ATC170906: Report of the Joint Committee on Ethics and Member’s Interests on the alleged Contravention, by Hon. B Mbete, Of Clauses 4.1.3 And 4.1.5 of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests, Dated 06 September 2017
REPORT OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON ETHICS AND MEMBER’S INTERESTS ON THE ALLEGED CONTRAVENTION, BY HON. B MBETE, OF CLAUSES 4.1.3 AND 4.1.5 OF THE CODE OF ETHICAL CONDUCT AND DISCLOSURE OF MEMBERS’ INTERESTS, DATED 06 SEPTEMBER 2017.
The Office of the Registrar of Members’ Interest received a complaint from Mr John Steenhuisen, MP (the “Complainant”) against Madam Speaker. Copy of the complaint together with annexure was attached for ease of reference.
In summary the Complainant alleged that on 9 February 2017 Madam Speaker, in her personal capacity, hosted the “Speaker’s Ball” at Rotunda, Bay Hotel in Camps Bay following the State of the Nation Address. To ensure the success of the event, services of different service providers were enlisted by and/or on behalf of Madam Speaker. At the time of complaining, it was alleged that some of these service providers remained unpaid and had allegedly started instituting legal proceedings against Madam Speaker for non-payment of services rendered.
The Complainant alleged that, in view of the above-alleged conduct, Madam Speaker firstly, contravened clause 4.1.3 of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests (the Code) which requires Members of Parliament in all occasions to act in accordance with the public trust placed in them. Secondly, Madam Speaker allegedly contravened clause 4.1.5 of the Code, which requires Members of Parliament to maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity of Parliament, thereby engendering the respect and confidence in Parliament.
RESPONSE BY MADAM B MBETE, SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASEMBLY
Madam Speaker responded as follows:
On 9 February 2017, a function billed the Annual Speaker’s Ball was hosted at the Rotunda, Bay Hotel, in Camps Bay, following the State of the Nation Address. This was the second year that this event was held in exactly the same format and there were no complaints or allegations of a breach of the Code or Rules, previously.
The organisers hosted the event in celebration and acknowledgement of the leadership of women in society, including herself as Speaker. The event was privately organised by Ms. Nonkululeko Kgositsile (the main organiser) and it was funded or resourced through private funding. The organisers contracted with Novice, an Events Company, to organise and manage the event on behalf of the main organiser.
This function was not initiated, hosted, organised, funded or resourced by Parliament or the Office of the Speaker.
Madam Speaker did not, in any capacity:
- act as initiator, organiser or host of the Annual Speaker’s Ball, nor did the organisers act on her behalf in organising or hosting the event;
- fund or resource, or facilitate funding or resources, or obtained funding or resources from private donor funders, for this event, not did anyone do so on her behalf; or
- enter into any verbal or written agreement or undertaking or acknowledgement of debt concluded in relation to the event, nor did anyone do so on her behalf. Consequently, at no stage did she, in any capacity whatsoever, become liable for any expenses incurred in relation to the event.
In summary, it was an event organised privately by the main organiser and she was informed private donors funded it, with guests being Members of Parliament and persons from civil society. For the avoidance of any doubt, Madam Speaker categorically state that she did not enter into any contractual relationship in contemplation of the event and at no stage did she become liable for any expenses arising from the event.
A few days after the event, she became aware that Novice had not been paid what was owed them by the organisers. She was further made aware that as a consequence, Novice could not pay the service providers it had entered into contracts with. She thereupon made enquiries with the main organiser of the event and facilitated engagements between the main organiser of the event and Novice to speedily and amicably resolve the matter.
At all times, after the event, she only acted in a supporting role to the main organiser to assist her in resolving the matter by the speedy payment of the money owed.
She was informed that the money due to the service providers was paid to Novice.
In the following paragraphs, Madam Speaker answered the allegations made against her.
B. ALLEGED BREACH OF CLAUSES 4.1.3 AND 4.1.5 OF THE CODE
- Clause 4.1.3 provides that Members must act on all occasions in accordance with the trust placed in them. Clause 4.1.5 provides that members should maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity of Parliament and thereby engender the respect and confidence that society needs to have in Parliament as a representative institution.
- Her understanding of Mr. Steenhuisen’s complaint against her, is that she, in her personal capacity (or someone else on her behalf), concluded an agreement with the Events Company, Novice, to organise the Annual Speaker’s Ball on her behalf and that she only paid them the monies owed late, and that this constitutes a breach of clauses 4.1.3 and 4.1.5 of the Code.
- Even if this version of Mr. Steenhuisen is correct (which she strenuously and strongly deny above for reasons stated herein), Madam Speaker strongly disagree that the late payment of any private debt of a Member of Parliament could and should constitute a breach of clauses 4.1.3 and 4.1.5 of the Code. As broad as the wording of clause 4.1 is, at no stage did Parliament agree through the inclusion of clause 4.1.3 and 4.1.5 that private debts Members of Parliament not paid timeously are included as a breach of the Code,. This was never the purpose for which Parliament created the Ethics Code. Such an approach would lead to the absurd precedent that members would have to be brought before the Committee for breaching of the Code in each instance in respect of which, there is a complaint against a member that a private debt payment by that Member is not done timeously. Parliament’s Ethics Committee will become a debt collector, having to deal with each complaint of a debtor who alleges that a Member of Parliament is not timeous with a repayment, as a breach of the Code.
- She submit that even the INCORRECT VERSION of Mr. Steenhuisen should and could never amount to a breach of the Code and that should end the enquiry. She voluntarily decided to place her correct version of events before the Committee.
- As Speaker and the political head of the National Assembly, she is mindful of her responsibility to act in the best interest of the institution. In this regard, she confirmed her obligation indeed to act in accordance with the public trust placed in her. As indicated above, the Office of the Speaker never organised or funded this function. She, in her private capacity, was not involved in the organising or hosting, including the funding, of the event. Accordingly, she therefore, did not in any capacity, play a role in organising this event.
- She was not a party to any verbal or written agreement or undertaking or acknowledgement of debt concluded in relation to the event and nobody did so on her behalf. At no stage, did she become liable for any expenses whatsoever incurred in relation to the event. The event was never organised by or held in the name of the Speaker, as alleged in paragraph 4.1 of Mr.Steenhuisen’s affidavit. It was merely an occasion organised privately for women leaders to be acknowledge by civil society, using the occasion of the State of the Nation Address.
- When she became aware that there were challenges with regard to the payment of the service providers, mindful of the impact that this might have on the financial survival of the affected individuals, all she did was to assist the main organiser in resolving the matter as expeditiously as possible. She accordingly took it upon herself to ensure that those who had organised the event adhered to the agreements concluded, through facilitating engagements between the affected parties.
- She find it rather far-fetched and irresponsible to suggest that when a problem arises between two private individuals because of the late payment of a debt, there should be a suggestion that the Speaker has brought the institution into disrepute, thereby destroying public confidence and respect in the institution. On the contrary, she believe that the interventions she made were consistent with her role as a leader.
C. ALLEGED BREACH OF CLAUSE 2.4.6 AND RULE 26 OF THE NATIONAL
Therefore, she submit and do not believe that:
- Even on Mr. Steenhuisen’s version (which is incorrect), the late payment of a personal debt by a Member of Parliament could and should amount to a breach of Clauses 4.1.3 and 4.1.5 or any other clause of the Code or Rules; and
- For the reasons given above, that she betrayed the public trust and that she is in breach of the Code; instead, she ensured that what was otherwise a good gesture by well-meaning people was not marred by an unfortunate incident of late payment of a debt.
In light of the above and in accordance with clause10.4.1 of the Code, the Joint Committee is of the view that the complaint has no merit and as such the matter is considered finalised.
No related documents