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PIC boss in firing line yet again

Sep 29 2017 11:08
Yolandi Groenewald

Johannesburg - After fending off  earlier attempts to remove him, Public Investment Corporation (PIC) boss Dan Matjila will again be in the firing line on Friday to explain allegations that he flouted procedures to help a special friend.

The state pension company scheduled another special meeting this week, where Matjila will be expected to defend himself. This is at least the third special meeting this month, despite the board reportedly rejecting a request to probe Matjila at previous meetings.

Last week the embattled PIC chief called the allegations against him an attempt by Gupta-linked allies to gain access to PIC funds, and to facilitate bailouts of struggling state-owned entities (SOEs).

The PIC has almost R1.9trn in assets and handles pension funds for South African government workers, including nurses and teachers.

On Sunday Matjila was quoted in an interview in the Sunday Times as saying that certain people “wanted the keys to the PIC”, and were lobbying to dismiss him.

But on Tuesday Matjila dismissed the Sunday Times' interview as inaccurate, after a marathon meeting with Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba discussing allegations that Treasury was seeking to use PIC funds to finance ailing SOEs such as South African Airways.

Matjila said the Sunday Times article was “distasteful, inaccurate, and designed to drive (a) wedge between minister, myself and the board". However, he still hasn’t expanded on how his comments were misconstrued, despite a promise to do so at the meeting.

Analysts believe he might have spoken out as an insurance policy, to protect him from an expected suspension if the board orders an investigation against him. 

At the same meeting Gigaba denied that National Treasury wants to dip into the PIC, saying there was "no attempt to dip into pensions for reasons that are unscrupulous.”  He added that “of course” he had full faith in the PIC CEO - “Without a shred of doubt.”

But as Friday's meeting loomed, it emerged that Matjila has yet another tough round of questioning to face. 

Buthelezi said to push for a probe

Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi, who also chairs the PIC, has been noted as one of Matjila's harshest critics, pushing for an internal audit committee investigation of allegations that he flouted policy and procedures to the tune of R21m.

Sources inside the board have indicated that at least 14 board members were satisfied with Matjila's explanations and wanted to drop the action.

Although Buthelezi also gave his support to Matjila on Tuesday, he was at pains to say that all procedures will have to be followed thoroughly if there were an investigation of the allegations against Matjila. Buthelezi is expected to push for a probe again.

"When allegations come, the board has got a duty to look into it,” he said.

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