Parliament, Monday, 13 February 2023 – The Committee for Section 194 Enquiry into Public Protector (PP) Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office had to cut short its hearings earlier today due to her legal team having only been paid approximately 70% of their fees, with the balance under scrutiny by the PPSA.

The committee received correspondence from Adv Mkhwebane just minutes before the start of this morning’s meeting noting that some of the invoices by her legal team, dated between October and December 2023, had not been paid by the Office of the PP South Africa (PPSA). Adv Mkhwebane informed the Committee that these invoices had been submitted on 6 December 2023, and that previous invoices rendered in July had only been paid in October.

Committee Chairperson, Mr Qubudile Dyantyi told the committee the PP made him aware of the non-payment in January and he committed to follow it up with the PPSA, keeping in mind that “this committee does not have an oversight mandate over the PPSA but realizing that the situation can impact on the work of this committee. We received a response from the PPSA early in February indicating that some payments were made but that certain invoices were being verified.”

Parliament Legal Adviser, Ms Fatima Ebrahim, told the committee that the PPSA had paid 33% on Thursday and a second tranche on Friday bringing the total amount paid to 74% of the amount invoiced.

According to her the outstanding balance is in dispute and the PPSA is currently verifying those invoices in terms of their financial prescripts. The proof of payments was shared with Ms. Ebrahim.

Adv Mkhwebane attended today’s meeting at Parliament without legal representation accompanying her, though it was noted that Adv Mpofu, SC and a representative of Seanego Inc was on the virtual platform, Adv Mkhwebane said the disputed amount relates to about 10% of the invoices. She can therefore not understand why the undisputed 90% of the invoices had not been paid to date. She repeatedly stated the non-availability of her legal team until fees have been paid. According to her payment had not yet been received by the legal team.

The committee also heard that the PP’s legal team had challenges contacting the subpoenaed witness, Ms Bianca Mvuyana, an investigator at the PPSA. Mvuyana told the committee she was contacted on Tuesday by the legal team but did not accept the call. She indicated her availability on Thursday last week for a consultation. The committee further heard that at the start of the process, when the list of witnesses the PP intended to call became public, she indicated that she was available to the PP’s legal team. She later withdrew as a voluntary witness for personal reasons.

On Friday, the former deputy Public Protector Adv Kevin Malunga will appear before the committee. On Wednesday and Thursday, Ms Mvuyana will testify. Mr Dyantyi said he requested Adv Mkhwebane’s team to use the rest of the day and tomorrow to prepare with Ms Mvuyana so that they are in a position to proceed now that the team has been paid a substantial amount of the fees invoiced.

Adv Mkhwebane however repeated that her legal team will not consult with Ms Mvuyana until they are paid in full. “The legal representation is a constitutional right, conferred by the Constitutional Court. I'm just raising to you how serious this is because they should be paid before they can even consult with Miss Bianca (Mvuyana).”

Mr Dyantyi said in closing that the committee will not change the rules of the payment procedures, which is not in their mandate. However, he will use the afternoon to follow up on commitments made by PPSA. The hearings will resume on Wednesday with testimony expected by Ms Mvuyana. The committee was established by the National Assembly on 16 March 2021 to conduct a constitutional inquiry into the Public Protector’s fitness to hold office. Committee documents can be found at Committee for Section 194 Enquiry - Parliament of South Africa


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