Survé barking up the wrong tree with questions about AYO, says govt pension fund boss

The Government Employee Pension Fund had no reason to update Sekunjalo executive chair Iqbal Survé about the manner in which the Public Investment Corporation handled its controversial investment into AYO Technology Solutions, head of the fund Abel Sithole told Fin24 on Thursday.

Sithole, who is the GEPF's Principal Executive Officer, was responding to a question regarding Surve’s evidence before the commission of inquiry into the PIC and its governance.

The commission is investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the PIC, which manages R2.2trn in investments on behalf of public servants.

Survé's investments came under scrutiny after AYO listed on the JSE in December 2017, with the PIC subscribing to all its available shares for R4.3bn. Sekunjalo holds a 30% stake in AYO via its subsidiary African Equity Empowerment Investments. 

The group's share price has since plunged from R45 a share to R15 a share, amid allegations that the value of AYO was overstated and that due process was not followed regarding the investment.

'Complete disdain'

Giving testimony before the PIC commission earlier this month, Survé said the PIC and GEPF responded with "disdain" to requests for meetings.

"But I must tell you sitting here today I have – looking at the conduct of the PIC, looking at the conduct of the GEPF, looking at the way they have treated us with complete disdain when we have asked for meetings repeatedly – because if you really care about taxpayers’ money and pensioners’ money the first thing you would do is engage with us, ask us: how do you deal with these issues? Let us give you the solutions to all of these issues.

"They point blank refuse to do this," said Survé, according to an inquiry transcript.

Crossed wires

Sithole told Fin24 that Survé had, perhaps, got his wires crossed, regarding the agents involved in PIC’s decision to invest in AYO Technology Solutions.

"I can’t answer for the PIC. But to the extent that he wants to speak to the GEPF, there is no point in him speaking to the GEPF because the GEPF did not make the investment," said Sithole.

Sithole said he was not only unaware of any recent attempts by Survé to contact the GEPF, but that Survé made no attempt to speak to the GEPF before the PIC investment took place.

"Nowhere in that whole process did he speak to the GEPF. He can reach out to GEPF, but the GEPF itself has nothing to do with AYO," Sithole said.

The GEPF faces considerable exposure via the PIC with regard to some of its more contentious investments, including AYO Technology Solutions and Steinhoff International Holdings.

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