Report on Ms N R Bhengu and other ethical misconduct matters

Ethics and Members' Interest

08 August 2012
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC Mpumalanga), Prof B Turok (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Part of the meeting was closed, but in the open portion the Committee noted a request to release the conclusions of a report into the conduct of Ms N Bhengu. Although the matter had not yet been concluded, it was noted that there had been a request for all correspondence relating to the matter. Members expressed the view that, as far as possible, all documentation relating to the decision should be made available on request, in the interests of transparency and to support the well-researched outcome of the deliberations.

Members then noted that although the closing date for the Report on the Register of Members’ Interests was 31 July 2012, several Members were still away from Parliament on that date. 325 disclosures out of the necessary 454 had been received. The DA had requested an extension to 20 August, and other e-mails had been sent by other Members who were away on oversight visits, also requesting extensions. The Committee decided that a final extension would be given to 23 August. Those who did not submit by that date would be subjected to disciplinary sanctions, as set out in the Code. Members of the Committee were encouraged to notify their colleagues of the necessity to submit their disclosures, failing which penalties would be imposed.

Members finally discussed the workshop that was to be set up to review the Code. It was intended to be a full-day session, for Members of this Committee. However, the Chairperson and Secretary would try to arrange a date that was convenient to most Members, on a date that did not clash with other commitments, but urged that Members make every effort to attend. It was intended that the input of all political parties should be tabled, and that the Committee debate this before presenting it to the House.

Meeting report

Report on Ms N R Bhengu and other ethical misconduct matters
Co-Chairperson B Mashile noted that the Committee had received a request for the conclusions that the Committee had made in relation to the investigation into the conduct of Ms N Bhengu. He noted that the matter had not been concluded. However, as a general rule, when a matter was concluded, the outcome was made public. He asked the Committee Secretary to summarise the current situation.

The Committee Secretary said the Report had been handed to her, and it was a public document. However, she was in the process of requesting all reports referred to in the correspondence received from the Minister. In respect of that correspondence, the Committee needed to give permission. She agreed that once the report on Ms Bhengu was concluded by the Committee, it would become a public document. However, any information submitted by the Member, or correspondence received, was not necessary automatically a public document, and this required the consideration of the Committee.

Co-Chairperson Prof B Turok said unless there was valid reason for not disclosing, the Committee should try to comply with disclosure. The Committee had done a reasonable investigation, and had asked for sworn affidavits. He reiterated that unless there was a very compelling reason for not providing the material, he believed that it should be made available. Parliament should not only be able to say that it conducted an investigation, but state what it had done, with confidence in that work. He thought the information did not necessarily have to put out immediately into the public domain, but there should be cooperation with requests from the public that were in the public interest.

Ms A Dreyer (DA) said in the interest of transparency, and to further the cause of justice, which was what the public perspective was in fact doing, she would support a request that the information requested be provided.

Mr Mashile agreed on making the information available, and stressed that this was done for the purposes of assisting with the investigation.

Progress report on the Register for 2012
Mr Mashile announced the closing date for the Report on the Register of Members’ Interests (the Register) was 31 July 2012, but Members were still away from Parliament on that date. He asked the Committee to update the Committee in relation to the 2012 Register.

The Committee Secretary said that to date, 325 disclosures out of the necessary 454 had been received. The Committee had received a letter on behalf of the Democratic Alliance Members, requesting an extension to 20 August. There were also more extension requests from other Members, many of whom have been on oversight visits, and she noted that the Committee needed now to decide what date would be appropriate.

Prof Turok explained the Committee should adopt a practical stance, and suggested an extension to 23 August. The Committee had not done enough to pressurise MPs to this point, but must take a stricter stance to avoid embarrassment to Parliament. He suggested there should be an educational campaign for new Members who did not know the procedures, stressing that no excuses for not providing the information would be entertained.

Dr G Koornhoof (ANC) supported the proposals both to extend the deadline and have an educational campaign. He agreed that Members who failed to meet the deadlines should be disciplined.

Ms Dreyer also agreed with Prof Turok

Mr K Meshoe (ACDP) asked whether, in granting an extension, reasons were required.

Mr Mashile noted that the Committee would find ways to enforce compliance. The annual report of the Committee should address the question of those who complied by the due date of 31 July and those who complied with the extended date, and those who did not. He suggested “naming and shaming” those who had not complied with the original or extended dates, to try to enforce compliance in future. He noted that those submitting by 23 August would be regarded as having complied, but the fact that the date was extended must be noted.

A Member suggested that members of this Committee should remind other MPs of the need to comply, and the fact that there would be consequences if they did not.

Mr Mashile agreed with the suggestion

Mr Meshoe agreed with the Chairperson but repeated that he still needed to know why there was any need for the extension in the first place, unless Members were out of the country.

Mr Mashile noted no response from any Members.

Ms Dreyer thought that the 31 July was already an extended date. However, other Members corrected her on this point. She then asked if anyone had sent letters explaining why they could not comply with this date.

Mr Mashile said the deadline of 31st July was not the first deadline, as she believed there was an earlier deadline, and asked members to follow up on if she is right or not, members however disagreed stating the 31st was the first deadline. Ms Dreyer apologized for her mistake and asked if members had sent letters given reasons why they could not make the deadline.

Mr Mashile said that information could be obtained from the Register

Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) agreed that all MPs should be advised that this was the last possible extension date. He suggested that penalties should be enforced for lack of compliance, noting that the Committee had already been quite lenient in this year.

The Committee Secretary noted that numerous emails had been received requesting extensions.

Prof Turok agreed with Mr Mlangeni’s point, and believed that penalties should be imposed on those who did not comply by 23 August.

Mr Meshoe wanted to know what the penalties would be.

Mr Mashile said the penalties would be imposed in accordance with the Code.

Review of Code
Mr Mashile announced that it would be necessary to arrange a workshop to review the Code, and to ensure that this project was finalised.

Prof Turok noted that a date of 22 August had been suggested, as a provisional date, and urged the Committee to attend.

Ms Dreyer asked if the workshop would take place in the afternoon or morning

Mr Mashile noted that this would be an all-day workshop.

Ms Dreyer pointed out that other Committee meetings were also scheduled for that day, and it might be difficult for Members to attend all sessions.

A Member noted that he would not be present in Parliament on that day.

Prof Turok agreed that it was difficult to find a date that would suit everyone, but suggested that the Chairperson and Secretary communicate with Members, and try to find a date convenient to all.

Mr Meshoe proposed that if the workshop was not to be a full day one, consideration be given to arranging it for a day without a sitting of the House.

Mr Mashile said a suitable date would be negotiated, but asked for commitment from all Members of the Committee to prioritise the workshop.

In answer to a question if the workshop was open only to Members of this Committee, he explained that it was intended to be for Members, but input was expected from all political parties on the review.

Prof Turok said that another possible alternative was to hold a workshop for all Parliamentarians.

Mr Mashile noted that two days discussion time had been set aside to debate the input of the political parties in Parliament.

The open portion of the meeting was adjourned, as the Committee moved to debate the remaining items in closed session.


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