PIC inquiry appeals for information as probe gathers momentum

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PRETORIA, January 21 The sittings of the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Commission (PIC) kicked off in Pretoria on Monday.

The chairperson of the inquiry, former president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Lex Mpati appealed to individuals to come forward and submit evidence.

“We are this morning commencing with the hearing of evidence from witnesses in relation to the issues the commission has been instructed to investigate, and for which it was set up,” Mpati said in his opening remarks at the Tshwane Council Chambers.

“The commission has sent out notices … inviting anyone with information relevant to the terms of reference to come forward, to assist the commission in its task.

“Responses to that call have been received, but the invitation still stands. I want to repeat, I invite any person with information that may be relevant to the commission’s terms of reference to contact Advocate Setati, or the evidence leader Advocate Jannie Lubbe SC. Their contact details are available on the commission’s website.”

He said there is a provision for protection of witnesses’ identities.

“So people should feel free to come forward, and we give the undertaking that witnesses will be treated fairly, and with dignity at all times,” said Mpati.

The chairperson was flanked by his assistants – former South African Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus and veteran asset manager Emmanuel Lediga.

Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed the Mpati-led commission of inquiry to probe the allegations of rot at the PIC.

“In terms of section 84(2)(f) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, I hereby appoint a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of impropriety regarding the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) with the terms of reference attached in the Schedule hereto and appoint Honourable Mr Justice Lex Mpati, the former President of the Supreme Court of Appeal who has been discharged from active service as Commissioner, assisted by Ms Gill Marcus and Mr Emmanuel Lediga,” Ramaphosa said at the time.

The PIC, the biggest asset manager in Africa and manages almost R2 trillion in government pension and other funds, has been mired in controversy with allegations of impropriety against its directors regarding some of its investment decisions.

Among the sixteen terms of reference, commission must probe whether any alleged impropriety regarding investment decisions by the PIC in media reports in 2017 and 2018 contravened any legislation.

The commission must also probe whether PIC policy or contractual obligations resulted in any undue benefit for any PIC director, or employee or any associate or family member of any PIC director or employee at the time.

Ramaphosa also wants the commission to probe whether investment decisions at PIC resulted from ineffective governance and/or functioning by the board, or whether any PIC director or employee used his or her position or privileges, or confidential information for personal gain or to improperly benefit another person.

The president said the commission  must, in its inquiry for the purpose of its findings, report and recommendations, consider the period of 1 January 2015 to 31 August 2018.

The commission was also given leeway to investigate and make findings and recommendations on, any other matter regarding the PIC, regardless of when it is alleged to have occurred on the applicable dates between 2015 and 2017.

Ramaphosa gave the commission short and strict deadlines, saying that it must submit an interim report to him by not later than February 15, 2019, and a final report by not later than April 15, 2019. (ANA)