Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wants the government to recover public funds unlawfully given to Absa Bank to the tune of R1.125bn, based on the controversial Ciex report.
Absa reiterated on Monday that it believed it had met all its obligations in relation to the Bankopr purchase, and said it was considering legal action.
Mkhwebane also wants the Constitution to be amended to ensure the mandate of the Reserve Bank does not favour big banks but also takes into account the citizens of the country.
The recommendation on the Reserve Bank is likely to be viewed as an attack on the bank in political circles.
Addressing the media in Pretoria on Monday, Mkhwebane said she found the government had failed to act on the Ciex report after paying £600,000 for it. This was inconsistent with its duties and amounted to improper conduct and maladministration.
She said allegations that the government and the Reserve Bank improperly failed to recover from Bankorp and Absa an amount of R3.2bn, cited in the Ciex report and owed as a result of an “illegal gift” or lifeboat, was substantiated.
“Two investigations into the matter established that the financial aid given to Bankorp Limited/Absa Bank was irregular,” Mkhwebane said.
She said the South African public was prejudiced by the “gift” and the conduct of the government and the Bank constituted improper conduct and maladministration.
Her remedial action includes referring the matter to the Special Investigating Unit, to reopen and amend a 1998 government proclamation in order to recover R1.125bn in misappropriated public funds unlawfully given to Absa, and to investigate alleged misappropriated public funds given to other institutions based on the Ciex report.
Absa said on Monday that it was considering legal action.
“We have not yet received a copy of the report and we are urgently requesting the Public Protector’s Office to send it to us. Once we have read it we will consider our legal options including seeking a High Court review,” the bank said.
Absa had earlier submitted there was a misunderstanding on the part of the Public Protector of the contracts that were signed between Absa and the Reserve Bank after Absa bought Bankorp.