Barclays Africa and Absa Bank said on Wednesday that Absa has decided to approach the High Court in order to have the Public Protector’s report that the bank must repay more than one billion rand to government reviewed and set aside.
Absa joins the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) which said it would bring urgent review proceedings to have the Public Protector’s remedial action set aside after she directed Parliament to effect a Constitutional amendment to Sarb’s powers.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Monday criticised government and Sarb for failing to recover R1.125-billion from Bankorp Limited/Absa Bank advanced as an “illegal gift” to the Bankorp group.
The Public Protector released a final report on Monday regarding her investigation into the assistance provided by the Sarb to Bankorp between 1985 and 1995. Bankorp was acquired by Absa in 1992.
Mkhwebane said the amount given to Bankorp Limited/Absa Bank belonged to the people of South Africa.
She said failure to recover the “gift” resulted in prejudice to the people of South Africa as the public funds could have benefited the broader society instead of a handful of shareholders of Bankorp Limited/Absa Bank.
However, Absa said it was approaching the High Court due to numerous misrepresentations and factual inaccuracies which formed the basis of the Public Protector’s findings, and what the bank submits were the “irrational and unreasonable” legal conclusions in the report.
Absa said the misconceptions and inaccuracies in the report were profound and damaging to its reputation.
“We have accordingly instructed our lawyers to immediately prepare an application to the High Court to have the report and its remedial actions set aside,” Absa said.
“We deny that Absa received R1.125-billion by way of unlawful assistance and we firmly maintain our position that all of Absa’s obligations to the South African Reserve Bank were met in full by October 1995.”
The Public Protector probed allegations that CIEX, a covert United Kingdom-based asset recovery agency headed by Michael Oatley, was contracted by Pretoria to assist in investigating and recovering misappropriated public funds and assets allegedly committed during the apartheid regime.
Mkhwebane said the South African government had failed to implement the CIEX report because she found no evidence that any action was taken to pursue the CIEX report after government had commissioned and duly paid for its investigation.