Madonsela report on IEC a headache for Parliament

Public protector Thuli Madonsela. (Gallo)

Public protector Thuli Madonsela. (Gallo)

Public protector Thuli Madonsela's report on the procurement of the Independent Electoral Commission's (IEC) headquarters in Centurion is proving to be a headache for Parliament.

Madonsela asked Parliament last month to consider her report in an investigation into alleged maladministration and corruption in the procurement of the Riverside Office Park to accommodate the IEC.

She also requested that Parliament refer the report to the Electoral Court.

The specially-established multi-party ad hoc committee considering the report met on Wednesday morning, but MPs had more questions than answers.

The ANC said it needed more information and proposed that IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula, whom Madonsela found to have followed an irregular process and violated procurement rules in securing the R320-million lease, be given an opportunity to give her side of the story.

The party was also the first to say it wasn't clear about the committee's mandate.

ANC MP Buti Manamela said they were of the view that Tlakula had not been given an opportunity or has not made a submission in response to Madonsela's report.

Written submission
"We believe that is going to be materially important in helping us to come to a conclusion. We think we should ask her to make a written submission and on the basis of that, we can then determine how we interrogate that submission," said Manamela.

The ANC also wanted all the former commissioners, people who were part of the decision to procure a building, to appear before the committee.

He said the report itself spoke to the fact that former commissioners took the decision to procure the building, but only the chair of the former commission was interviewed (by the public protector).

The auditor general's office will also be required to give an extensive submission as there's reference (in the report) to the auditor general having cleared the procurement of the IEC building.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) supported the ANC's submission as DA MP James Selfe asked whether legal opinion could not be obtained relating to the jurisdiction of the Electoral Court over somebody whose activities took place before that person was a commissioner.

But the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and Congress of the People (Cope) had a problem with the requests of the two bigger parties, especially in relation to the mandate of the committee.

"The mandate says basically 'we must consider and report on the recommendations'. The question is whether we can put in doubt her findings, can we act as a form of an appeal court or review on whether she was correct on her findings or do we accept her findings as they are?" asked the IFP's Koos van der Merwe.

"I have problems around that.
We must either accept her findings or reject them. And if we reject them, on what basis do we reject them?" he said.

Inquiry
Cope's Thozamile Botha also queried whether the committee could change Madonsela's findings "if we are influenced by comments of the people we are inviting here. Aren't we turning this into an inquiry, because that is fundamental?

"If we are not an inquiry, we are supposed to act on the public protector's recommendations and we don't need some of this information that we are asking for," said Botha.

But Selfe pointed to the intricate nature of many of the transactions in the report, saying the only way to properly interrogate them would be hearing it from the previous commissioners' mouths.

The committee decided to seek legal opinion on the jurisdiction of the Electoral Court; on the committee's exact mandate; and on whether it can make its own findings on the findings of the public protector.

MPs are hoping to meet again in seven days' time. The committee has to report back to the National Assembly by October 31.

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