PIC report – shocking, sobering and redemptive
Updated: Apr 14
*Writer: Tyrone Seale
Hundreds of thousands of public servants scratch around their desks or neighbouring colleagues’ desks for that elusive – and oh so necessary – black pen required to complete the paperwork.
A few millilitres of ink go a long way in growing South Africa together.
These millilitres move officials from one office to another; sometimes one city to another, or one country to another.
These millilitres can be the start of feeding nearly 10 million poor learners at school each day, or they can enable action against cable theft.
These millilitres can signal the upgrade of an airport; the provision of blankets to patients in a public hospital; or furniture for an interview room at a police station, where victims of gender-based violence are offered privacy and support.
The puzzle pieces of delegations of authority, VAS2s, memoranda, route forms and signatures all come together to form a picture of a changing South Africa – the transformed nation envisioned in our National Development Plan’s Vision 2030.
The problem with this picture, though, is that not everyone uses the same puzzle pieces or arranges them in the same way.
The recently released Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) is a sobering and shocking chronicle of what happens when people try to work around the puzzle – or design their own.
The report is, however, redemptive in that its very existence shows how seriously President Cyril Ramaphosa and the administration take the tasks of ending state capture and building a capable, ethical state.
The report tells numerous tales of malfeasance and wrongdoing involving billions of rands in government employees’ pension nest-eggs, that will make public servants doubt why they bother to jump through the hoops they do to settle a comparatively negligible R143 lunch or mileage claim.
The report illustrates in vivid and angering detail how it takes two, three, five or more to tango when it comes to perpetrating corruption and maladministration – and how, unfortunately, there is no shortage of these takers.
These takers aren’t scavengers. They are predators. Scavengers circle around dead carcasses; predators effect the kill.
In the case of the PIC, the alleged predators comprised senior corporation executives, at least one politically exposed person (a Minister in plain English), and various actors in the private sector.
The commission has recommended that law enforcement and other agencies conduct further investigations and bring wrongdoers to book.
To the predators, the PIC’s mission of investing public sector pension contributions in ventures that will yield the interest needed to grow our pensions and will contribute to economic transformation was just a criminal opportunity.
Ethically, there was little distinction between this white-collar looting and a syndicate blowing up an ATM at a service station forecourt in the middle of the night.
The final report of the commission is a raw and undeniable account of state capture that shows the havoc that can be wreaked when some in the public and private sectors work together to undermine the South Africa we are trying to grow.
The report is, however, also a monument to the bravery and tenacity of whistleblowers and witnesses who, at great personal peril, stepped forward to tell their stories not just of large-scale looting of cash but also of workplace nepotism, victimisation and invasion of privacy.
For anyone committed to the rule of law and the tenets of ethical governance, the report is a thriller of a read and a guide to the red lights of unethical and criminal conduct.
For anyone not committed to the rule of law or still wondering how they can get their hands into the cookie jar, the 997-page report is a good build-up to your years in that unmistakable orange uniform.
In the final analysis, the Final Report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation reminds us how things go wrong in hearts and minds before the misdeeds show up in audits or in court.
It tells us how things go wrong when we press MUTE on conscience and turn up the volume on greed; inappropriate use of power; disregard for the vision, mission and values that adorn our boardroom walls, and the violation of the rights and humanity of people who are in our departments and entities because they want to grow a prosperous South Africa.
A capable state is a mosaic of capable and ethical individuals who understand that putting people first means not putting ourselves first.
The commission report is compulsory reading; as is Chapter 2 (Anti-Corruption and Ethics Management) of the Public Service Regulations.
It will make us think before we ink.
*Tyrone Seale is the Head of Editorial and Production of PSM magazine.