Delta Property Fund’s former CEO Sandile Nomvete, together with former CFO Shaneel Maharaj and COO Otis Tshabalala, have flatly refuted allegations of fraud or procurement irregularities during their tenure at the JSE-listed group.
The trio, who left the group in August, issued a joint statement on Friday following Delta’s new board revealing in a further JSE Sens cautionary announcement earlier in the week the high-level findings of a forensic report that implicates senior executives.
Instances of unsubstantiated payments, procurement irregularities and other unethical business dealings totalling some R46 million were highlighted.
The board, chaired by Phumzile Langeni, first alerted the market about an investigation on September 21 but did not reveal details at the time.
Since then more details have been released in further Sens statements, including the fact that the investigation came about as a result of a tip-off from a whistleblower.
For the first time on Friday, the three former executives commented publicly, saying they “noted with concern several Sens announcements issued by the company and subsequent media reports” on the matter.
“We have always acted in the best interest of Delta Property Fund Ltd and will continue to do so as we have a vested interest/s in the success of the company,” their statement reads.
“We categorically deny the accusations of procurement irregularities and misappropriation of funds or any other illegality or irregularity, as contained in the Sens reports and in pursuant reporting in the media, to the extent that there is any implication that we are complicit in any way therein or were indeed aware thereof,” the statements adds.
“As publicly confirmed by the chairman [former Delta chair JB Magwaza] on 28 August 2020 we parted ways with the company to allow for new leadership to drive the company strategy forward,” they noted.
Nomvete, Maharaj and Tshabalala said their resignations were not motivated by the findings of the forensic investigation but by their “resolve to always put the company first”.
Delta was founded by Nomvete, who listed the group on the JSE in 2012. He resigned with immediate effect on August 24, together Maharaj.
Tshabalala resigned in July and was serving his notice period, but also decided to leave with immediate effect on August 24.
Their departures raised eyebrows in the market at the time as it meant the group’s top three executives were exiting at once.
“During the separation discussions, we were appraised regarding the forensic investigation by Mazars. Although the report was not shared with us, we were informed by the company that the report found no proof of misappropriation of funds by the executives as was alleged and reported,” the trio noted in their statement on Friday.
Commenting on the Mazars forensic report highlights mentioned in Delta’s December 9 Sens statement, the three former executives said that in line with property industry norms, the company paid market-related letting commissions that were supported by valid, complete and duly authorised lease agreements.
“These commissions were disclosed in Delta’s Integrated Annual Report for the respective financial years and the company continues to benefit from these leases. Based on the [December 9] Sens announcement, the company’s internal assessment found that the R43.9 million payments of commissions were done based on invalid, lapsed or no broker mandates and not fraudulently,” the trio stressed.
“We trust that the incorrect impression created about the discovery of R43.9 million fraud will be corrected,” they added.
Meanwhile, they questioned how the new management had calculated that Delta’s investment property valuation for it 2020 financial year could decrease by around R1.9 billion as a result of the findings from the forensic report.
“Although we are not privy to the internal assessment conducted by the board, it is difficult to understand the significant write-down in the valuation of investment property from R10.6 billion to approximately R8.7 billion for the year ended February 2020, which is being correlated to the key issues identified in the forensic report,” noted Nomvete, Maharaj and Tshabalala in their statement.
“The asset management team, independent valuers and auditors agreed, pre-valuation of the portfolio for February 2020, on the methodology and structure of the valuation reports to be provided. These expert valuation reports were also discussed and finalised by the auditors and approved by the investment sub-committee and the board at the time,” they added.
The trio pledged their cooperation with any law enforcement agencies that may investigate the matter further.
“In the event that indeed the findings of the forensic report result in any form of investigation by the ‘authorities’ referred to in the [latest] Sens announcements and the media, we pledge our full support with such investigations,” they said.