The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), has received a joint update today from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks on cases referred to them by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU).

The committee expected to be briefed by the Acting Minister in the Presidency on the progress regarding the disciplinary action of the suspended Director-General (DG) of the Department of Public Works on the Beitbridge matter, as well as the processing of reports submitted by the SIU to the Presidency as the recipient of the report. 

The committee heard that the Acting Minister in the Presidency, Ms Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has tendered an apology on behalf of the Presidency. Furthermore, the committee heard that the report on the Digital Vibes contract which the SIU was supposed to present to the committee, is still being processed by the President and therefore not ready to be presented to the committee.

Regarding the matter of the Department of Public Works’ DG which the Presidency was also supposed to update the committee about, the committee heard that the DG brought a dispute in the bargaining council challenging his suspension. This is set down for 7 and 8 July 2021. 

The committee expressed its disappointment with the apology regarding the absence of the Presidency to present the requested update on SIU reports and the fact that the Presidency, which was invited by the committe  on 24 June, tendered its apology not to attend the meeting on the eve of the meeting.

The Chairperson of the committee, Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa, told the managers of the NPA and Hawks that the committee was accepting a joint update on the matters to the committee for the last time. He said the entities should update the committee individually as they were individually requested.

The entities told the committee that some of the information in their reports may compromise the investigations that are still under way as suspects always look for any information to strengthen their strategies to demonstrate their innocence.

The entities asked the committee to allow them not to include such information. The committee noted that, and conceded to that request. The Deputy Minister of Police, Mr Cassel Mathale, told the committee that they are going to write to the Speaker of the National Assembly to highlight the problem of the potential of compromising the investigations in the reports that they submit and present to the different parliamentary committees as some of the suspects are Members of Parliament. He also said there should be a realistic time frame within which to report to Parliament.

On the issue of capacity constraints at the NPA, the committee has asked the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Shamila Batohi, to present a picture of the available resources and what is needed. Adv Batohi told the committee that she will submit a written presentation of that, which will indicate the number of available prosecutors and how many are needed.

The committee told the entities that it wants to see cases moving and to ensure that the drive is not confined to departmental disciplinary cases. It said it wants to manage its expectations within the available budget and ensure that the frontiers of corruption are pushed back. It thanked the entities and told them that their joint update takes it in confidence that there is something happening. It called for heightened cooperation between all the role players.

By Mava Lukani

6 July 2021