DPWI on implementation of corrective measures emanating from investigation into irregularities related to funeral services procured; with Minister

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

08 July 2020
Chairperson: Mr M Hlengwa (IFP)
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Meeting Summary

Video: DPWI  on implementation of corrective measures emanating from investigation into irregularities related to funeral services procured

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) appeared before the Committee to discuss the implementation of disciplinary action relating to allegations of irregularities in the procurement of services for State funerals.

The funerals in question were those of the late Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Dr Zola Skweyiya and Ambassador Billy Modise, during which approximately R76 million was made in payments to the contracted service provider, Crocia Events (Pty) Ltd. A PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc investigation had been commissioned by the anti-corruption unit within the Department at the request of the Director-General. The investigation had found that a major proportion of the payments made were contractually non-compliant, thus warranting the implementation of corrective measures.

Members of Parliament were disappointed that no criminal charges had been made against specific officials who were allegedly involved in the misconduct, including the Department’s own Director-General, who had been cited in the investigation report. Members asked Minister De Lille how far she was in instituting disciplinary action, since they had recommended that she approach the Office of the Presidency during the previous engagement in March 2020.

The Minister indicated that in consultation with the State Attorney, she had appointed a legal advisory team in June, which had since provided her with a draft of preliminary charges. However, progress had been impacted by the lockdown restrictions. She was currently engaging regularly with the legal team to initiate the disciplinary process.

The Director-General said he had still not received the investigation report, despite being the one who had commissioned the investigation, which led to concern being expressed by Members of the Committee. They said this was an indication of the procedural flaws in the report, as well as the deep seated issues within the Department. The Minister committed herself to providing the Director-General with the report, and said the Department would return to the Committee to provide another update on the progress achieved.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) had previously presented a report on the investigation conducted into allegations of irregularities related to services procured by the DPWI for state funeral services. This meeting was a follow-up to provide a progress report on the matter, particularly how consequence management had been implemented since the last engagement in March 2020.

Minister Patricia de Lille advised the Committee that Mr Mzwandile Sazona, Chief Director: Prestige Policy, DPWI, had recently tested positive for COVID-19, but had insisted on presenting the report to the Committee while under isolation. Unfortunately, many of the Department’s officials had been exposed and tested positive for the virus. The Department had sadly lost three colleagues due to COVID-19.

On behalf of the Committee, the Chairperson expressed sincere condolences to the Department. He encouraged everyone to continue following all the necessary precautions against the virus. He acknowledged and thanked Mr Sazona for his resilience, wishing him a speedy recovery.

DPWI: Briefing on state, official and special official funerals

Mr Sazona said that in accordance to Section 3.10 (a) of the State, Official and Provincial Official Funeral Policy, the Department was mandated to provide the necessary infrastructure and facilities for all categories of State sanctioned funerals within the country.

The state-funded funeral policy was most recently reviewed by the Presidency, in consultation with the Cabinet, in 2016, following which the categories of funerals were differentiated and accorded a specific status. The categories were State Funeral, Official Funeral, Special Official Funeral, Provincial Official Funeral and Special Provincial Official Funeral.  The policy was expanded to include key individuals deemed as deserving of state funerals.

The State, Official and Provincial Official Funeral Policy Manual outlined general specifications of the infrastructure to be provided, but any other specific infrastructural needs were authorised by the Funeral Planning Committee. The process of organising and facilitating state funerals required coordinated efforts from many actors, such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the Department of Transport (DoT), the Department of Communications (DoC) and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Challenges

Although the general responsibilities of the DPWI were outlined in clause 3.10 of the Funeral Policy, certain requirements were specific to particular funerals. These generally kept changing, and were continuously added to, up until the day of the funeral. This presented the DPWI with a challenge, because it was difficult to have accurate pre-knowledge of the required infrastructure and associated costs.

In response, the DPWI had decided to review its procurement processes to ensure it could provide quality infrastructure in a timely manner. It decided that the best procurement method was a term contract, and this was piloted in the 2015/16 financial year. Only one funeral had been organised in 2016.  In 2017, the Department had facilitated an unprecedented number of funerals, compared to previous years. These funerals were in close succession, which had limited the DPWI’s ability to evaluate how well it was executing its mandate.

The Chairperson interjected to remind the Department that the issues being presented had already been discussed during a previous engagement on 3 March 2020. The purpose of this meeting was to follow up on the progress that had been made since then. Members confirmed that they had already received the information and there was no need to rehash what had already been discussed.

The Minister agreed that the Department should instead present on the remedial actions taken so far and the process of policy review, as this was new information.

Remedial actions

In light of the high costs and issues of non-compliance regarding three funerals, the Director General had instructed the governance, risk and compliance branch to pursue an investigation on the root causes.

This had resulted in the following remedial actions:

  • Refraining from setting up infrastructure for memorial services;
  • Through the Presidency, insisting on using existing brick and mortar structures rather than temporary structures such as marquees;
  • Appointing the head of finance to verify quotations, with a schedule of prices, before capturing; and
  • A proposal for the Funeral Planning Committee to have oversight on funeral expenditure, in addition to its political oversight

The Department had developed cost norms, as well as an option to provide financial assistance when costs were higher than anticipated. It had also proposed that infrastructure at the grave site should be the responsibility of the contracted funeral undertaker. These proposals had been formally submitted to the Presidency in June.

Mr Sazona said that other departments, such as the DoT, had experienced similar issues and had also been invited by the Presidency to submit any appropriate proposals.

The Chairperson stressed that it was important to provide the context informing the remedial actions taken, and any further discussions. The fundamental issue was that significant costs had been incurred during the facilitation of three state funerals, and an internal investigation had revealed that some payments made were contractually non-compliant.

A summary of the investigation findings had revealed:

  • A payment of R35.7 million was made for the funeral of Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, of which R4.7 million was contractually compliant.
  • A payment of R28.9 million was made for the funeral of Dr Zola Skweyiya, of which R4.3 million was contractually compliant.
  • A payment of R11.4 million was made for the funeral of Ambassador Billy Modise, of which R3.1 million was contractually compliant

The investigation had found that certain inclusions, which were ultimately not required, had been made in the tender process. Variations in the quantity and unit price of items had also been noted. The Chairperson said certain individuals, including the Director-General (DG), had been cited in the report for their alleged involvement in issues of non-compliance. He asked the Minister and the DPWI to keep in mind that these were the reasons the Committee was meeting.  

Mr S Somyo (ANC) added that in the previous engagement, the DG had indicated he had seen the report only at the meeting. He said it was important to establish if the presentation was a complete reflection of the actions taken by the Department, in order for Members to be able to engage sufficiently.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Somyo, and added that at the previous meeting, the Committee had recommended that the Minister should engage with the Presidency, which had the authority to effect any necessary consequence management as it pertained to an accounting officer such as the DG.

Minister’s response

Minister De Lille notified the Committee of the late submission of a letter dated 20 June 2019 from the Auditor- General (AG) containing recommendations. The Minister then gave a timeline of the forensic investigation into the alleged irregularities and non-compliance related to the funeral services rendered by Crocia Events (Pty) Ltd.

  •  An investigation by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) had been initiated by the DG;
  • PwC had issued a report into its forensic investigation in March 2019;
  • The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) in the Department had submitted its report to the Minister on 28 January 2020;
  • Clause 3.9 of the National Treasury Instruction Note on enhancing compliance monitoring and improving transparency and accountability in supply chain management (SCM) may have been contravened

It had been recommended that corrective action be taken against specific officials, as well as subordinate personnel involved in the failure to ensure proper management, and that the pricing schedules and specifications of the Modise, Skweyiya and Mandela funerals should be reviewed.

Following the Committee’s recommendation, the Minister had approached the Presidency concerning how to effect consequence management. On 17 March 2020, the President had delegated the power to implement disciplinary actions to the Minister. However, COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown restrictions had halted any further progress.

On 11 June, the Office of the State Attorney, together with the Minister, had appointed Cheadle Thompson & Haysom Inc as the legal advisory team. The team had since provided the Minister with preliminary charges received on 2 July. Unfortunately, the instructing attorney of the team had taken ill, but the Minister anticipated that the legal advice would be finalised during the course of July, and the Committee would be updated.

Earlier in the day, she had been informed by the ACU that a formal case had been filed against the service provider. She assured Members that they would be kept updated on all further developments.

Discussion

Mr A Lees (DA) said it was distressing that over a quarter of a million of people had been arrested for minor offences such as walking on the beach, yet the Department had been battling to file any charges related to this investigation for over two years. He expressed disappointment over the slow pace at which progress was being made in holding those who had looted millions from the state accountable.  He referred to similar cases, such as Steinhoff, VBS Mutual Bank and State Capture. He urged the Minister to take the lead, and to see to it that a resolution was reached. This was what South Africans deserve.

Mr Somyo said it was devastating that the state of affairs had continued. He expressed discomfort that the DG was present at the meeting and privy to discussions about the details of the investigations, despite being cited in the report for his alleged involvement in the wrong-doing.  At the same time, the Department was assuring Members that it was doing its level best to carry out disciplinary action. In his opinion, this was an anomaly and an individual allegedly involved in wrongdoing should not be allowed to sit in a meeting where such details were discussed. He asked if the DG was aware that he was implicated in the report. If so, why had he been allowed to attend the meeting?

Mr B Hadebe (ANC) suggested that it would be beneficial to get an immediate response from the DG, prior to allowing other Members to ask any further questions.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee proceed as usual through the questions, following which the Minister and DG would respond.

Ms B Van Minnen (DA) said there was a tendency for people to resign from the Department, only to appear later doing work as consultants contracted by the government. She asked if this link was being investigated as far as Crocia Events (Pty) Ltd, was concerned. If so, what had been discovered?

Mr M Dirks (ANC) asked for clarity on the procedural sequence of events leading up to the report being finalised and submitted to the Minister. As presented by the Chief Director, the investigation had been instituted by the DG. In his understanding, once completed, the report on the investigation should have gone back to the Department through the DG, prior to being submitted to the Minister. However, the presentation suggested otherwise, as there was no indication of the DG’s involvement. Where had the report gone once it was completed?

He said that in the past, the Committee had experienced issues with the appointment of attorneys, particularly a preference for Werksmans Attorneys. Members had stated that they did not want attorneys preferred by Ministers to be appointed for investigations. The appointment of attorneys had to be done procedurally. Therefore, what process had been followed in the appointment of Cheadle Thompson & Haysom Inc as the legal advisory team?

Ms S Tolashe (ANC) agreed with Mr Somyo that the presence of the DG was indeed problematic, given his alleged involvement in the mismanagement of the funerals. She acknowledged that the authority to institute disciplinary action against any DG lay with the President. She asked the Minister how far the process had gone since the Committee had recommended that she approach the Presidency.  

She raised concern about the DG’s involvement in the investigation, as he would essentially be investigating allegations against himself. If he was indeed leading the investigation, and was presumably involved in the appointment of a legal team, then the Committee was wasting time, as no credible outcome could be produced. In her opinion, the Committee might have to explore an alternative process to reach a reliable conclusion.

Ms V Mente (EFF) said it seemed as if the Committee was looking for answers in the wrong places. The initial report which Members had demanded from the DPWI had a particular name scratched out. After substantial discussion between Members and the DPWI, it had eventually been revealed by an employee that the name that had been scratched out was that of the DG. At the time, the DG had said he did not know where the report had come from. She asked the Minister to be clear about whom exactly was being investigated and whether or not the DG was in fact implicated, as suggested in the previous report.

The Chairperson assured Members that the meeting was not a waste of time, and that there was merit in all the questions raised by the Committee. The critical issue was indeed the manner in which the report had been processed. Secondly, a conclusion had been reached that the name scratched out in the previous report of 3 March was indeed the DG’s -- an unedited copy of the report could confirm this. He said the DG was not the only person cited in the report, as three other officials were cited. These were Mr Mazona (the Chief Director presenting), Mr Kgasoane and Ms Mabuela.

Although the DG had insisted he was unaware he had been cited, this did not negate the simple fact that he was. There was no dispute concerning the details of the report, but the procedure followed in processing it was questionable. He said if the DG was under investigation, and the process was already under way, why was he in the meeting?

Minister’s response

The Minister accepted the summary of questions, and said it was important to separate the process of the report from its substance. The Members were entitled to more knowledge on the sequence of events leading up to the processing of the report.

She said there was a distinct difference in the legislation on how to deal with disciplinary actions as far as a DG was involved, in comparison to other officials. She did not want to incriminate the DG, and for that reason she recommended that the Committee focus on the manner in which the report had been processed rather than its substance. She confirmed that the DG had indeed initiated the investigation and the report. She said the Deputy Director-General (DDG): Governance, Risk and Compliance would expand on the process followed.

The Minister said that she was unaware of any former Department employees who had resigned and then returned to work with the DPWI as consultants. However, she was open to investigating this matter.

She said that attorneys were appointed by the State Attorney, in consultation with Ministers. She assured Members that the legal advisory team had been appointed under normal procedures and that no malfeasance had occurred.

Disciplinary action against an accounting officer

According to the law, only the President had the authority to act against an accounting officer -- in this case, the DG. The Minister said she had reported to the President following receipt of the report. On 17 March 2020, the President had delegated his powers to the Minister to start the disciplinary process. This was not an unusual approach, and had been done at the President’s discretion.

The announcement of the lockdown and its subsequent extension had prevented progress. It was only after Level 4 restrictions that she had been able to engage with the State Attorney to appoint legal counsel. 

She said she respected the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), but also did not want to incriminate the DG. She asked the Committee to provide guidance on how they could together proceed in a manner that fulfilled her and the Department’s constitutional mandate to appear before the Committee while preserving the rights of the DG.  She invited the Deputy Director-General (DDG) to expand on the procedures followed in processing the report.

Mr Imtiaz Fazel, DDG: Governance, Risk and Compliance, DPWI, reported that concern about state funeral over-expenditure had first been raised on 1 August 2018 during a meeting between senior management and the former Minister, Thulas Nxesi. It had been agreed that there was a need for the DG and the DDG to commission an investigation into the matter. Subsequently, a month later, the DG had formalised the Minister’s request in a letter to the DGG, asking for a service provider to be found to do a cost analysis of the funerals that had taken place in 2018.  On 3 December 2018, PwC had been appointed to do the external review.

In 2019, the review had revealed that the DG had been a key player in approving approximately 85% of the invoices pertaining to the funerals.  A decision was made to engage the DG through a letter dated 5 March 2019. The letter contained lengthy clarity-seeking questions with respect to how he had approved invoices from service providers, particularly an ex gratia payment of approximately R7.8 million (15% of the total cost of the invoices).

On 12 March 2019, the DG had responded to only one of the questions he had been asked. Consequently, he was interviewed by the investigators on 14 March 2019 for further details. On 29 March 2019, PwC had finalised its investigation, which underwent a quality assurance process by the Department. The report was submitted to former Minister Nxesi on 10 April 2019. However, the Minister had been preoccupied with the forthcoming elections, and had told him he would have to engage with the incoming Minister.

In June 2019, Minister De Lille was briefed on the nature and findings of the investigation.

Mr Fazel emphasised that the reason he had engaged with both Ministers was because the DG had been implicated in the investigation for the role he had played in approving the majority of the invoices. For this reason, he saw it would have been inappropriate to include the DG in the discussions, given those findings.

Minister De Lille was formally presented with the report in July 2019, which she finally approved at the end of February 2020. 

Recommendations included pursuing disciplinary action against the five implicated officials, the recovery of at least R7.8 million for inflated costs, and possible criminal charges.  Since then the focus had been on the implementation of these recommendations.

Director General’s response

Adv Sam Vukela, DG: DPWI, said again that this was the first time he was hearing about the matter. He had also raised concern about the cost of the funeral several times.

He said that after receiving the invoices, particularly those for the Madikizela-Mandela funeral, he had written substantively on the invoices, detailing the reasoning behind his approval. The invoices had been beyond the threshold amount that could be approved by the Chief Director, therefore warranting his involvement. The invoices were also accompanied by a motivation and rationale as to why they were being presented to him. Following his approval, he had seen it fit to engage with the DDG, and had requested that a company be commissioned to do an investigation into the cost of the funerals, compared to what had been contractually approved.

He told Members that he had expected the DDG to return to him once the investigation was completed, but he had not. Following this, he had requested a report, but had been told by the DDG that the report was with the Minister. He had also emailed the DDG requesting the report, because he wanted to fulfill his responsibility of managing the process in accordance with Section 38 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).  Procedurally, the DG was supposed to receive a copy of the report, as he was the one who had commissioned the investigation. This was meant to be done, regardless of whether or not he had been implicated in the findings.  He did not have the authority to make any changes to the report, as this lay with those commissioned to undertake the investigation. All he could do was provide recommendations.

He formally requested that the Minister submit the report to him, as she had already approved it. He hoped the report did not have any issues, given that she had already approved it, having not commissioned it herself.  Procedurally, when one commissioned an investigation, one was also responsible for ensuring that the content of the report was aligned with what was initially requested. He was learning for the first time that powers to enforce disciplinary action had been delegated to the Minister.

He suggested that the House be used to formally present the report to him. However, he was not in a position to discuss the merits of the report. He reserved the right to receive and thereafter study the report before making any comments.

He said that as far as process was concerned, the report was faulty, but he would not expand on this as it was a legal issue.

He thanked Members for the opportunity, and said he would recuse himself from the proceedings if the merits of the report were going to be discussed.

Follow-up questions

Ms A Siwisa (EFF) said following the DDG’s presentation of the timeline of the investigation, she was fearful that subordinates would be casualties in the matter. She raised concern that the DG was requesting to see a report in which he was implicated. This demonstrated the deep-seated issues concerning monitoring and evaluation and accountability within the DPWI.

She said the Minister had also indicated that she had received other reports from National Treasury and the Auditor General which she had failed to present to the Committee. This was an issue that was becoming a norm at the DPWI. The Department had failed to submit certain documents, and had been found to give different answers to the various Committees. She asked if the Minister had approached the Office of the Presidency, and what response had been given pertaining to the DG. Were the five implicated officials still actively employed by the DPWI?  If so, what were the reasons for this? She asked the Minister to give definitive answers on how the Department planned on addressing its challenges.

Mr Hadebe said there were clearly serious procedural issues with regard to the report. Both presentations by the Chief Director and Minister had reinforced the fact that the PwC Investigation had been commissioned by the ACU after a request had been made by the office of the DG. In his understanding, whoever commissioned an investigation was entitled to be privy to the report which contained recommendations.

What he was seeing appeared to be an effort to incriminate someone without abiding by the laws of justice. According to Annexure A, the report was finalised by PwC in March 2019, but was submitted to the Minister by the ACU only in January 2020 -- ten months later. The dates provided by the DDG had not been included anywhere in the presentation.  He did not understand why it would take ten months for a report to be submitted, and asked what had happened to the report during this time. This was important, because there had been allegations of doctoring forensic reports to implicate certain individuals within the Department. Was the Minister aware of this, and had there been any investigations into the matter?

He did not understand how five officials were facing charges, yet the DG, who was also implicated, had faced zero consequence and said he was unaware of the allegations against him. The manner in which the issue had been handled was irrational, and showed a lack of procedural fairness. He asked why the Minister had not approached the DG to inform him about the details of the report. It would have been appropriate for her to do so and to advise the DG to recuse himself from being an accounting officer until a logical conclusion had been reached.

Mr Somyo said the main focus of the Committee was to drive and instill ethical conduct in its oversight. With this obligation in mind, he found discomfort in sitting at the meeting with the very individuals implicated in the report. This had an impact on the way that SCOPA conducted itself. Despite being implicated, the DG should have received the report, as this was procedural. The fact that the staff had escalated the matter to the Minister prior to making a submission to the DG was an issue. His fear was that the Committee would get involved in the internal fights of the Department. It was good that the Minister wanted to institute any necessary consequence management, but this should be done in a manner that was procedural and ethical.

Mr M Tshwaku (EFF) said the norm was that whenever any irregular expenditure was incurred, it was reported and reflected in the Auditor General’s findings. Therefore, was there an AG report? What were its own recommendations?  If there was a report, why had the AG not asserted its power by ensuring that corrective measures were made? Members were now being subjected to abuse, and had been caught in DPWI’s factional issues.  He echoed other Members, and said he was also surprised that the DG had not received the report and an opportunity to interrogate its findings.  

Mr Lees said there were very clear process issues that had occurred. He was surprised that the DG had not been more robust about getting the report. He asked for a copy of the report, particularly the terms of reference, and for an indication of how much the report had cost.

Ms Tolashe said that based on the discussion, she was reluctant for the Committee to reach a substantive conclusion. In her view, the DG was collecting all the facts about the flaws in the process, and could easily take these issues to his lawyers, which would make it difficult to impose any consequence management. It was unfair that for two years, the matter had unfolded without the DG being afforded the right to see the allegations against him. She suggested a joint meeting with the Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure, to develop a way forward.

She was concerned that officials who reported directly to the DG had not given him the report. This exposed both the DPWI and the Committee.

Chairperson’s comments

The Chairperson said the very issues being discussed had been teased out in March. At that time, the DG had given the same response of not being aware of the allegations. He said the Committee would not get into the merits and demerits of the report, but rather the report had to be processed and any arising issues would be tested in the courts. By doing so, SCOPA would avoid entering the territory of making judgment calls. He urged Members to not lose sight of the issue at hand, which was the payment of millions of rands which had been contractually non-compliant. 

The Committee was as concerned as the Department about the exorbitant costs of the funerals. Public outcry also compelled the Committee to act. Going forward, the DG’s rights would be exercised, and if he had a case to make -- that he was essentially bypassed -- he would do so when the time came. The Committee should not stop the processing of the report, or discuss its merits. 

He emphasised that it did not sit well with the Committee that the DG had not been furnished with the report. However, the DG had been made aware that he was implicated in the report in the previous engagement held in March. He was aware that there had been correspondence between the DPWI and the Presidency regarding the case.  He reminded Members that the allegations included other officials of the Department who had been present at the last meeting. At the core of the issue, R75 million had been spent on three funerals, and this was what the Committee needed to interrogate.

He told the Minister that there were serious allegations that those involved in the company contracted for the funerals were former employees of the DPWI.  

He was certain that the DG was competent and would be able to defend himself, as he had already indicated he would raise certain issues. He clarified that SCOPA’s intent was not to incriminate the DG, but rather to ensure that due diligence in a transparent process that did not infringe on anyone’s rights.

The mere fact that the DG’s name had been scratched out in the report was an indication of the lack of integrity in the process.

He agreed with Mr Lees’s request for the Department to provide the terms of reference and costs associated with the investigation completed by PwC.

As the Minister had said, charges were currently being drafted, and once completed, the DG would have the opportunity to answer to those that pertained to him.  The issues brought up by Members were all valid and indicated a desire to see things done procedurally, from inception through to their logical conclusion.

What was being disputed was the process followed, and the procedural integrity. Therefore, the DG’s presence in the meeting was not a concern of the Committee. If any issues arose concerning why the DG was still performing his duties as an accounting officer, these would be for the Minister to answer to.

He reminded Members that in the previous engagement in March, the DDG had indicated that he felt he would be calling out his immediate supervisor, which was why the DG’s name had been scratched out.

Moving forward, the Committee expected regular updates on progress towards disciplinary action, as well as an explanation from the Presidency detailing why the authority to effect disciplinary action against the DG had been delegated to the Minister. He said that delegation did not mean responsibility was abdicated.

The Committee should bear in mind that the DPWI was wrought with many challenges, such as the Beitbridge border fence, which it still had to account for. This was another area that the DG would have to answer to, as it had happened under his watch.  He asked the Minister to furnish the DG with the report by the end of the week.

Mr Somyo requested a full detailed report on the investigations. He recalled Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s question -- where had Parliament been when allegations of state capture were happening? He urged the Committee to perform its due diligence to ensure it was not asked the same questions regarding the issue of state funerals.

Minister’s response

The Minister agreed that there were certainly issues of process, and accepted the summary of the Chairperson.  However, the Committee should be aware of the separation of accountability and responsibility within the Department, the DG and herself.

She said she had received a report from the AG which she had made available to the Committee. She had also apologised to the Chairperson for submitting the report late. In this report, the AG had recommended that the management of the DPWI should pursue an investigation, to which they had agreed, and the investigation had been launched.

She said the DDG was supposed to have given the report to the DG, and not to the Minister. Her responsibility was to escalate the matter to be dealt with by the Presidency. She clarified that she had not refused to give the report to the DG. She was committed to respecting the rights of the DG and allowing due process to unfold. By law, the DG must be given the right to respond to the allegations.

She reiterated that it would be wrong to say the Minister had not given the report to the DG.

Mr Dirks raised a point of order, and said the Minister’s response did not help the situation and in fact, exposed serious factions within the Department. Saying the responsibility lay with the DDG created further division. He was vehement that he would not be ready to discuss the merits of the report until the procedural flaws within DPWI were addressed.

Mr Somyo said in his opinion, the Chairperson had summarised what needed to happen, and that the Minister was contradicting what had already been agreed on. SCOPA was not a disciplinary committee, and had no interest in that. The Committee had already received the AG’s report, which had prompted it to further investigate the funeral cases. The Minister was on record that the investigation had been commissioned by the DG, so why had she not ensured sure that he had received it?

The Minister clarified that she had said she accepted the Chairperson’s conclusion, which included the directive to make sure that the DG received the report. She had not refused to follow the Chairperson’s recommendation. She was responding to a previous question posed by another Member, implying that it was the responsibility of the Minister to make sure the DG received the report.  She accepted the Chairperson’s recommendation, and assured Members that she would make sure the DG was given the report. She committed to providing the Committee with a progress report.

Closing Remarks

The Chairperson reiterated that the principle concern was the R76 million spent on the funerals. The DG should receive the report by Friday, and provide a progress report. The Committee would still interrogate the issue in its entirety. 

Mr Hadebe said he respected the ruling of the Chairperson, and the manner in which the Committee had conducted itself so far. However, he was dissatisfied with how things had unfolded during this meeting. He was disappointed that the Chairperson had taken almost an hour summarizing, instead of giving MPs the opportunity to get responses to the questions they had asked. Members were there in their own right and not as support, and therefore deserved to have their questions addressed.

Mr Tshwaku interjected, and said that the meeting had been “a one man show.”

The Chairperson responded that he had not taken an hour summarizing, and that he took offence at the statement that the meeting had been a one man show.

Mr Hadebe insisted that it had been an hour, as he had monitored the time. In future, the Chairperson should provide an agenda detailing what the relevant and irrelevant questions were, so as not to waste time.

The Chairperson insisted that he had asked Members if they were okay with how the meeting was proceeding, as this was what he always did. He was surprised by Mr Hadebe’s and Mr Tshwaku’s sentiments. His primary aim was to ensure that the Committee did not set itself on the track of litigation, which was why he had suggested the SCOPA met independently to formulate its own recommendations.

Mr Hadebe said he accepted the Chairperson’s ruling, but felt it would have been inappropriate not to express his dissatisfaction. He had been impressed with how meetings had been conducted in a fair manner since the beginning of the term, but he was not satisfied with what had occurred in this meeting.

The Chairperson responded that the Committee would discuss the matter and reflect on how the meeting had gone to ensure that any necessary improvements that needed to be made, were made. He continued to emphasise that the meeting was intended to be a discussion on the processes adopted in addressing the funeral case investigation. It was his responsibility to ensure that Members remained on course when he felt that the Committee was engaging in issues that were not within its purview. This compromised Parliament.

He did not undermine any of the Members, nor did he intend to take away anyone’s rights. However, he would not accept allegations that the meeting was a one man show. Mr Dirks had raised a point of order while the Minister was talking, and he had responded duly to his request. It was inappropriate for an MP who was not part of SCOPA to attend one meeting and comment on the substantive work the Committee had been doing for a year. He urged Members to reflect on that as well.  His role did not mean he should be subjected to attacks.

Mr Tshwaku responded that he had asked questions to which he had not received answers. He urged the Chairperson not to be emotional.

The Chairperson said Mr Tshwaku’s allegations were uncharacteristic of the Committee, and said Members would discuss a way forward regarding Members from other committees.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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