Scopa takes President Ramaphosa to task for a voice leak…

Parliament’s powerful Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) decided on Tuesday evening to write to President Cyril Ramaphosa and ask him to explain in writing, within seven to ten working days, the statements he made in an incomplete document leaked voice recording of a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) which seem to indicate that he knew that public money was being used for the ANC campaign before the party’s Nasrec conference in 2017.

“We have a duty to look into matters that have a direct impact on public funds, knowing that it is by accident or coincidence that we come across information or clues,” said Scopa Chairman Mkhuleko Hlengwa .

“I fundamentally believe that the president owes this committee, the government and the citizens an explanation and to trust the country on what they know and don’t know. This clip fits on the president’s desk. It would be a dereliction of duty if we did not hold the executive, including the president, accountable.

“Others can play politics in parliament, we have to rise above that. Citizen number one has information we need to push back the frontiers of corruption.

Hlengwa said the parliament’s legal services would draft the letter to the president and that it would reach him by Thursday.

Letters would also be sent to the Public Protector, who has been tasked with investigating the case by former Scopa member Mervyn Dirks, as well as the Auditor General and the State Security Agency. (SSA). The latter because it was allegedly that department’s money that was used by the ANC for the elective conference, and the former because the Attorney General did not appear to have picked up on the anomaly during SSA audits.

Hlengwa said it would be made clear to the chairman by correspondence that Scopa “reserves its rights to invite him and other relevant parties” to provide an explanation to the committee once he receives his response.

It was ANC MP Dirks who wrote to Hlengwa on December 22 asking that Ramaphosa be called to account for his statements. Dirks, known to have been a supporter of former President Jacob Zuma and the ruling party’s RET faction, was subsequently removed from his post at Scopa by ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina.

Tuesday night’s virtual meeting lasted more than two hours, with Dirks being the first to introduce to his fellow former Scopa members. With a South African flag projecting in the background of his feed during the meeting, Dirks said his approach to Scopa should not be seen as a betrayal of the ANC or its leadership.

He said Ramaphosa had the opportunity when he testified before the State Capture Commission to clearly state the use of public funds for political party activities, but failed to do so.

“We cannot beat around the bush when it comes to the use of public funds for party business, it is a crime. It is also a crime for anyone who knows about it not to report it to the authorities. The president goes even further in the clip to make his criminal conduct seem virtuous by saying he will fall on his sword.

“The President had a unique opportunity when he appeared before [the State Capture Commission] to point this out. This deliberate act of criminal omission casts a cloud over the State Capture Commission.

The president would have been aware that the misuse of public funds was a serious breach of the code of ethics, according to Dirks, which is why he approached the Québec Ombudsman, who has the mandate to handle such matters. He said he would also send a letter to Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo – who chaired the State Capture Commission – about it.

Lawyer Fatima Ebrahim, in her draft at Scopa on the legal elements of the case, said Dirks’ letter was only based on a leaked part of the audio clip, which did not provide context to the case. discussion. “Nevertheless, it implies that public money was used in the run-up to the Nasrec conference to [the ANC], and it was channeled from the SSA, which is audited by the AG.

If public funds, not authorized under the Public Financial Management Act, had been used, Ebrahim continued, questions to ask included whether the expenditures were recorded in the financial statements, whether the expenditures were noticed by the ‘AG, and if not, why not. Scopa needed to know the entities involved and then could hold individuals to account, she said.

In the audio clip, the president hinted at contracts, she said, and those should be probed.

Scopa’s concentration should be limited, Ebrahim said. It was not for the committee to review the president’s conduct and whether he had provided information to the state capture commission.

Ramaphosa should be asked to appear before Scopa, she said, and a summons would only be issued as a “last resort” if he did not want to.

Hlengwa told members of his committee that he was “somewhat” surprised when on Monday he received a request from the SSA asking for documentation of Tuesday’s meeting so that agency officials could to prepare”.

“We’re not there yet,” he said. If the SSA representatives listened to Tuesday’s meeting – open to the public – “it was only to listen to what was discussed. The committee must conclude on a logical continuation [on how to take the matter forward before getting to the stage of supplying documents],” he said.

There has been speculation that the tingle of Dirks’ conscience coincides with an ANC election year and may be an attempt to disparage the findings of the state capture commission, which have so far implicated Zuma and various acolytes in acts of alleged criminal conduct. But there also appears to be widespread support within the public, parliament and the ANC for Ramaphosa to come forward with what he knows about the criminal use of public funds for party business and be held accountable.

In his submission on Tuesday evening, DA Scopa member Alf Lees said of the leaked audio: ‘Let me say that if I were President Cyril Ramaphosa I would think he would volunteer to deal with this case in a transparent and open manner and that he would be willing to come and come to this committee and say these are the facts, to make sure that the presidency is not stained with the same brush of corruption that besmirches so many people who have been tainted and who are still in Parliament and who have not been called to this committee.

Lees said he was not in favor of asking for answers from Ramaphosa in writing, because in his experience these were rarely adequate.

“I don’t know a single member of the government who answered my questions fully and transparently. This got worse during the sixth legislature.

Nokuzola Tolashe (ANC) praised Dirks for taking the matter to committee, but warned that Scopa should not be “emotional” about it.

“We must not take shortcuts, we must not be emotional or vindictive, we must face the facts and give ourselves time. We are not a court and should not give that impression.

Another ANC Scopa member, Sakhumzi Somyo, said the procedure had to be followed “and we had to stick to it”.

“We cannot circumvent [procedure] because he’s the president. Equality at all times must be expressed and practiced. We have to stick to the known procedure. DM

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