There are four major source documents relating to the controversial Absa/Bankorp bailout — and all four were compiled with different objectives in mind and reached equally disparate conclusions.
To add to it, the former Reserve Bank Governor Chris Stals told Business Day on Wednesday that the portrayal of his interview with former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela was incorrect.
So, what to believe and who to trust?
The most recent document is the preliminary report signed by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, finding that Absa is liable to repay the fiscus more than R2 billion in interest it allegedly never paid back to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).
What to believe and who to trust?
Absa has denied this and has until Feb. 28 to officially respond to the Public Protector. The report hasn't been released officially, but Huffington Post South Africa has seen the full document. Mkhwebane has asked the police to investigate the leaking of the report.
The Absa/Bankorp saga has been a controversial issue ever since the SARB helped bail out Bankorp in 1985, with rumours and allegations about conspiracies abounding.
There have been a number of investigations into the deal, but only two official reports have been finalised — and all of them differ in emphasis and conclusions reached.
The Heath report, based on the findings of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), found the financial assistance to Bankorp to have been illegal and that the beneficiaries of the so-called lifeboat must be pursued in order to recover the disbursed funds.
It was however never released officially, is not available from the SIU and wasn't even provided to SARB's panel of experts investigating the deal — which was headed by Judge Dennis Davis.
Heath's report was never released officially, is not available from the SIU and wasn't even provided to SARB's panel of experts investigating the deal and headed by Judge Dennis Davis.
One of the few ways to reconstruct the report is to rely on newspaper reports from the time. Heath released the report via a statement, and later granted interviews about its findings.
The other major report is that compiled by the Davis panel. It was was appointed by Tito Mboweni, then-governor of the SARB, in 2000 and concluded its work in 2002. The panel states its objective was to clear up confusion and conjecture by factually investigating the deal and making findings.
It, too, found the deal to be irregular, although it differed from Heath's findings in saying the intervention was justified. It also said restitution could technically be pursued, but that it was not worth the effort, time and money.
The fourth major document is the Ciex Report, on which the Mkhwebane bases her preliminary report.
We also link to those reports below in the public domain so you can make up your own mind: was the deal irregular and illegal? Did Absa pay back the money it owed the SARB? Could reparations have been pursued?
Read them and decide for yourself.
- The Ciex Report: "Operations on behalf of the South African government, August 1997 – December 1999."
- The Heath Report: "Heath Special Investigating Unit investigation into the financial aid package to Bankorp/Absa."
- The Davis Panel: "Report of the governor's panel of experts to investigate the South African Reserve Bank's Role with regard to the financial assistance package to Bankorp Limited."
- The Public Protector's Report: "Alleged failure by government to recover funds borrowed from Absa." This final report cannot be made public as it has been not been finalised and legal processes are underway regarding its leak.