MPs probed for misconduct

Parliament has launched a preliminary investigation into three senior MPs, including a Cabinet minister, based on allegations of misconduct reported in the media.

Parliament’s ethics oversight committee has written to International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and the chairpersons of two of Parliament’s oversight committees—Thaba Mufamadi of finance and transport’s Ruth Bhengu—asking them to explain allegations of ethical misconduct against them.

On Wednesday Fazela Mahomed, registrar of members’ interests, told a meeting of the joint standing committee on ethics and members’ interests that the three ANC MPs had been asked to respond to allegations reported in the media.

Once they had responded the committee would decide whether to investigate.

The Mail & Guardian reported an allegation in November that Nkoana-Mashabane had failed to declare in the register of members’ interests a R100 000 payment for around-the-clock private security at her private residence in Polokwane.

The report stated that Cape Town-based Premier Fishing picked up Nkoana-Mashabane’s R8 655-a-month security tab for 12 months in 2010-2011.

Premier Fishing is a subsidiary of Sekunjalo Investments, a JSE-listed company. Its executive chairman, Iqbal Survé, has accompanied Nkoana-Mashabane and other ministers on foreign visits by President Jacob Zuma, as a member of business delegations.

MPs have to declare their financial interests, gifts and benefits each year to reduce the possibility of conflicts of interest.

This is the second time that the ethics committee has investigated an MP based on a report by the M&G.

In August last year the chairperson of the social development portfolio committee, Yolanda Botha, was found guilty of not disclosing her interests and misleading the committee about their value.

In a damning report the committee found that the “benefit accrued from an improper or generally corrupt relationship” between Botha and Trifecta Investment Holdings.

But the report, in which the committee slapped Botha with the maximum possible penalty—a reprimand and the loss of 30 days’ wages—was later referred back to the committee for further investigation, instead of being adopted by Parliament.

Last month the Sowetan reported allegations that Riblore 22, a close corporation owned by Bhengu, had been negotiating with the SA National Taxi Council to supply oil that would be sold to taxi owners.

Bhengu’s committee has oversight over the transport department, which funds the council through a black empowerment initiative, creating the possibility of a conflict of interests.

The Sunday Independent reported last month that Mufamadi had a close business relationship with Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale through a company that let a large number of buildings in Pretoria to government departments, allegedly at above-market rates.

Mathale and Mufamadi declared their interest in Manaka Property Investments in their legislatures, but the report questioned how a company connected to public representatives had come to be awarded the contracts in breach of treasury rules.

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