Our books are open for public scrutiny, Harith CEO tells PIC inquiry

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Following UDM leader Bantu Holomisa's allegation of "easy access to money", the CEO of Harith General Partners told the judicial commission of inquiry into the PIC on Tuesday that the investment fund manager's books were open for public scrutiny. 

The commission is investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the state-run asset manager, which manages R2.2trn in investments on behalf of public servants.

Tshepo Mahloele, the head of Harith General Partners, testified on Tuesday that Holomisa had not asked the fund manager about its finances before raising the possibility of wrongdoing. 

'Look at our books'

"Last year, when some of the initial allegations were made, chair, we offered [our books] to journalists and everyone.

"We said: 'Please come look at our books.' We are very open."

According to Mahloele, only one journalist took up the offer and did a "thorough interview". 

Holomisa, in testimony presented in March, last week and on Monday, had questioned the relationship between the PIC and businesses run by Mahloele and his business partners, ex-PIC chair Jabu Moleketi and Warren Wheatley. 

The three businesses fingered by Holomisa in testimony are the Lebashe Investment Group, Harith Fund Managers and Harith General Partners. 

The UDM chair previously said the companies appear to have had easy access to PIC funding, and flagged potential conflicts of interest.

This was denied by Daniel Berger, SC, representing Mahloele and his partners, who said on Monday that Holomisa had no evidence to back up his claims, and "all that he does is speculate". 

'Hand on my heart'

Harith Fund Managers was set up in 2007 to manage the investments of the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund, which eventually raised $630m. Harith General Partners, meanwhile, was established a few years later to raise money for a second fund, the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund 2, which raised $435m.

On Tuesday Mahloele was asked by assistant commissioner Emmanuel Lediga about the relationship between Harith and Lebashe, and if any fees Harith earned from its investments were used to fund Lebashe.

Mahloele responded: "With my hand on my heart, that has never happened."

"We have never used fees of Harith Fund Managers or Harith General Partners for any activity of Lebashe, none at all."

On Monday, meanwhile, Berger said that the PIC had not lost money from its investments in the two Harith funds, and had in fact made a tidy profit from selling Capitec shares to Lebashe. 

The inquiry continues on Tuesday afternoon. 

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