The judicial commission of inquiry investigating impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) resumed on Monday, with Frans Lekubo, director of forensic investigation firm Naledi Advisory Services, taking the stand.
Naledi had been hired back in 2017 by former PIC CEO Dan Matjila to investigate the identity of the elusive and illusive ‘James Nogu’ who had been sending emails to PIC employees claiming that Matjila had used his position to benefit his alleged girlfriend, Pretty Louw.
‘James Nogu’, who many regarded as a whistleblower, sent an email to PIC staff alleging that the loan given by the PIC to Maison Holdings (‘MST’) was inconsistent with the PIC’s investment process and that MST was owned by Matjila’s alleged girlfriend.
A desperate Matjila brought Naledi in to trace the source of the emails and to ascertain whether ‘James Nogu’ was a PIC employee.
Lekubo, a forensic investigator, had a riveting story to share on whether the emails were indeed an insider job. He affirmed that because only PIC staff had access to the internal mailing lists, there was a high probability that the ‘James Nogu’ emails were indeed coming from inside the PIC.
In the course of Naledi’s investigations, Lekubo stumbled upon a corruption case filed against Matjila and reported by the PIC’s then head of information technology security, Simphiwe Mayisela.
Not only had Mayisela filed the case clandestinely, his appointment at the PIC coincided with the start of the notorious ‘James Nogu’ emails, according to Lekubo. He had been with the PIC for less than six weeks.
As head of IT security, Mayisela was tasked by an unsuspecting Matjila to get a subpoena from a police station in order to determine who had sent the ‘James Nogu’ emails. Deceitfully, Mayisela told the CEO that it was impossible to get the subpoena as the internet service provider was French.
“He later stated that for any further information to be secured, the National Prosecuting Authority would need to establish a legal assistance with the French and, according to Mr Mayisela, this was also impossible as there had to be a suspicion of an offence,” said Lekubo, adding that based on this advice, Mayisela appears to have discouraged [the] PIC from pursuing its attempts to uncover the identity of ‘James Nogu’ through a subpoena process.
In addition, Lekubo said that further investigations into the source of the ‘James Nogu’ emails revealed that Mayisela had access to Matjila’s emails despite not having permission from the PIC board.
PIC’s questionable investments
On the stand in the afternoon was Albert van Driel from the Association for Monitoring and Advocacy of Government Pensions (AMAGP).
He raised queries on the dependability of the PIC’s investment model. “The PIC invested around about R90 billion in Eskom and that is while the credit rating was down to B2,” said Van Driel.
He also highlighted a number of questionable fund injections into VBS bank such as a R350 million rand credit facility extended in 2015 and the rather disturbing fact that the PIC has invested in two of Iqbal Survè’s establishments neither of which has realised any returns. Asked if the two investments were not in line with the AMAGP’s mandate, Van Driel quickly highlighted irregularities with the independent media deal. For Van Driel, the PIC’s woes came down to hapless investments which hardly yield any returns. “There is a very strong emphasis on things like doing developmental projects and often those developmental projects are not giving yields. Some of them crash in the first year or two.”
Van Driel shared his views on the transaction between the PIC and Independent media noting that, the conditions were “extremely favourable for Mr. Iqbal Survé,” as independent media only had to start paying interest on the loan after five years. The PIC made a R166 million equity investment in Iqbal Survé’s independent media in 2013 but this was written down to R108m by March 2017 due to nonperformance.
The enquiry’s findings are due in mid April 2018.