The objective of the meeting was to engage with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and to get insight into its work and issues which could be shared with the Committee. This was the first engagement between the Committee and the SIU, and the meeting was intended to lay the groundwork for further Parliamentary involvement. The Chairperson outlined the role of the Committee in line with the operations and duties of the SIU.
The SIU gave a summary of the historical origins, vision, mission and functions of the SIU. It had been created by Statute, and received its work from the President by proclamation. The SIU also received complaints from whistleblowers, the Public Protector and other anti-corruption agencies in the country. The SIU had the role of investigating maladministration in government institutions, and was a body of forensic investigators and lawyers.
In a report on the Presidential Proclamation on some municipalities in the North West, the Committee was told about the work which had been done in four prioritised municipalities; Madibeng, Greater Taung, Ventersdorp and Mahikeng. Besides these four municipalities, the SIU had received proclamations to investigate a further 24 municipalities in the North West. There was widespread corruption, misappropriation and maladministration in the Madibeng, Moses Kotane, Bojanala, Rustenburg, Ventersdorp, Greater Taung, Tswaing, Ramotshere, Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Mafikeng municipalities. . These irregularities were in the form of fraudulent financial transactions, irregular supply chain management practices, irregular appointments and a general breach of the Municipal Finance Management Act. Very specific cases and circumstances were presented to the Committee. The SIU reported on the disciplinary proceedings, sanctions, dismissals, acknowledgements of debt, and criminal and civil proceedings which had been recommended and engaged. The SIU had registered tangible results and had recovered money. Municipalities had been assisted in the tightening of their financial systems and disciplinary matters had been facilitated, with dismissals registered. In some cases, people had been dismissed and reinstated as a result of the politics within municipalities. The issues of dismissal and reinstatement of culprits was beyond the jurisdiction of the SIU. Some matters were with the SAPS and the SIU was working closely with the Hawks.
In the execution of their duties and in the conducting of investigations, the SIU had experienced the following challenges: A lack of supporting documents; Inadequate information technology and communication systems; Poor filing records and archive systems; An absence of governance structures in the municipalities; Noncompliance with the MFMA; Most of the policies in the municipalities were in draft form and had not been approved. There were cases where policies had been drafts for three years; Many of the municipal managers were in acting positions, and this led to poor accountability. In the entire country, there were few permanently-appointed municipal managers; Municipalities were using council decisions to contravene the law. There were instances where officials were suspended for disciplinary reasons but the council took decisions requesting that these officials be reinstated; A major challenge was the non-enforcement of the recommendations of the SIU; Threats made to potential witnesses in investigations. These situations and threats were always reported to the SAPS; The destruction of documents was a major challenge. In one Mafikeng municipality, the building of the municipality had actually been burnt down in an attempt to destroy documents. Fortunately, the documents in this matter had been removed from the premises the previous night.
Members of the committee asked questions relating to the role of the SIU in relation to the other anti-corruption agencies such as the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Public Protector, and the South African Revenue Service. The need for strengthened collaboration between these agencies was emphasized by the members. The funding of the SIU, prosecutorial powers, efficiency, relevance and legislative mandate were also discussed. It was agreed that at the earliest convenience of the Committee, a workshop should be facilitated which would bring under one roof the various agencies charged with anti-corruption, law enforcement and statutory compliance so as to enhance collaboration, performance monitoring and evaluation, and ultimately the fight against corruption, fraud, misappropriation and maladministration.
Introduction by Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed members and the delegates from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). The objective of the meeting was to engage with the SIU and to get insight into its work and issues which could be shared with the Committee. This was the first engagement between the committee and the SIU and the meeting was going to lay the foundation for further Parliamentary involvement.
The Chairperson outlined the objectives of the Committee. These were oversight over national, provincial and local governments so as to ensure good governance, sound financial management, work ethics and the population getting value for money. The Committee was serious about its work and ensured compliance with the legislation referring to financial management, as stated in the Public Financial Management Act (PFMA) and the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA). The legislation set out instructions and obligations and breach of the law attracted sanctions and consequences.
The Committee was also going to present to the SIU all committee reports which had been compiled after meetings with municipalities in five provinces. These provinces were Mpumalanga, Free State, North West, Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape. The Committee was going to do three follow-ups before 2014 to show the seriousness of the situation.
Mr T Chaane (ANC, North West) said that since there were no documents from the SIU, the assumption was that the information was confidential and some of the matters were before the court. He suggested that what the SIU presented should be information which could be available to the public, and not just general information. General information was not going to help the Members. The details were not very necessary, but at least the Members should be given numbers and the state of affairs.
Special Investigating Unit presentation
The delegation from the SIU comprised the Acting Head of the SIU, Advocate Nomvula Mokhatla, and two programme managers, Mr Paul Modipa and Ms Mary-Anne Whittles.
Adv Mokhatla outlined the origin and history of the SIU, with details of the previous heads. The SIU had been created by Statute, and received its work from the President by proclamations. The SIU also received complaints from whistleblowers, the Public Protector and other anti-corruption agencies in the country. The SIU had the role of investigating maladministration in government institutions. The SIU was a body of forensic investigators and lawyers. The agency had programme managers and project directors and had regional offices in Pretoria (Gauteng), East London (Eastern Cape), Bishops Court – Hillcrest (KwaZulu Natal) and the Western Cape, as well as four satellite offices in the North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State.
The SIU Act provided that the SIU was to get its work through Presidential proclamations, which the SIU motivated for, through the help of the complainant agency. The Minister of Justice then submitted the complaint to the president, who then issued a proclamation once he had applied his mind to it. The SIU did not just hear complaints and act on them. The SIU made its own findings and satisfied itself with the legitimacy of complaints. The SIU did scoping by looking into submitted documents and listening to the complainants. It then verified its competence and jurisdiction over the matter. The processes of the basic investigations were explained to the committee. The costs and necessary resources for the investigations were determined after the basic investigations, but there were instances where the process of investigation was longer and more complex than forecast, and this meant stretching the resources previewed for the investigation. This was why the time frame for investigations was often prolonged beyond the expected time frame. There was always pressure from society for results from investigations, such as arrests.
The second aspect of the SIU’s work was civil recovery and litigation, including getting culprits to sign acknowledgements of debt (AOD). The SIU had helped Departments in drafting letters of demand and assisted in the collection of outstanding debts. On issues of litigation, the tribunal of the SIU had ceased to exist, but the agency was in the process of reviving the tribunal, as there was a backlog in the courts and there was a need for the speedy recovery of money.
Report on the Proclamation on Municipalities
The Programme Manager, Mr Paul Modipa, said that in 2009 the SIU, in consultation with the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), had put together a Ministerial Task Team to look into complaints of maladministration, corruption, nepotism and political infighting in various municipalities. The Task Team had compiled a report which the SIU and CoGTA had used to motivate for a proclamation. The allegations had been taken from reports on each municipality. In some municipalities, there were no clear allegations, and that was one of the challenges which had been noted. A Task Team had been formed, including the South African Police Service (SAPS), CoGTA, the Auditor-General (AG) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The purpose of the team was to facilitate the criminal cases and refer matters to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for assistance with big recoveries. The mandate was under Proclamation 72 of 2009, and it covered the period from 1 January 2005 to 10 November 2009.
In the engagement between CoGTA and the SIU, there were prioritised municipalities and the SIU had been requested to look into four municipalities. The project plan and resources were allocated for the four municipalities. These municipalities included Madibeng, Greater Taung, Ventersdorp and Mahikeng. When the proclamation had come back from the Presidency, it had been extended to 24 municipalities. This meant that the resources for the four municipalities had to be used for 24 municipalities. This was one for the reasons why the investigations had lasted longer than 30 months.
Mr Modipa said that the SIU had registered tangible results and had recovered money. Municipalities had been assisted in the tightening of their financial systems and disciplinary matters had been facilitated, with dismissals registered. In some cases, people had been dismissed and reinstated as a result of the politics within municipalities. The issues of dismissal and reinstatement of culprits was beyond the jurisdiction of the SIU. Some matters were with the SAPS and the SIU was working closely with the Hawks.
The SIU had currently investigated 12 municipalities from the original number of four. The SIU had made provision to investigate eight more municipalities from 1 of April 2012 to the end of the financial year.
Progress Report on Municipalities
The Programme Manager, Ms Mary-Anne Whittles, gave a report on investigations done within the Madibeng, Moses Kotane, Rustenburg and Bojanala municipalities.
Madibeng Local Municipality
A number of successful investigations had been carried out. All investigations in Madibeng had been finalized, and a number of disciplinary hearings had been finalized. A problem had arisen, in that all recommendations with regards to the disciplinary actions against certain officials had been reversed by the new Municipal Manager. Suspended and dismissed officials had been reappointed into their positions. This situation had been reported to the Head of Department (HOD) in the North West and the issues were currently being dealt with.
The Chief Financial Officer in the Madibeng Municipality had resigned after she had been presented with charges of financial mismanagement. The Supply Chain Manager had been dismissed for non-compliance with the MFMA and non-disclosure of interest during tender processes. A criminal case had been opened against her and her relatives involved in the deal. There were disciplinary proceedings opened against a financial officer who had submitted fraudulent claims and a criminal case had been opened against him. These disciplinary cases had been withdrawn by the new Municipal Manager. There were smaller matters, such as negligence in the driving of vehicles and theft of fuel. The SIU had secured AOD’s and some officials had paid the money back and had received verbal warnings. There was a situation where a traffic officer had admitted to a charge of theft of fuel to the value of R30 000. A criminal case had been opened against him.
There were conflict of interest matters, where officials had failed to disclose interests during tender processes. In the period under review, 12 officials had been identified, to whom an amount of R1.8 million had been paid by the municipality in the conduct of business. Criminal cases had been registered against the officials and disciplinary actions recommended. The recommendation from the SIU was that these officials be blacklisted from the municipality supply database. A total of 351 officials had not disclosed their interests, but had not done business with the municipality and verbal warnings had been given to the officials. An annual vetting process for officials to disclose business interests was recommended.
The SIU had identified 76 266 debtors who had defaulted in payments in excess of R470 million to municipalities. The top 100 debtors had been identified and by March 2011, the municipality had recovered R12 million from the debtors. Government departments accounted for 243 of the debtors, and they owed the municipalities a total amount of R7 million. Letters of demand had been issued. This had been when an administrator had still been in charge of the municipality and since a new Municipal Manager had taken over, there had been no reports of progress. The administrator had also appointed a firm of attorneys to recover the outstanding debt. A total of 449 cheques to the value of R4.7 million which had not been honoured by the bank had been identified. Contact had been made to ensure payments, and feedback was being requested.
Ten “ghost” employees had been identified who were still being paid by the municipality.
A contract for sweeping streets had been identified, which had been awarded to 20 service providers by the former municipal manager. These service providers had received payments of R240 000 each, but no work had been done. It had been impossible to trace the service providers, because false names had been used and some did not exist. A criminal matter had been opened against the former municipal manager. Four services providers had been identified who were not registered for VAT, but had claimed VAT and had been paid by the municipality. The matter had been referred to SARS. The SIU was currently working on signing a Memorandum of Understanding with SARS for the conducting of more joint investigations.
A contract was identified where a relative of a senior official in the municipality had received a contract for the cutting of grass. The official had not recused himself from the process and instead of the rightful amount of R200 000 being paid for the contract, an amount of R7 million had been paid. Because it was the cutting of grass, it had not been possible to identify if the work had been done or not. A criminal case had been registered with the SAPS.
All recommendations with regard to improving the financial controls within the municipality had been implemented. There were certain allegations that corroborating documents could not be found.
Moses Kotani Municipality
The SUI had registered more success in this municipality than in Madibeng. There were 33 disciplinary matters against officials and there were a number of conflict of interest matters, and recommendations had been made to council in this regard. There were instances of financial mismanagement and fraudulent payments. AOD’s had been signed in this regard.
Mr Modipa said that there had been no control on the use of cheques in the municipality. Follow-ups were being made and recoveries were in progress. There were instances where payments had been made in cash to the municipality, but the money which had been received had not been put into the municipal account. The position of the SIU was that there was a need to improve internal controls in municipalities. It was recommended by the SIU that municipalities should not accept personal cheques and only business cheques should be used.
The SIU had identified 115 officials who had undisclosed business interests with the municipality, and 16 of these officials had done business with the municipality. Disciplinary proceedings had been recommended and the officials blacklisted from the municipal database. A legal opinion had been obtained which stated that these officials could be charged with Section 17 of the Preventing and Combating of Corruption Act. The matter had been referred to the SAPS. The disciplinary proceedings against the former Municipal Manager had been facilitated. He had been charged with 21 offences and found guilty of all charges. He had been dismissed, but was contesting his dismissal at the CCMA. Some of the charges related to irregular appointments. From a civil recovery point of view, the irregular and wasteful expenditure should be recovered from him.
An official had been identified who had used a municipal truck for the transportation of building materials for his private home. This same official had stolen an amount of R10 000 from the social club account of the municipality. He had admitted to the crime and had signed an AOD. He had broken into the municipal tender box and tampered with submitted tenders. The Municipal Manager said that the officials had been given a written warning, but in the personal file of the official, there had been no written warning. After a week, when the file was checked, a written warning which was backdated had been inserted. A criminal case had been registered against the official and the SIU had recommended his suspension. Instead of being suspended, the said official had been promoted to the position of Director in charge of Community Services.
In some cases, investigations had been carried out, but the results had been negative as no anomalies or irregularities found. This was the case in Makwasi Hills, where an investigation had been conducted on the matter of high-mast lights and no irregularities found. There was a situation where the municipality had paid a service provider an amount of R17 000 for catering services, which had not been provided. The matter had been taken to the SAPS, who took the matter further to the Senior Public Prosecutor. The Senior Public Prosecutor had said that it was not a criminal matter, but rather an administrative error. The SIU was of the opinion that it was a criminal matter because the service provider had submitted a claim for payment for a service which they knew had not been rendered. That was misrepresentation and it was a criminal matter. There were investigations on the building of the Civic Centre, where the contract was worth R20 million and the service provider had invoiced the municipality for an amount of R1.6 million for a steel door which had not been erected. There was also an investigation into the purchase of the mayoral house which had not been put out to tender.
There was the challenge of the statutory contravention of the MFMA. In some cases, the MFMA had clearly been contravened and recommendations had been made to SAPS for charges to be pressed against the officials. The SAPS had the mandate to follow up on statutory offences. An example was the need for some of the Municipal Managers to be charged with contravening the Archives Act, as they did not archive documents properly and this had led to the hiding of evidence.
Adv Mokhatla said that the SIU was putting systems in place to cover the gaps where investigations were done by the SIU, and later handed over to the SAPS, who did not carry on with the case properly as the SAPS investigating officers were not abreast with the necessary information on the crimes and related matters. The SIU had met with the NPA and the SAPS to work on ways of closing the gaps.
The Chairperson said that he was going to recommend to the Acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police and the Chairperson in the NCOP dealing with Police matters, to engage with the SIU to get SAPS involved with legislation.
Mr B Mashile (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked if the SIU did not have imbedded prosecutorial powers. What legislation was the SIU using to revive its tribunal, as there was the need to curb the disjuncture in the track of cases going to the NPA and falling along the way?
Adv Mokhatla replied that in the past there was a secondment to the SIU of NPA officials who had prosecutorial powers, but since the delegations had been withdrawn in 2010 by the NDPP, no one in the SIU had the power to prosecute. The tribunals were in the SIU Act, but the issue in the court of law was that one could not sit as the head of the SIU and be an investigator and arbiter at the same time. That was how the SIU had distanced itself from doing litigation. The SIU had identified the need for the speedy recovery of misappropriated funds. The agency was doing a legal review which was going to be finalised by the end of the month of September 2012. The review was going to motivate for the forensic investigations, and 28 lawyers were being groomed to be able to take the matters to the courts and eventually, to the tribunals. The SIU was going to provide a motivation to the Minister of Justice on the process.
The SIU had just started investigating this municipality. The former mayor had requested that the SIU investigate the awarding of 279 bursaries which had been awarded irregularly by the municipality. In some cases, the beneficiaries of the bursaries did not attend school and did not submit results to the municipality.
The SIU had investigated a security contract where the security manager had business interests in the company that had been awarded the tender. The Security Manager had died last year, but the investigation was continuing. There had been problems with the service level agreements and there could be recovery. The company had been paid R8.7 million over a period of about 24 months and there had been some theft of municipal property. There was also the theft of R360 000 from the safe in the municipality which was currently being handled by the SAPS. The SIU had assisted the municipality with the fixed asset register and the land audit, and there was an irrecoverable loss of R24.3 million.
Some of the investigations had been done with the objective of assisting the municipalities to strengthen their internal controls. The SIU had made recommendations to the municipalities and in cases where the recommendations had not been followed, the situation had been reported to the HOD and the MEC for Local Government.
The Chairperson asked how long the SIU waited before it did follow-ups on the municipalities.
Mr Modipa replied that the SIU made follow-ups one month after a recommendation had been made.
The SIU had reviewed 11 contracts to the value of R14.6 million. These included information technology contracts and Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) projects.
The difficulty in this municipality was the lack of supporting documents. This was one of the worst municipalities in terms of filing. There had been many acting municipal managers who had all failed to archive documents properly. The second challenge was that there were no supply chain management policies. The municipality had used random council decisions in the appointment of service providers and this was completely irregular and not in accordance with the MFMA. The appointment procedures in the municipalities were also based on the discretion of the Municipal Manager.
Most of the investigations in Vendersdorp had been concluded in an untimely manner because of a lack of documentation. There was not even a means to get electronic documents, because the IT system was outsourced, the contracts with the companies were for 12 months, and there was no back up. These service providers changed every year, and there was no coherence.
Greater Taung Municipality
The SIU had reviewed four contracts to the value of R18.1 million. In one of the MIG projects, it had been discovered that the service provider had invoiced the municipality for six hydroponics, but only four had been delivered. The service provider had paid back an amount of R278 900. The matter had been referred to the SAPS. Disciplinary action had also been recommended against the official in the municipality who had authorized the payment.
An investigation was carried out on the purchase of the Mayoral motor vehicle to the value of R301 000, but no irregularities had been found.
The SIU was also investigating matters in Tswaing, Ramotsere, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, and Mafikeng municipalities.
Challenges and Constraints
Mr Modipa said that in the execution of their duties and in the conducting of investigations, the following challenges had been experienced:
• A lack of supporting documents;
• Inadequate information technology and communication systems;
• Poor filing records and archive systems;
• An absence of governance structures in the municipalities;
• Noncompliance with the MFMA;
• Most of the policies in the municipalities were in draft form and had not been approved. There were cases where policies had been drafts for three years;
• Many of the municipal managers were in acting positions, and this led to poor accountability. In the entire country, there were few permanently- appointed municipal managers;
• Municipalities were using council decisions to contravene the law. There were instances where officials were suspended for disciplinary reasons but the council took decisions requesting that these officials be reinstated;
• A major challenge was the non-enforcement of the recommendations of the SIU;
• Threats made to potential witnesses in investigations. These situations and threats were always reported to the SAPS.
• The destruction of documents was a major challenge. In one Mafikeng municipality, the building of the municipality had actually been burnt down in an attempt to destroy documents. Fortunately, the documents in this matter had been removed from the premises the previous night.
The Chairperson asked when the recommendations of the SIU were usually sent to the HOD and the MEC.
Ms Whittles replied that the HOD and the MEC were usually copied in as recipients of the reports and recommendations.
Mr Modipa said that the SIU was part of a steering committee with the North West local government, and the HOD was represented on the committee. Once in a while, the SIU met with the MEC to brief him on the progress and the challenges faced.
Adv Mokhatla said that when it was said that the SIU was making recommendations, it did not mean that the SIU were experts in the field. The legal review process was meant to ensure that recommendations of the SIU were within its area of competence. The investigations were in the concluding stages and there were senior officials who were implicated. In some circles, the information provided in the reports was used for bad, rather than good. The SIU was working to make sure that its reports were used for the purposes for which they were intended, and not to thwart people’s careers and progress.
The Chairperson said that the details of the presentation emphasised the need for the committee to conduct oversight. He asked the SIU if they felt they were making progress.
Adv Mokhatla replied that the SIU was winning and making progress, but there were challenges which were being faced. The SIU welcomed the proposal by the Chairperson to have a joint meeting with the other anti-corruption agencies to map the way forward and to have an active preventive strategy.
The Chairperson said an integrated approach was needed in the fight against corruption.
Mr B Mashile (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked if the absence of electronic copies in municipalities and the poor archiving systems were the result of “innocence” rather than deliberate malicious activities. He was of the opinion that people and officials who transgressed should be arrested and locked up. Was there any record of arrests and people locked up as a result of the investigations? Many of the issues raised were criminal matters and the culprits had to be locked up. What did the SIU think could be amended in any establishing legislation which would empower it to run the processes through to completion? There was the risk that the SIU could become irrelevant. The SIU could not be doing serious investigations and at the end rely on the police, which did not have officials of the calibre of the SIU investigators. The specialized work of the SIU could not be transferred to people who were not specialized. How effective was the Provincial Task Team, and was it responding to the challenges on the ground with any meaningful contributions? Why did the problems persist if the task team was working? In the MFMA, there were responsibilities and obligations of individuals starting from municipal officials, through to the MEC and on to the Premier. Had any recommendations been made to the MEC’s and the Premier in terms of their responsibilities and obligations? Was the SIU still relevant, and were they making a difference in the field? What help was needed to improve its relevance?
Mr S Montsitsi (ANC Gauteng) said that the process of enabling the SIU to investigate was very long. The whole process of complaints, referrals and proclamations was extensive, and until this process was finished, the agency would not be able to investigate anything. There was a thin line between the Public Protector and the SIU, as their functions were similar. The SIU had to be different from the Public Protector. On some of the investigations, there was a lot of wrong doing and breaching of legislation but it was rare to hear of charges pressed. Many of the matters were handled through disciplinary proceedings. Why was the strength and application of the PFMA and the MFMA not visible and carried through in the SIU recommendations? In seeking to assist the SIU with its work, what type of information or assistance did the SIU need from the Committee? What partnership could be established to ensure that the issue of corruption was dealt with?
Mr T Chaane (ANC, North West) asked whether all the remaining municipalities could be completed by the end of the financial year. It was clear that there were gaps and challenges facing the SIU, so was any progress being made in the direct combating of corruption? From the presentation, it appeared there was not much collaboration between the SIU, the NPA, SAPS and the Asset Forfeiture Unit. The relationship of these institutions needed to be strengthened. There was also the need to look at the establishing legislation, so that the work could easily flow and the work of government in combating corruption could be seen. The law which established the SIU had to be reviewed so as to allow the agency some flexibility and ability to prosecute. There were a lot of resources put into investigations but after the investigations, the processes became very slow and almost halted. The results of forensic investigation were never used. The hand of justice was too long and there was a need for it to be shortened if progress was to be made. The committee, in overseeing how public finances were spent, had to find a way of bringing all the anti-corruption agencies under one roof. At the earliest convenience of the Committee, a workshop should be organised to ensure cooperation of the anti-corruption units. There was the need for processes to be strengthened so that when files were taken to court, there were ready and complete. The matters in municipalities which could be handled legally had to be dealt with as fast as possible, while political matters should be left with the politicians. What were the engagements between the SIU and the MEC for CoGTA in the North West? The MFMA and the PFMA gave directives as to the responsibilities of the MEC and the provincial treasuries. What was the MEC doing to help the SIU? Had the SIU presented any of these preliminary reports to the President, and what was the outcome? If there were no outcomes, people were going to use the results of investigation for other political reasons. If the people in power could not act, the people who put them in power were going to act.
Mr R Lees (DA, KwaZulu Natal) asked if it was not part of the mandate of the SIU to work with prosecuting authorities to get convictions. What was causing a hindrance in the collaboration? It was sad that many bad deeds had been uncovered but these acts were still being carried out in the municipalities. Was there nothing more that the SIU could do to stop some of the issues uncovered?
Mr Montsitsi asked if the SIU and the Hawks could accompany the Committee on its next round of oversight visits to the provinces. The SIU could make use of its satellite and regional offices.
Mr Mashile asked how the SIU got its budget and if the SIU funds were adequate in terms of the work that it was doing. Was there any intervention that the SIU needed? The Public Protector was receiving more prominence than the SIU because after the investigations had been done by the SIU, it was the Public Protector that made public announcements and seemed to have done all the work. Did the SIU deem it necessary to make media statements and press releases?
The Chairperson asked what the SIU wanted the Committee to do to support it and give it more teeth in the execution of its duties and ensure that action was taken quickly. It was the role of the committee to assist the SIU. The Auditor General had made a finding on the Secretary of Parliament in an audit report and Parliament had taken action. That was the kind of action that had to be taken at municipal level.
The Legal Adviser to Parliament, Advocate F Jenkins, said that in terms of the principle of legality, authority was required before any legal action could be taken. In looking at the functions of the Public Protector and the SIU, the Public Protector received complaints from anybody and they had to make all their investigations public. The SIU received mandates on a case by case basis from the President to deal with corruption. The SIU did not have the obligation to make their findings public. The SIU had to be cautious of basic freedoms and human rights. Adv Jenkins said that it was far worse for government to jail an innocent person than for government not to jail guilty people. This meant that there had to be stringent measures to ensure that whoever went behind bars was guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
Mr Mashile asked if the SIU had ever been accused of corruption in the execution of the duties. If such had happened, how was the SIU handling the matter?
Adv Mokhatla said that the SIU was going to respond to some of the question in writing within seven days, as some of the issues needed some serious consultations and reviews. This particularly pertained to the amending of legislation.
Ms Whittles said that the destruction of documents was a big challenge as the absence of corroborating documents could halt an investigation. The SIU had found instances where it was of the opinion that the destruction was malicious and in some instances, the documents had been misplaced by the some of the many forensic firms that had participated in the investigations. Municipalities gave out documents without having the investigators acknowledge receipt and this caused difficulties in the tracing of missing documents. Liability could therefore not just be assigned to an official if the SIU could not actually pinpoint what had happened to the documents
On the issue of the process after the completing of investigations, it was important to respect the mandate of other law enforcement agencies. The SIU was a civil investigating institution and they had a specific mandate. The SIU did not have prosecutorial powers because it was a civil entity and the main mandate was to recover loss suffered by government institutions. However, it did not mean that the involvement of the SIU in a matter ended after the preparation of the criminal docket. The SIU worked hand in hand with the investigating officers. It was predominantly a matter of lack of skills within SAPS. The SIU also assisted with the preparation of arrests. The accountability and responsibilities of MECs and the Premier were covered in the reports submitted by the SIU and all findings and conclusions were based on legislative provisions. The legislation was always quoted and specific reference was made.
Mr Modipa said that the SIU had received confirmation that the President had signed a proclamation, and the resources of the SIU were currently depleted. The last 17 proclamations had been received without an increase in resources. The SIU was currently over-stretched in terms of resources. It was sadly true that all the investigations could not be finished by March 2013 because there was the need to ensure quality and efficiency. The SIU would, however, make contingency plans.
On the support from the MECs and the Premiers, the SIU had addressed the provincial cabinet of the North West, and the Premier had requested the MEC for Local Government, Finance and the Provincial Treasury to support the SIU in terms of finances, but every time the SIU made any requests, no help was forthcoming. The SIU was of the opinion that local government and municipalities should have a uniform IT system like in National government. The diverse technologies and systems made performance monitoring and evaluation very difficult and this had a very negative effect on service delivery.
The Task Team operated at a national level and was meant to facilitate operational audits and collaboration between the various anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies. It was also meant to track the cases which came from all municipalities in the country.
Adv Mokhatla said some matters were still absent and still being processed, which is why there were many gaps in the report presented to the Committee. The SIU was having talks with the Auditor General’s office on a possible partnership to work on the issues of corruption in municipalities. It was important for the various stakeholders to sign MOUs and agreements to complement each other. The SIU was hoping to sign the MOU with the AG’s office by the end of September 2012.
It had been found that some of the disciplinary proceedings were just slaps on the wrist and were not commensurate with some of the crimes committed. The fight against corruption needed to be done speedily. Anti-corruption agencies had the tendency to act slowly and not trust each other. There was the need for more collaboration and sharing of knowledge and information. This was going to ensure that the results of investigations would go through the court processes successfully. Adv Mokhatla gave an example of a situation where 34 cases had been taken to court, but there had been frustration when the NPA had thrown them out. It was only later realised that the information in the files was not sufficient and had not come in on time. In the haste of trying to satisfy public opinion, the police had registered the dockets and sent them through to the NPA when there was not enough information in them.
It was important to make clear the role of each agency and how they complemented each other. The SIU did not have an education wing and that was why it did not have a clear means of letting people know what its work was all about.
On collaboration, the SIU collaborated with the NPA and its various bodies, SAPS and SARS. In terms of the cases investigated, however, there was no major collaboration and there was thus need for the strengthening of ties between the various institutions. The SIU was still relevant but it just had to work harder.
The SIU was going to reply to the rest of the other major questions, especially the ones related to legislative amendments, in writing by the end of the month of September 2012.
Mr Chaane said that the image of the government and the entire nation was being dragged into the mud because of corruption and the opportunity to curb it was being thwarted by haste, delays and poor collaboration. It was very important for a concerted and integrated effort to be made to combat corruption at all levels of government.
Consideration and Adoption of Minutes
The minutes of the committee meeting of the 1st of September 2012 were considered.
Mr Chaane moved for the adoption of the minutes. The motion for adoption was seconded by Mr Lees.
The meeting was adjourned.
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