreds of people, paying salaries to employees on the 25th of every month. 

Lancaster 101 received a cheque of R9.3 billion six months before Steinhoff was exposed by the mysterious Viceroy and wrote off R5bn.

Short-seller Viceroy infamously released a damning report on the retail holding company, a day after it admitted to accounting irregularities. 

Lancaster 101 is the black empowerment partner of embattled retailer Steinhoff International Holdings, owned and led by Jayendra Naidoo. 

The deal was completed just six months before Steinhoff collapsed.

The facts are that the owners of Lancaster received a substantial advisory fee. The advisory fees, I assume, are “above board”.  

Business Report will investigate another mystery in the next few weeks: advisory fees paid to certain entities with some connections, mostly aligned with politicians.

Business is business, as my good friend always says. 

Now, I would like to urge Judge Mpati and his team to take the following into consideration in the next few days and weeks, honouring the intent and the terms of reference as set by Ramaphosa.

PIC investments include Group Five, EOH, Resilient, Tongaat, MTN, Ascendis, S&S Refinery, Carmax, Erin Energy, Tosca, Steinhoff (and Lancaster 101), Aspen, Adcock Ingram, African Bank, SacOil and many others.

Business Report has the following questions: Who brought these investments to the PIC? Were some board members personally involved in some of these investments, and were all these transactions approved by the board?  

Many dots need to be connected between the State Capture Commission of Inquiry (dubbed the Zondo Commission) and the PIC Commission of Inquiry.

The outcomes will hopefully share some light on matters of previous state capture. In my view, the current state capture should be exposed.

Former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas testified at the Zondo Commission, and his testimony raised serious questions.

BUSINESS REPORT