I resigned, why fire me, says ex-PIC executive fired over Ayo deal

Fidelis Madavo, the former executive head of listed investments at the PIC whose employment contract was terminated for his role in the R4.3 billion Ayo Technologies transaction, says the company ignored his resignation and opted to axe him instead.

Madavo was suspended over a year ago following an internal audit by the PIC, for his role in approving the controversial investment into the entity, which is linked to businessman Iqbal Survé.

The PIC in 2017 took a decision to underwrite Ayo's entire private share placement before its listing on the JSE. According to evidence heard in an inquiry into the affairs of the state-owned asset manager, this was done despite concerns that Ayo was overvalued.

Madavo distanced himself from any irregular conduct in the deal.

In an interview with Fin24, he claimed that an independent disciplinary process conducted in 2019 absolved him of any wrongdoing in the process leading up to the signing of the transaction.

Speaking by phone, he accused the PIC of sitting on his resignation - which he says he tendered on 28 February - and electing to fire him instead.

"An independent report cleared me of any wrongdoing in the matter, as it established that I could not be held liable for signing off on the deal as I was out of the country at the time," he said.

However, according to the PIC, the chairman of a disciplinary process found him guilty and recommended that he must be dismissed, which the PIC upheld.

The PIC head of corporate affairs, Deon Botha, said given that Madavo was notified well in advance about the outcome of the disciplinary process, his resignation had no effect.

But Madavo is adamant that "you can’t have someone resign and then hold on to their resignation and then wait for another ruling...and say that supersedes the resignation."

The Ayo investment featured prominently at the commission of inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the PIC, which started in January 2019 and concluded in August, with allegations that the company was overvalued.

Madavo would not be drawn on the details of the transaction.

"The team had already committed to the agreement when I was not there, the transaction had already happened. So how is it that I’m being accused of being negligent?" he said, adding that people who were directly involved in the deal were still at work.

"The disciplinary committee said I did not authorise anything there, that vindicated me. Now it has been made like I am the one who authorised things. I did not do that."

'I don't want my job back'

Madavo's dismissal was announced on Monday. The PIC said the decision was taken after considering representations from both parties, and the chairman recommended that he "be relieved of his duties on the basis of gross misconduct."

But Madavo is feels aggrieved by the way the process was handled.

"My lawyers have to look at that," he said, adding that he wanted to part ways with the company amicably.

"I don’t want my job back. I want to clear my name and move on."

He believes that being fired from the asset manager, which manages R2.2 trillion in investments, will affect his career prospects.

"I feel like I was vindicated by the outcome of the disciplinary hearing. Now, being fired affects my future differently," he said.

Madavo is the second person to be fired by the PIC in connection with their role in the Ayo transaction. Victor Seanie, assistant portfolio manager of listed equities, was axed in October, following the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing.

The PIC inquiry, which was led by Judge Lex Mpati, has submitted its final report to the president. However, the report has not yet been released to the public.

The PIC said on Monday that it had instituted the disciplinary process against Madavo following an internal probe that indicated governance and PIC approval processes had been disregarded when the deal was concluded. "Upon receipt of the preliminary report, the PIC instituted a disciplinary process against Mr. Madavo, which was chaired by an independent Chairman, who is also a Senior Counsel," the PIC said. 

"After representations from both the PIC and Mr. Madavo, the Chairman recommended that Mr. Madavo be relieved of his duties on the basis of gross misconduct," it added.

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