Irene Charnley
Irene Charnley. Image source: She Leads Africa

Irene Charnley, a former trade unionist and businesswoman, must vacate her seat on the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) board immediately, the United Democratic Movement leader, Bantu Holomisa, said.

In a letter to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, Holomisa said Charnley was a former beneficiary of the PIC’s funding initiatives, making her ineligible to serve as a board member.

PIC is a state-owned asset manager that manages R2 trillion in government pension savings on behalf of the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF).

In 2015, the PIC committed an investment of $100 million in Smile Telecoms, a company owned by Charnely. “This is a little more than R1.7- billion when calculated at today’s Rand/Dollar exchange rate,” said Holomisa.

Holomisa added that it is an interesting side-note that, at the time, the now-disgraced former PIC CEO, Dr Daniel Matjila, said: “We are excited about our investment in Smile Telecoms as it provides us with an opportunity to accelerate and realise our mandate to invest in the rest of the African continent.”

Holomisa also said during his investigation he discovered a PIC document called “ISIBAYA DETAILED INVESTMENT SCHEDULE AS AT 31 MARCH 2017” which is available on, investigative journalism organisation, Amabhungane’s website.

Under the column called “FRESG Performance” the following is written about Smile:

• “Financially Underperforming – economic headwinds, devaluation of local currencies mainly Nigeria and stiff competition led to underperformance”,
• “Owner Managed Companies – Corporate governance principles are compromised- Governance policy, Delegation of Authority, succession planning and risk management framework need to be in place”
• “Establishment of Social and Ethics Committee to manage the Representatives of local people on the boards be increased to ensure legislation in countries that advocate local representation on the board.”

Holomisa then posed several questions to the National Treasury, including:

  • Were you aware that Ms Charnley had been a PIC beneficiary when you appointed her as an interim board member? If so, do you consider this to be a healthy situation and what were your reasons for continuing with her appointment despite the knowledge?
  • What was the agreement in terms of the $100 million investment the PIC made in Smile and has investment paid dividends, especially given the PIC’s 2017 conclusion that Smile was “financially underperforming”?
  • What were the implications of this lack of performance? Did the PIC write off this investment and if so, would this not constitute mere looting?
  • The PIC concluded that Smile’s “Corporate governance principles are compromised” whilst the company was squarely under Ms Charnley’s management. Would you agree that this casts doubt on Ms Charnley’s suitability to function at board level?
  • Did CapitalWorks SSA/Capitalworks Group/Africa Capitalworks receive PIC/GEPF funding? If so, what are the details, and would you consider it compromising that a board member has yet another link to a PIC beneficiary?

The United Democratic Movement would argue that there is enough evidence to warrant that Charnley must vacate her seat on the PIC board immediately.

TechFinancials was unable to reach Charnley for comment.

 

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