/ 12 March 2019

Dlodlo found in breach of MPs’ ethics code after Dubai hotel stay

​Minister of Public Service and Administration Ayanda Dlodlo has stated that she never meant to break the code.
?Minister of Public Service and Administration Ayanda Dlodlo has stated that she never meant to break the code. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Minister of Public Service and Administration Ayanda Dlodlo has been found to have breached the code of ethical conduct and disclosure of members’ interests after she failed to disclose a 2015 trip to Dubai where she stayed in the luxurious Oberoi Hotel.

On Monday, a joint committee on ethics and members’ interests report on the investigation into Dlodlo was published in Parliament’s tablings.

After media reports based on the Gupta leaks that Dlodlo’s stay in Dubai was arranged by the Gupta-owned Sahara Computers, and was paid for by Fana Hlongwane, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Phumzile van Damme laid a complaint with the committee in June 2017.

Hlongwane was implicated in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s ‘State of Capture’ report. At the time, Dlodlo confirmed that Hlongwane paid for the trip and said she knew him since they were children.

The committee considered the matter about a year later, on June 12 2018, and invited Dlodlo to appear before it, which she did on November 27 2018.

“The member (Dlodlo) informed the committee that she and M Fana Hlongwane (the person referred to in the newspaper article) were childhood friends and they considered themselves sister and brother. The member placed this statement in context: Mr Fana Hlongwane and the member are not blood relatives, but Mr Hlongwane’s biological father housed and cared for the member and her family. Therefore, the member was considered family of Mr Hlongwane, according to ‘African culture’,” reads the committee’s report.

“When the member undertook to meet Mr Fana Hlongwane in Dubai she never saw it as anything other than a holiday where she was meeting her brother. The member categorically stated that at no time was she linked to any ‘Gupta’ business, that she never met the ‘Guptas’ and that she has never accepted anything from the ‘Guptas’.”

Dlodlo also stated that she never meant to break the code.

“The reason why she did not declare the stay at the Oberoi hotel and the additional benefits of spa massages, room service and car hire was because she considered Mr Fana Hlongwane her brother.”

The ethics code states that gifts from family members do not constitute a conflict of interest.

However, the committee found that the Dlodlo’s relationship with Hlongwane “does not cover the type of brother and sister relationship that exists between Mr Fana Hlongwane” and Dlodlo.

“Having considered the explanation given by the member, the committee concluded that it is clear that Mr Fana Hlongwane is not her spouse, permanent companion or dependant. The member was therefore obliged to disclose her stay at the Oberoi hotel (accommodation), the spa massages, room service and car hire,” reads the report.

The committee recommends that Dlodlo is reprimanded in the House and that Dlodlo “rectify the breach and be counselled on the requirements of the code”.

In a statement issued on Monday, Dlodlo said she accepted the committee’s finding.

“As the record will show, I have been fully transparent and truthful about my trip and the fact that Mr Hlongwane paid for my accommodation.”

“It was my own admission that served as the basis from which Honourable Van Damme submitted a request to the ethics committee to investigate.

“I fully respect the decision of the ethics committee which found that my interpretation of family members fell short of the committee’s own definition of a family member in terms of the executive ethics code.

“I respect the parliamentary legal codes and do not wish to act contrary to any of them.”

She said she appreciated and welcomed the fact that as part of the sanction, she will be counselled on all aspects of the code.

The committee also made a finding against ANC MP Nyami Booi. Booi is the ANC whip in the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), and often takes strong issue with people appearing before the committee accused of wrongdoing.

DA MP James Lorimer laid the complaint on May 29, 2017.

“The complainant provided a copy of an agreement entered into between a company called LURCO COAL (Pty) Ltd (“LURCO”) and the member (Booi),” reads the committee’s report.

In terms of the agreement, Booi would act as a consultant for the company and earn a salary of R60 000 per month.

Lorimer alleged that LURCO entered into contracts with Eskom and that Booi did not comply with the code in that he undertook remunerative work outside of Parliament.

Booi acknowledged to the committee that he had a business consultation agreement with LURCO.

“The member expressed regret and stated that it was an oversight that he did not disclose the information. The member undertook to rectify the non-disclosure with immediate effect.”

The committee recommends that Booi is reprimanded in the house and fined 45 days’ salary.

Both reports will need to be accepted by the National Assembly. — News24