Pikoli: watchdog calls for probe

2012-05-26 00:00

CAPE TOWN — A constitutional watchdog has asked for an investigation into the allegedly unfair dismissal of advocate Vusi Pikoli from an auditing firm because of alleged government interference.

The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) yesterday asked the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba) to investigate Transnet’s new auditors, SizweNtsalubaGobodo (SNG) on the matter.

Pikoli, a former head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), was one of the firm’s senior directors in its forensic section.

Lawson Naidoo, Casac spokesperson, said yesterday it was brought to the group’s attention that Pikoli had resigned from SizweNtsalubaGobodo after pressure from “unnamed people in the ANC”.

Naidoo said the matter was serious and deeply disturbing, as it affected the professional conduct of registered auditors.

“This demonstrates an abuse of executive and political authority as well as compromising the integrity, independence, and objectivity of an auditing firm,” Naidoo said.

“Auditors have a responsibility to act in public interest and not just in the interest of their clients,” he said.

This was particularly relevant in this case where the client was a state-owned entity — Transnet.

“Casac calls on the Irba to investigate whether undue influence was placed on SizweNtsalubaGobodo to terminate the employment of advocate Pikoli,” Naidoo said. Pikoli is a member of Casac’s advisory council.

The Transnet auditing fee is estimated at R60 million a year and Transnet will over the next seven years spend R300 billion on new capital projects. SNG will audit this spending.

“We are only half a step away from an Enron scandal,” said Naidoo. About 90% of SNG’s work comes from the government.

Pikoli said Nonkululeko Gobodo, SNG’s chairperson, had personally asked him to to resign because she was worried the firm, which employees 800 people, would not receive further government work as it also employs Pikoli.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba dismissed the accusation as a “malicious rumour”.

Pikoli said he had no reason to lie. “I’m sitting here at home and I have a clean conscience. Ask them [SNG] why they fired me,” Pikoli said yesterday. He said Gobodo declined to tell him who the “parties in the ANC” were who told her the firm would not get more government contracts while he worked there.

He said he first became aware of the pressure on the SNG to get rid of him at the end of last year. “After the awarding of the contract from Transnet, I was asked to resign immediately. I got six months’ salary and left at the end of March.”

Victor Sekese, chief executive of SNG, said it was a “private matter between the two parties. We have not been instructed by anyone on this matter. We have no further comments.”

Yvonne Mazengera, a spokesperson for the firm, repeated Sekese's statement, adding “the issue is confidential”.

“The ANC doesn’t know about anything written there,” ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said of the claims, made in a report in the Mail & Guardian.

“Who are those unnamed people … tell me who they are?” he asked.

He said the newspaper article was about the government and had nothing to do with the ANC.

“If you read further, there you will see it is government-related, so why would we comment on something government-related?

“Why don’t you guys approach that government department? Don’t approach us on this. Don’t make us the scapegoat.”

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