UPDATE: Adjustments were made to AYO financial statements, but they're being audited - inquiry hears


Accounting adjustments were made to reflect higher profits in AYO Technology Solutions' interim financial statements, the PIC commission of inquiry heard.

AYO former chief investment officer Abdul Malick Salie provided his testimony to the commission which is investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the PIC, which manages R2.2trn in investments on behalf of public servants.

Salie was subpoenaed to take the stand, he resigned from his position as CIO last week due to pressures he was facing following reports on governance issues at AYO. The ICT company is a subsidiary of African Equity Empowerment Investments.

The PIC invested R4.3bn in Ayo when it listed on the JSE in late 2017. There are allegations that the value of AYO was misstated at the time of its listing. Salie responded to these allegations in his testimony.

The inquiry, chaired by Justice Lex Mpati has also previously heard from AYO's former CEO Kevin Hardy that the group's interim financials were tampered with. AYO has denied wrongdoing but in the meantime the JSE has ordered an audit of the financial statements.

Salie said that at the time the interim financial results were released in February 2018, he was not an employee of AYO, nor was he a member of the board. He was the AEEI CFO at the time, with limited responsibility to only focus on mergers and acquisitions and assisting investment activities of the group's companies. "I was not responsible for financial reporting at group level," he told the commission.

In April 2018 he was contacted by CEO of AEEI Khalid Abdulla to discuss the February 2018 AYO interim results. According to Salie he met Abdulla at his home in May 2018 and then based on the spreadsheet of interim results, Salie saw that it reflected a profit of R50m.

According to Salie, he and CFO Naahied Gamieldien were asked by Abdulla to review the operating costs of AYO as the operating profit was far too low and should have been in excess of R40m. "He wanted us to identify operating costs that could be capitalised as well as to review the share based payment charge," Salie told the commission.

The operating profit was R29m, compared to R28m reported in 2017.

Ultimately the final profit reflected in financial statements was R65m, following adjustments. Salie explained the adjustments were related to the capitalising and deferring of costs relating to two or three projects and the reversal of a warranty provision.

Assistant commissioner Gill Marcus asked if this meant that the profit was not real, and rather a result of the "manipulation" of numbers. To this Salie responded that the adjustment process is still under review by auditors.

Salie added that the auditing process is nearing conclusion.

Shortly after markets closed on Tuesday AYO issued a notice to shareholders clarifying its position on Salie's testimony. According to AYO, Salie presented evidence in his personal capacity without knowledge or input of the company. 

As for the profit figures presented in the testimony, AYO clarified that these were just forecasts which had not been reviewed or reported on by AYO auditors. "The company is not aware of the basis on which the numbers included in the statement were derived," the notice concluded.

*UPDATE: This article was updated to include comment from AYO at 06:40 on Wednesday May 15, 2019. 

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