Daniel Matjila, the former chief executive officer of South Africa’s state-owned pension manager, denied he took a bribe to help bailout VBS Mutual Bank before the lender’s collapse, a commission of inquiry heard.
Matjila, who is testifying before the ongoing probe into allegations of wrongdoing at the Public Investment Corp., was accused of taking R5 million ($358 000) in cash for facilitating further funding for the lender.
“Being linked in a personal manner to the debacle that is VBS has to be the lowest of the low in allegations about my leadership of the PIC,” Matjila told the commission on Wednesday. ‘What’s more, as someone who has placed integrity above all other values, the mere suggestion that I would accept a bribe is abhorrent to me, and deeply upsetting to my wife and my children.”
The reputational damage done to PIC’s brand following the demise of VBS was “quite severe, especially because the PIC had deployed its senior executives to safeguard its investment,” he said. Both of the directors seconded by PIC to the lender left the money manager, which oversees about R2.1 trillion, mainly on behalf of civil servants.
A separate investigation into the failure of VBS found that at least 53 people and companies may have benefited from the looting of R1.9 billion from the lender before it was taken over by central-bank appointed administrators in March last year. That probe found no evidence that Matjila had taken a bribe.
The portfolio management committee of the PIC turned down an application to put more money into VBS two days before its curatorship, Matjila said. There was no way PIC or even bank regulators could detect what was going on at VBS because they were “deliberately” kept in the dark by colluding executives, he said.
Matjila said he was shocked to hear that PIC’s losses were larger than expected with VBS, rising from initial estimates of R108 million to R350 million.
A deal with SA Home Loans was also brought before the commission Wednesday. Matjila denied he had discussed an origination fee with anyone in relation to SA Home Loans’ application for a second line of credit. These allegations were malicious and may have come about because it was “erroneously believed that I was withholding the approval of the second credit facility deliberately.”
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