Ex-PIC executives reported to Hawks over perceived 'bribery' demand

A witness testifying before a commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has revealed that top executives at the state-owned fund manager have been reported to the Hawks over suspicion of bribe solicitation. 

The case relates to an application for an R10bn loan facility by SA Home Loans, in addition to earlier funds meant to facilitate housing loans for Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) members' employees which had been drawn down.

This was revealed by Ian Sinton, a special counsel at Standard Bank, the institution which holds the majority shares in SA Home Loans. Sinton said the matter was brought to his attention in the last quarter of 2018, when Kevin Penwarden, the CEO of SA Home Loans, consulted him to discuss developments of a "highly sensitive nature".

According to Sinton, Penwarden informed him that, when the company was awaiting a response regarding its R10bn application from the PIC,  Wellington Masekesa, a former executive assistant to former CEO Dan Matjila and businessman Kholofelo Maponya informed the mortgage provider that the approval for the facility would be granted on condition that the company pays a R95m payment to MMI as a transaction origination fee. MMI is Maponya's firm which had earlier made a claim for a R45m transaction fee from the PIC.

The pair claimed that the latest demand for a R95m fee was authorised by Matjila.

"They explained that this was made up of the R45m not paid in 2016….plus R50m, which is 0.5% of the R10bn facility under consideration," said Sinton in his evidence.

Solicitation of a bribe

Assistant commissioner Gill Marcus wanted to know how was this request interpreted by the company and Sinton said he advised Penwarden to directly approach Matjila to confirm the condition presented by Masekesa and Maponya and seek legal advice, as this could be interpreted as "solicitation of a bribe".

Maponya is a representative of a consortium that holds a 25% stake in SA Home Loans, and the R10bn facility has not been approved or rejected by the PIC, Sinton said.

Sinton further stated that an attempt was made to contact Matjila to confirm the loan condition, but he had already resigned as CEO. Matjila resigned as CEO of the PIC in November 2018.

According to Sinton, upon seeking legal advice, Penwarden then reported the matter to the Hawks, as part of his fiduciary duties and the auditors of SA Home Loans also deemed the condition as an "irregularity" and a presented a prima facie contravention of Section 3 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

The inquiry will resume on Monday.

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