Former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Dan Matjila has denied being on a witch-hunt in his efforts to establish the identity of ‘James Nogu’, the anonymous whistleblower who leaked information related to allegations of corruption against him.
On Monday Matjila addressed the alleged “reign of terror” that appears to have overshadowed his last months at the PIC. It’s been said that he turned the place ‘inside out’ in his attempts to find Nogu. This created an environment of distrust among PIC officials, with Matjila accused of spying on colleagues, compromising the organisation’s IT systems, and ultimately leading to the expulsion and resignation of officials.
In emails sent to the PIC board and executives, Nogu accused Matjila of using his position to channel funds to an alleged girlfriend. The board conducted an internal investigation into the matter led by the internal audit team and found no evidence of impropriety.
Matjila steered own investigation
After the board cleared him, Matjila requested approval to call in external investigators to seek out the source of the emails which had contained confidential PIC information.
“I had to act decisively as the internal team was not making much progress in that regard,” Matjila told the Mpati commission of inquiry.
Matjila said there was no conflict of interest in him investigating the claims, saying that he was cleared of any wrongdoing so there was “no issue” with him being involved in the investigation. He added that the internal team had decided not to investigate the allegations themselves, saying that Nogu was not considered a whistleblower.
Information and telecoms company BCX was appointed to go through the emails of PIC employees using cloud-based email management system Mimecast.
“I had a strong belief that people within the PIC were behind these allegations,” said Matjila, adding that this is why he narrowed the investigation to areas where there would be the “highest chance of leakages”.
Compromise of IT governance
Testifying before the commission in March, former head of IT Vuyokazi Menye related how her department was completely sidelined in these investigations, saying she was shocked when the external forensic investigators informed her that Matjila had given an external company permission to spy on her and four other senior executives.
The other executives were former head of risk Paul Magula, former company secretary Bongani Mathebula, senior legal manager Pamela Phala and head of internal audit Lufuno Nemagovhani.
Menye said she confronted Matjila and informed him how this was a serious breach of IT governance at the PIC, stating that the decisions he had made without consulting her department were putting the institution at risk.
“He responded by saying [the] PIC is his organisation and he will do as it pleases him,” Menye told the commission.
But Matjila said he had informed all the people involved and “as expected, they did not like it”.
“The exercise, not lightly undertaken, was in order to protect the integrity of the PIC, the confidentiality of its clients and applicants of funding,” said Matjila. “I had no desire to spy on PIC employees.”
‘Own investigation’ backfires, corruption case opened
Matjila said BCX’s investigation revealed that Menye’s subordinate Simphiwe Mayisela had opened a case of corruption against him based on the Nogu allegations.
In fact, Matjila had instructed the pair to open a case in order to obtain a case number so they would be able to subpoena the internet kiosk in Sandton where some of Nogu’s emails were shown to have originated.
However, Mayisela testified that while the intention was to get a case number, police instead opted to open a case of corruption and look at the substance of the allegations made by Nogu.
Mayisela did not inform Matjila of this, saying that he did not want to compromise an investigation into such serious issues. After Matjila caught wind of the matter, however, Mayisela was dismissed from the PIC for various counts of misconduct, including failing to inform Matjila about the case.
Matjila has repeatedly told the commission that the Nogu emails were part of a plan to push him out of the PIC. He told commissioners that he “thoroughly” believed that Mayisela was involved in this campaign.
Mayisela had not been working at the PIC very long when the Nogu emails surfaced. He told the commission that even after he was dismissed he continued to receive information from the PIC, which he forwarded to the police.