The parliamentary Human Resources (HR) team briefed the Committee on the verification of validity and legitimacy of qualifications and vetting results of shortlisted candidates for filling vacancies in the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE). The HR team was given a task to verify the validity of qualifications of shortlisted candidates. The team received a list of 21 candidates and only one candidate had withdrawn. The team would provide a report on validity status outcomes of 20 candidates. The process required a candidate to complete a form known as the Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) which was handed to the service provider that Parliament usually used to verify qualification. A candidate was further required to sign a consent form with all qualifications attached. The verification of qualifications of two candidates was still pending, meaning that 18 candidates were verified. It would take another 10 to 15 days for the pending verifications.
State Security used financial or credit records and criminal record to determine potential risks. All 21 candidates were taken through the vetting process. They were requested to sign certain forms to give their consent, including taking their fingerprints. One candidate had a criminal record; four candidates had negative financial records.
Members had a heated debate when some voiced the opinion that candidates whose qualifications were not verified could not be invited to sit for an interview. However, after a long discussion, it was agreed that the report was about enlightening them on background of each candidate and that the information received could be used to pose questions to determine the integrity of a candidate. It was also agreed that having a negative financial record should not be used to discredit a candidate simply because the position had a bearing relevance on empowering an appointed candidate economically. It was further agreed that all candidates should be invited for an interview. A criminal record should be viewed as an allegation and onus should rest on a candidate to convince the Committee otherwise.
The Chairperson said the Human Resources (HR) team was given a task to verify the authenticity and validity of qualifications of shortlisted candidates. She noted that the Committee previously deliberated on item three and Members adopted the agenda for this meeting.
Briefing by Human Resources
Ms Shanaaz Gabier, Section Manager: HR said the team was given a task to verify the validity of qualifications of shortlisted candidates. The team received a list of 21 candidates and only one candidate had withdrawn. The team will provide a validity report of the status outcomes of the 20 candidates. A candidate was required to fill out a form known as the Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) which was handed to the service provider (a reputable company) that Parliament usually used to verify qualifications. A candidate was further required to sign a consent form to which all qualifications are attached. Details of candidates were submitted to the service provider by way of filling in online forms that were found on the service provider’s website. The team was then notified whether a candidate was verified or not. Out of 20 candidates, two candidates’ qualifications verification was still pending meaning that 18 candidates were verified. For the pending verification it would take another 10 to 15 days. As per tradition of the Committee, Ms Gabier noted that no name of any candidate would be mentioned, but their numbers as it appeared on the shortlist would be used.
Ms P Kekana (ANC) sought clarity on whether it was candidate 19 candidate whose candidacy was withdrawn, on whether candidates 20 and 21 were the ones whose verifications were pending, which candidate was staying abroad and, from HR’s point of view, how the Committee could proceed? She also asked if the HR team will guide the Committee on how to deal with candidates.
Ms O Hlope (EFF) said that she would like to know whether the Committee would be guided by the HR team. She also wanted to know which candidate was staying overseas, on candidate 19, what the way forward was candidates 19 and 20 and whether Committee was ready to start with interviews on Monday, 13 March 2017. She asked whether candidates were aware that they were selected and fully informed that they would be subjected to security vetting, whether candidate 19 was also subjected to verification and security vetting and whether he or she would be sitting for an interview.
The Chairperson replied that she received a letter from candidate 19 which was communicated to all Members, in which the candidate indicated his intention to withdraw. Each shortlisted candidate was notified first about their short listing, and second, about all processes that would follow. The HR team would provide guidance to the Committee on how to deal with the matter at hand. She asked whether the HR team had informed candidates 20 and No 21 about their pending verifications.
Ms Gabier confirmed that it was candidate 19 who withdrew. There was a question about candidate 20’s international qualification with the British Council. A copy of the qualification was submitted to a service provider and the verification will be done overseas. As a result, it took longer to get feedback compared to a local verification.
The Chairperson noted that it was clear from the report that the verification was pending, but there was no was no information on whether the institution existed. She asked about candidate 21?
Ms Gabier replied that the report was put together on the basis of information provided by the service provider in terms of verifications. The status was that both candidates 20 and 21 are yet to be verified.
Mr N Giba, Unit Manager: Human Resources noted that the Committee was presented with the result of verifications conducted by the service provider. It was easier when qualifications were verified and it was complicated in instances where qualifications could not be verified because the verification was still pending or because there was no information. It was therefore difficult to confirm whether certain institution existed or not or whether a qualification was obtained or not. In the Committee’s previous meetings, all candidates who were shortlisted would attend an interview process. Information about verification was not about excluding some shortlisted members but rather to enlighten members about candidates’ educational background so that they should know which questions could be put to a candidate in order to seek clarity from him or her. For example, a Member could say that no verification was received with regard to a qualification and thus proceed to ascertain whether the qualification was legitimate. Therefore, the HR team should advise all candidates about the result of security vetting and verification of qualifications. They will be aware that they will clarify issues arising from said results. The Committee should proceed as planned.
Ms T Stander (DA) asked when the vetting process would be completed. She also noted that it was a prerequisite to verify qualifications to ascertain whether a candidate was merited for filling the vacancy. The Department should communicate to the Committee when the vetting process was completed and the burden of proof rested on candidate to clarify that certain allegations were baseless or that he or she obtained a particular qualification. She asked whether candidates 20 and 21 were contacted to provide more details on their qualifications. The Committee should take a hard line to be able to get all required information from a candidate.
Ms Kekana referred to candidate 20 and wanted to know what the term “inconclusive” used in the report meant. The HR team should be applauded for the work done. The verification process should be completed before the Committee could invite candidates for interviews. Candidates 20 and 21 should be advised that they would no longer be accommodated only because their qualifications could not be verified.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) supported the HR team’s approach. No one should be excluded. What would happen if a candidate was excluded and then took the Committee to court, or if the candidate could prove that his or qualifications were valid and legitimate? The Committee should advise those candidates whose verifications were pending to come with further information regarding their qualifications.
Ms T Stander (DA) asked whether candidates were informed that their qualifications were unverified and thus be given a deadline to submit verification of their qualifications.
Ms D Robinson (DA) sought clarity on when interviews will take a place.
The Chairperson said verification of qualifications was not a major problem. Members should concentrate on ensuring whether a person to be appointed was a person with integrity who met all vetting requirements. In this case, verified qualifications would be a bonus. If a candidate indicated that he or she obtained certain qualifications but could not be verified, it meant that he/she was not honest or trustworthy. As a result, he or she could not be appointed. Candidates could justify authenticity of their qualifications through questioning.
Ms Gabier said in terms of the vetting process, State Security looked at citizenship, financial or credit records and criminal records. All 21 candidates were taken through the process. They were requested to sign certain forms to give their consent, including taking their fingerprints. One candidate had a criminal record of fraud whereas four candidates had negative financial records.
The Chairperson remarked that South African people were highly indebted and therefore the issue of insolvency or negative financial records should not be taken into consideration for exclusion of a candidate.
Mr T Manyoni (ANC) said that there were other factors that were seen as potential risk in addition to financial and criminal records. These factors included, for example, obesity. He proposed that Members should look at factors that were seen as serious concerns. The question of insolvency should not be a determinant factor.
Ms Stander disagreed and said that if Members disregarded one rule, they should be consistent in disregarding others. Inabilities to one’s manage own financial affairs was a potential risk. Candidate 11 had both a negative financial record and a criminal record. Candidate 11 had been found guilty of fraud. Was he a person of integrity? The Committee could not compromise on integrity. The same applied to candidates 20 and 21. If verifications were impossible, how could their integrity be ascertained? She raided a motion proposing that candidate 11 be removed from the list of candidates on the basis of having negative financial and criminal records. The Chairperson should rule on the motion before the Committee carried on with deliberations.
Ms Kekana agreed. If there was a verdict of fraud there was no need to interview such a candidate. On the question of ability to manage own financial affairs, she disagreed. She noted that indebtedness was a national problem. She supported this by arguing that if Members of Parliament be investigated, some of them could find to be unable to manage their own financial affairs. A letter should be drafted and be sent to candidate 11 advising him that he was removed from the list on the basis of the fraud conviction.
Ms Mjaeke said that there were different circumstances why people would have negative financial records and they should not be denied an opportunity to better their financial positions.
Ms Hlope agreed. Exclusion of those with bad financial records would be contrary to the constitutional need to uplift poor people from poverty. Exclusion would be doing an injustice to them.
Ms N Marchesi (DA) seconded her. It would be unfair to penalise a candidate on the basis of financial problems.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) seconded. There should be a distinction between criminality and negative credit.
The Chairperson said the task of the Committee was not about deciding innocence or guilt. Members are required to use information at their disposal to seek clarity from candidates. Based on candidates’ responses, they would be able to decide on who was a suitable candidate to appoint. Members should put questions to a candidate. In so doing, they should bear in mind, that there was no right or wrong question.
The Chairperson ruled that all candidates will be invited to sit for an interview.
Ms Stander reiterated her view of excluding candidate No 11 from an interview.
The Chairperson said that candidate 11 will not be excluded from the interview because the Committee had the right to appoint the right person. Members would have an opportunity to ask questions. Calling candidate 11 did not mean that the candidate was being appointed.
Ms Hlope noted that candidate 4 should be questioned about a fraud crime that occurred prior to 1994. Given that it occurred during the apartheid era, the candidate should be given the benefit of the doubt. It might be connected with apartheid.
M Tembe, Legal Officer: Parliament advised members that it was wise to allow all candidates to sit for an interview. Members should, in asking questions, focus on establishing whether a candidate was a person of integrity. The Committee should work under supposition that all issues raised in the report were still allegations. In instances where it transpired that there was no conviction or crime committed, a candidate would have met his onus to prove that the allegation was baseless. The interview should be carried out on the principle of natural justice, which demanded that the other party should be heard.
Ms Hlope sought clarity on whether the Committee should consider how questions would be asked.
Ms Kharifa Adams, Legal Advisor: Parliament said that questions that would be asked were being developed. It was feared that if candidates were interviewed on separate days, some would be able to follow the interviews on air and thus get an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the questions.
Ms Majeke said all candidates did not have the same background and there was no way candidates should be asked identical questions and if it were the same questions, answers could be different. She was of the view that questions should be drawn against the background of a candidate.
Ms Kekana said that Members should play around with prepared questions in order to avoid posing similar questions.
Ms Stander agreed. There should be no prescribed questions to put to a candidate. Each candidate had 45 minutes and time should be complied with. Few Members should be allowed to ask questions and Members ought to be strict with their allowed time.
The Chairperson said three minutes would be allocated and candidates would be given three minute to respond. She sought clarity on Members who would like an opportunity to interview all candidates.
Ms Marchesi noted that if the Chairperson would allow 10 Members to pose questions, the questioning session would be 30min and a candidate would be left with 15 minutes to answer.
Ms Majeke said that the Chairperson would be steering the process and was in a position to what could be done. The Chairperson ought to be ready to limit a speaker so that a candidate should be given enough time to respond.
Ms Hlope asked the Chairperson to sum-up what they have agreed on.
The Chairperson said that an interview was a 45 minute session and a candidate should be given enough time to sell themselves and not every Member would pose a question.
The meeting was adjourned.
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