Phiyega: It’s in the past

2012-07-06 00:00

NEW national police commissioner Riah Phiyega’s career in business includes a network of heavyweight connections, but she is adamant her past will not lead to a conflict of interest.

Among her more prominent connections are links to South Africa’s soccer elite — including Safa president Danny Jordaan — through The South African 2010 Bid Company, former BMW South Africa executive Seth Phalatse, former Mvelaphanda Resources CEO Nthobi Angel and banking entrepreneur Daphne Motsepe, the sister of mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, among many others.

Company records show she has been a director in some 17 companies — some of them linked to executive positions she held with Transnet and Absa — and through these directorships she has some 350 business relationships.

Controversy has already emerged over her past connections. Last weekend the Sunday Times reported that Phiyega had an indirect interest in a company that had important police contracts, sparking calls from the Democratic Alliance for clarity on her previous positions.

But Phiyega told Media24 Investigations that she had resigned all directorships she still held in commercial ventures on the day President Jacob Zuma appointed her.

“When the president appointed me, all those companies received my resignation letter. I’m very prudent and knew that it was important for me to do so.”

Legislation requires all new senior civil servants to declare their business interests within a month of taking office.

Her most notable private venture has been her directorship in Tsa Rona Investments, which acquired a 0,8% stake in the V&A Waterfront in September 2006 following a R7 billion deal by which Transnet sold the land to a UK-Dubai consortium.

Tsa Rona could have netted as much as R72 million when the Waterfront was bought back last year for R9 billion.

The deal was concluded two years after she resigned her position as group executive for corporate affairs at Transnet.

“I think the date of the sale will tell you that I had nothing to do with the sale of the Waterfront. By that time I had left Transnet; I left in 2004,” she said.

She had been a director of Lefatshe Technologies, which has been involved in some controversial state IT tenders, but she said she had been a non-executive director of that company and that she had resigned from the company “a long time ago”.

David Lewis, executive director of Corruptionwatch, said the mere fact that Phiyega had a wide range of business connections “should [not] in any way disqualify her from performing her function with integrity”.

“I don’t think that any public servant should be permitted to serve on the board of a private sector company. If she has accumulated investments and minority shareholdings in listed companies then, at the very least, these should be placed in a blind trust and independently managed.

“This is not a perfect solution, but it does go some way towards avoiding conflicts of interest,” he said.

Public Service Commission spokesman Humphrey Ramafoko said Phiyega should declare all her financial interests, including directorships and any outside remuneration, to the commission within 30 days of taking office, and thereafter annually in April.

“Upon receipt of the disclosure forms, the PSC scrutinises them to establish if there are cases of potential conflicts of interest.

“If the PSC is of the opinion that the involvement of an official in a company, in relation to his/her official duties, poses potential conflicts of interest, it advises the relevant executive authority accordingly and advises them of the need for careful management of the relationship between the official responsibilities of the employees and the work of the companies the official is involved in.

“Failure to disclose an interest and the wilful provision of incorrect or misleading information on a financial disclosure form are regarded as misconduct,” he said.

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