Matshepo More — the Public Investment Corporation’s (PIC) acting chief executive — has been placed on precautionary suspension following allegations she has been interfering with the Mpati inquiry, which is looking into issues of impropriety at the state asset manager.
“The board deliberated on the matter and concluded that to ensure free participation of staff in the commission of inquiry process, [it had] to place Ms Matshepo More on precautionary suspension with immediate effect,” the PIC said in a brief statement issued on Monday.
The inquiry is headed by retired judge Lex Mpati with assistance from former Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus and investments expert Emmanuel Lediga.
An internal audit report, as well as testimony before the commission, have identified More as the person who signed the memorandum authorising the PIC to pay the controversial R4.3-billion investment to Ayo Technology Solutions prior to the requisite committee approving the deal and without due diligence being done.
More was the chief financial officer at the time.
The PIC currently has a legal process underway to recoup the money after a report found breaches of key governance and approval procedures when the Ayo transaction took place.
Questions have been raised about why More was not suspended for her role in the transaction after the executive head of listed equities Fidelis Madavo and assistant portfolio manager Victor Seanie were suspended on the same night the board received the report.
Previous witnesses have also testified to being victims of intimidation by More who is accused of using workplace processes and unfounded disciplinary processes to drive people out of the PIC.
The former head of IT, Luyanda Ntuane, told the inquiry that his work started to take strain when he started reporting to More in 2014 after the PIC was restructured.
According to Ntuane, More had an unresolved personal conflict with him and this resulted in his “untimely” departure from the PIC.
Ntuane was charged with sexual harassment and procurement irregularities by an anonymous whistle-blower. After months of being on suspension, he finally resigned when the PIC offered him a separation package without disciplinary action being concluded.
He has denied all allegations against him saying they were cooked up to justify his suspension from the PIC.
Witnesses further claimed More was involved in assisting former chief executive Dan Matjila’s hunt to uncover anonymous whistle-blower. The whistle-blower — who went by the name James Noko — alleged that Matjila had corruptly funded his purported girlfriend’s business.
Recently, Alvin Schiel — a development manager in the property division of the PIC — told the Mpati inquiry that before he was set to deliver his testimony, a disciplinary process was instituted against him.
The state asset manager did not provide any details about how More had interfered or the extent of the interference with the commission’s work.
The board has appointed Vuyani Hako, the executive head of properties, as acting chief executive.