#PICInquiry: Board nullifies Gungubele’s testimony


PRETORIA – Day two of the commission of inquiry into the embattled Public Investment Corporation (PIC) saw board member Dudu Hlatshwayo nullify Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele’s testimony of Monday, with her revealing gross inaccuracies and contradictions in his statements.

Hlatshwayo told the commission’s chairperson, former Supreme Court Justice Lex Mpati, that when Gungubele took over as PIC chairperson he allegedly embarked on a reign of terror, undermining and alienating half the PIC board to ensure the ousting of former chief executive Dan Matjila, even when he was cleared by the Budlender report.

Hlatshwayo said that since whistle-blower James Noko’s emails first surfaced, and the subsequent arrival of Gungubele at the PIC, the asset managers had descended into a perilous state of dysfunction and theirs had become a toxic environment full of conspiracies and rumour-mongering following the departure of Matjila.

Testimony presented on Monday indicated that the PIC board was in limbo and incapacitated in its decision-making following the en-mass resignation of all nine board members in angst against damning allegations linking them to corruption.

Further testimony revealed that the PIC was hostile and had become inefficient.

“Meeting agendas were amended at the start of the meeting and documents for approval could easily stand over for three executive committee meetings before being attended to.”

Hlatshwayo painted a picture of a demoralised group, especially after revelations by Noko.

“The PIC became very fearful and stressful, suspicious, disgruntled and very unproductive. All of us began to suspect one another. We began to watch each other’s behaviour in and outside of the meetings,” she said.

She said the arrival of Gungubele further fuelled tensions, especially at a meeting in May which she described as “confrontational” and “accusatory” in tone.

She said Gungubele accused the board of not having followed due process and of having exonerated Matjila, based on incomplete evidence, and of having failed to conduct an independent forensic investigation.

“Most found it odd that while the chairperson had not taken office when the board dealt with the James Nogu (Noko) allegations, he had very strong views on the process followed by the board. The expectation was that the chairperson would adopt an enquiring approach and seek to understand. In the view of the majority of the board members, it appeared as though chairperson Gungubele had already taken a view.”

She said the Budlender investigation into Matjila and other employees in the organisation revealed how Gungubele’s request to meet with the investigator was tantamount to interference.

When the report was concluded, Hlatshwayo said it was never circulated to the board for weeks, because Gungubele wanted to share it with the minister of finance.

“When the report was eventually shared with the board, I personally requested that given the media and public interest, the board issue a media statement to communicate to South Africans that no adverse findings were made against Dr Dan Matjila.

“The board only issued a statement that confirmed that the forensic report had been received from Budlender and the board was awaiting guidance from the minister of finance. No further guidance was received from the minister of finance in this regard. And, the report was never released officially to the implicated individuals, nor to South Africa, to quell the public interest that had been created,” Hlatshwayo explained.

She said the report found that company processes had not been breached and approval process had been flouted, clearing Matjila of any wrongdoing. Testimony is expected to continue tomorrow.

Explaining the processes behind the AYO deal, Hlatshwayo said Gungubele had made decisions based on a report filled with factual inaccuracies and serious discrepancies and concerns that were pointed out by members of the board. Board members raised concerns about being asked to take decisions based on a preliminary draft report.

“Board members raised concerns about the fact that the report had not been distributed and members given sufficient time to read and apply their minds.

“Dr Goba and I specifically requested that the chairperson allow us to take the report home so that we could read further. That request was denied. The chairperson went on to instruct that each board member put their name on the hard copy, date it, sign it and return it to him,” she added.

This article first appeared BUSINESS REPORT