‘Stalingrad secrecy’: Scopa’s presidency as SSA skips SOE review meeting

Mkhuleko Hlengwa, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

  • Mkhuleko Hlengwa, chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), said the State Security Agency (SSA) said it would not be accountable to the committee.
  • The SSA was supposed to brief Scopa on the challenges of vetting officials from state-owned entities, but the agency said they would brief the Intelligence Committee in a closed meeting.
  • Committee members strongly condemned the SSA for rejecting Scopa’s invitation at the last minute because it was already on the public record.
  • For more financial news, please visit News24 Business Front Page.

Members of parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) boil over after the National Security Agency (SAA) refused to inform it at the 11th hour about its scrutiny of state officials, fueling suspicions about what was being kept secret.

The SSA will update Scopa on Wednesday morning on the progress of the 2014 Cabinet Directive, which requires officials from state agencies, particularly supply chain management, to be scrutinized.

The SSA was relocated to the presidential palace last year after intelligence weaknesses hampered the agency’s ability to detect or respond to the July unrest that rocked KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last year.

As an example of the poor state of general background checks at state agencies, Scopa learned from an Eskom delegation in October that about 14 percent of power company employees had undeclared interests in doing business with the state.

read | Treasury angers Scopa over annual report delays and standoff with AG

Due to the late start of the meeting, Scopa chairman Mkhuleko Hlengwa explained that he was notified by the SSA on Tuesday that they would only brief the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence in a closed meeting about the scrutiny of state officials. The SSA told Hlengwa they had legal advice to back this up.

Hlengwa said the SSA sent parliamentary legal papers and asked the SSA to provide Scopa with legal advice they had refused to come to Scopa in the past.

“I want to really, really reiterate that we didn’t look into their finances. I don’t think they understood what we were saying. But that’s where we are. Based on this letter, our impression is that [deputy minister in the Presidency Zizi Kodwa] It will come, the developments in the last 12 to 14 hours, the letters are withdrawn, we have these developments,” Hlengwa said.

Hlengwa said the SSA’s level of “Stalingrad secrecy” would set “a very dangerous precedent” if it were allowed without consequences. He said the condemnation of the SSA’s actions had to go hand in hand with the process of ensuring that the information Scopa wanted was received.

“We can’t let uncensored people continue to manage billions and billions of rands in these spaces and they haven’t been vetted,” Hlengwa said.

read | AG asks Mboweni’s Treasury for ‘futile spending’

DA MP Alf Lees said the presidency was reprehensible because it allowed the SSA to avoid being accountable to Scopa, including the office of Presidency Minister Mondli Gungubele. Lees said “there seem to be other reasons for this rejection” to explain Scopa.

“Given my history of legal advice in Parliament over the past 14 years, I don’t believe we will get legal advice in my favour. From time to time we receive advice that I think is correct, they are opinions, not decisions,” Lees Say.

Lees said this was not the first time the SSA had blocked Scopa, with the agency showing no responsibility for its own finances and what was already in the public domain.

AMP MP Sakhumzi Somyo said the need for the entire meeting was the failure of the vetting process by government entities, a longstanding challenge for more than a decade.

“[Former] minister [of Intelligence Ayanda] Dlodlo attended our meeting as the Minister of the Department, dedicated to the same review matters. She recounted the challenges they faced with these issues at the time. For that matter, I really don’t see this thing saying they’re not accountable to us,” Somyo said.

Hlengwa said Scopa would seek legal advice from Parliament’s Legal Services Department on the SSA’s communications, which the committee would consider next week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *