Mark Steele, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on SCOPA
The SCOPA resolutions presented for adoption by the House today contain a common concern, which is to assert the authority of the Legislature in matters of oversight of public finances. It is unacceptable to SCOPA and to the members of this House that information pertaining to completed forensic investigations cannot be shared in full with the relevant portfolio committee.
SAPS have conducted investigations into a number of Health Department contracts, yet have not reported fully either to the department itself or to SCOPA. It is worrying that one of the companies included in this investigation is also part of the disputed oncology maintenance contract at Addington, which has seen patients going without cancer-related chemotherapy for a number of months because of the department’s decision to unilaterally to suspend payments.
Oversight demands proper information. The reluctance to provide full and proper reporting speaks to a culture of hiding away from proper accountability.
The resolutions on Ezemvelo all speak to the concerns that Scopa has – that the Board of this entity is not maximising its comparative business advantage and thereby failing to generate the profits it should be achieving.
The Education resolution concerns the need to avoid wasteful expenditure and the responsibility of the DOE’s accounting officer to collect all monies owing to the department, in this case on state houses illegally occupied by officials of the department.
All of these resolutions are good and necessary if this Legislature is to perform the kind of oversight function envisaged by the Constitution.
Unfortunately the credibility and authority of these resolutions depends on factors outside the control of this House. The issue in governance as the AGSA never ceases to remind us is the ‘tone at the top’. When it comes to accountability, the tone set by the leadership of our government is a complete disaster. Credibility of government means taking political responsibility for governmental failings and not seeking to find convenient scapegoats in the ranks of politically expendable officials.
Unfortunately our colleagues in the ANC do not understand the yawning gap of credibility that is opening between what they say and what they do – between what they say in oversight resolutions, such as these of SCOPA, and the complete failure to take political responsibility for scandals such as presidential palace expenditure at Nkandla, the commandeering of a strategic military base for the purpose of the private pleasures of a rich and influential family who just happen to be cronies of the ANC leadership. As the executive director of Corruption Watch put it, the root of the Guptagate scandal is not just that a private plane full of foreign civilians landed at a national military facility. It is ‘the starkly inappropriate relationships between senior people in public life and elements of the business community’.
To restore credibility is to stop trying to protect – at all costs – senior ANC politicians from ever having to take responsibility for their actions. Sadly the more ministers produce white-wash reports the less the media, the citizens of this country or the opposition parties believe the excuses that are on offer. Oversight fundamentally means acknowledging the truth, and the truth in Nkandla as in Guptagate is that senior ministers and perhaps even the presidency must have known exactly what was going on, but as in the words of one of the implicated officials, were ‘challenged’ when it came to putting anything in writing.
SCOPA is not ‘challenged’ when it comes to putting resolutions before this House, but the credibility of our resolutions depends on the wider culture of accountability which has suffered so grievously in recent days and months.