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PIC hit with more claims

Jul 01 2018 06:02
Dewald Van Rensburg

A former executive at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has accused the continent’s largest asset manager of irregularly fiddling with the bonuses paid to employees, in order to retain R44 million.

In an affidavit, ex human resources finance officer Sandile Sibiya makes specific allegations against the PIC’s chief financial officer Matshepo More.

The PIC manages R1.9 trillion in funds on behalf of a number of government entities. Its largest client is the Government Employees Pension Fund. The PIC is one of the largest owners, on behalf of its clients, of JSE-listed companies.

Sibiya claims the short-term incentive pool, an annual amount set aside to pay performance-based bonuses, was irregularly scaled down in 2016 and 2017.

In the former instance, the pool was allegedly cut back without approval from the PIC’s human resources remuneration committee and its board.

In the case of last year, he alleges that a letter from then finance minister Pravin Gordhan was adulterated with Tipp-Ex and then scanned to give credence to More’s decision to cut down bonuses.

When he was instructed to calculate bonuses from a lower base, he was told this was in accordance with Gordhan’s directive.

Sibiya, however, claims he was not allowed to see the directive and that it was initially not available to external auditors – except in adulterated form.

Sibiya resigned from the PIC under what he calls a constructive dismissal. He is one of a number of former employees who have taken aim at the PIC’s executives.

The allegations are contained in an affidavit under case number 19/10/2017 at the Brooklyn Police Station. In May, subpoenas had been issued under this case number related to an entirely different set of allegations another former employee made against PIC CEO Daniel Matjila.

These allegations relate to the PIC’s allegedly paying money to Matjila’s romantic partner, by way of an intermediary company.

The bonus pool allegations were sworn before investigating officer Detective Sergeant Kgaile Mpholo on March 29.

Sibiya resigned from the PIC on August 31 last year and claims he was a victim of constructive dismissal, a labour law term for when an employer effectively forces an employee to quit by making their job unbearable.

He told City Press he unsuccessfully approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) before taking his allegations to the police.

It is unclear if the additional subpoenas were issued in relation to this second set of allegations about PIC bonuses.

If Sibiya’s allegations are true, then about 350 employees who hit performance targets over the two years, would have lost out on a collective R44 million.

In his affidavit, Sibiya claims the 2014/15 short-term incentive pool was limited to the prior year’s level without the chief financial officer following the prescribed process of obtaining a recommendation from the human resources remuneration committee and the board.

For the 2015/16 incentive pool he claims there was another deviation from policy, purportedly on the basis of an instruction from Gordhan.

Sibiya claims these deviations led to bonus pools for 2016 and 2017 being R12 million and R31 million, smaller than they should have been, based on the PIC’s performance.

Sibiya alleges More refused to allow him to see Gordhan’s directive, raising a suspicion that it was either a forgery or that it had been incorrectly communicated.

The PIC’s leadership has been inundated with allegations of misgovernance this year, largely from suspended and former employees.

Former executive head of risk Paul Magula was fired earlier this year for alleged incompetence. He has gone to the CCMA claiming he was forced out for challenging contentious investment decisions.

City Press reported earlier this year that PIC company secretary Bongani Mathebula and executive head for IT Vuyokazi Menye had been suspended.

Matjila had the suspended officials investigated last year, after the allegations surfaced about his supposed romantic partner getting money indirectly from the PIC.

The PIC told City Press the allegations were false and misplaced.

“The PIC rejects Sibiya’s allegations,” said corporate affairs head Deon Botha.

“The PIC complied with the directives of the shareholder, who is the minister of finance, and all payments of incentives are in accordance with Treasury regulations.”

He said the PIC “had no knowledge” of the alleged adulteration of a ministerial letter and that Sibiya should provide evidence if he had any.

Sibiya had no right to see ministerial directives.

“As an employee of the PIC, it was not within his delegation of authority to be given access to, or to be in possession of, a written directive from the minister of finance to the PIC board and the chairperson.”

He said internal and external auditors could get them from the minister to verify incentive payments.

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