KwaZulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: Thursday, 24 February 2011
The report on SCOPA’s interaction with the
law enforcement agencies is one of the most damning this House has
ever been asked to debate. There appears to be a breakdown in
communication between the government and the law enforcement
agencies, which leads to inordinate delays in investigations. These
delays also affect our access as a Legislature to forensic and other
reports from government departments.
The lack of access of this House to reports
on investigations into fraud and corruption in government is
preventing this institution from fulfilling its constitutional
mandate. With our limited legislative mandate as a provincial
Legislature, oversight is our main job and it is truly embarrassing
to talk about clean governance when we have so little to show for it
in practice. This does not reflect well on this particular
Legislature, particularly when the release of forensic and other
reports to committees which initiated them in the first place is
common practice in most other legislatures in this country.
Despite renewed commitment by the Hon.
Premier to expediting disciplinary action against offending
officials and the appointment of a former Judge President to oversee
this, the initiative in the fight against corruption now rests with
the Legislature, and specifically SCOPA, rather than the Executive.
SCOPA has embarked on a close co-operation with the law enforcement
agencies and its upcoming recommendations, if implemented, have the
potential to overcome at least some of the challenges the government
has so far ignored or even compounded.
Our interaction with the law enforcement
agencies has so far been revealing. On the one hand, we have
government departments claiming that the inordinate delays in the
publication of reports stem from tardiness of investigators. On the
other hand, the law enforcement agencies allege that the very same
delays are due to the lack of cooperation on the part of government
departments. It is therefore vital to include both parties in
specific SCOPA hearings to get to the bottom of these allegations.
We also appreciate the recognition of these
challenges from at least some Members of the Executive Council.
There is generally more openness among the MECs about investigations
into fraud and corruption in their departments today than before and
I specifically wish to acknowledge the efforts of the MEC for
Finance who has held several briefings with the relevant
parliamentary committees and given them several progress reports in
Our interaction with the law enforcement
agencies may be trail-blazing in its intent but we have yet to see
if we are ever going to interrogate some of the most notorious and
politically sensitive investigations in this province. Firstly,
there is a proposal that an ANC-chaired and ANC-controlled SCOPA
considers motivation by the law enforcement agencies why release of
sensitive information may harm investigations. Secondly, there is
the provision for in-camera hearings in our parliamentary rules that
is open to manipulation.
I have no doubt that Members will respect
the rules of engagement provided in-camera hearings do not become
standard treatment for all investigations. This would effectively
frustrate public scrutiny. There are already signs of this in the
latest set of resolutions where seven outstanding reports on
investigations in the Department of Agriculture are to be held
One important observation that came from the
workshop is that criminal, disciplinary and civil proceedings, which
may arise from the findings of a forensic or other investigation,
can run simultaneously. We hope that this will put an end to
practices where government employees who have been implicated in
corruption in a forensic investigation have not only continued to
work in the department but have actually been promoted as was the
recent infamous case ??? griculture. The ultimate test in tackling
corruption within departments even before criminal action commences
is the political will to do so. No amount of interaction with the
law enforcement agencies can make up for the lack of political will
in the Executive.
Considering the pressure from the joint
committees of Finance and SCOPA to expedite disciplinary hearings,
this House needs to ask if the Office of the Premier and Treasury
have the capacity to implement the provisions that deal with
disciplinary action in departments and if they currently do not, we
need to be sure that the upcoming budget will make the necessary
allocations in this regard.
One last comment about the resolutions
relating to the specific departments. Incidentally, the delayed
hearings with Agriculture, Social Development and Public Works have
produced resolutions on some of the most troublesome government
departments whose political heads are facing calls for resignation,
not least from the Leader of the Official Opposition.
I would not ordinarily look for quotes in
the ANC Youth League, but I could not resist one that labelled the
MECs for Agriculture, Social Development and Public Works as dead
wood and called for their redeployment. We have yet to see to what
extent the outstanding reports from these departments due to be
tabled in SCOPA corroborate this assessment.
I thank you.
078 302 0929