Members of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) were enraged after the State Security Agency (SAA) refused to brief them on the screening of officials at state organs at the eleventh hour, intensifying suspicions about what was being kept hidden.
On Wednesday morning, the SSA was scheduled to provide a report to Scopa on the status of the 2014 Cabinet mandate to have personnel in state organs, notably supply chain management units, vetted.
Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa revealed that the SSA informed him on Tuesday that they would only update Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence in confidential meetings about the screening of state organ executives. The SSA informed Hlengwa that they had a legal opinion to back up their claim.
Hlengwa stated that the SSA forwarded legal documents to Parliament and requested that the SSA provide Scopa with the legal opinion they used to decline to come to Scopa.
“I want to emphasise once again that we are not investigating their financial situation. I don’t believe they understand what we’re saying. But that’s where we’re at. We were under the notion that the [deputy minister in the Presidency Zizi Kodwa] would be coming based on the letter and the developments in the last 12 to 14 hours, letters were withdrawn, and we had these developments “Hlengwa stated.
Hlengwa claims that SSA’s “Stalingrad secrecy” will set a “very dangerous precedent” if permitted to continue without penalties. He stated that the criticism of the SSA’s activities must run concurrently with a mechanism to ensure that Scopa receives the information he seeks.
“Given my experience with parliamentary legal guidance over the previous nearly 14 years, I am sceptical that we will receive a favourable legal opinion. We have occasionally received what I think to be correct opinions, and these are opinions, not determinations “Lees stated.
Lees stated that this was not the first time the SSA has obstructed Scopa, and that the agency shown no accountability in terms of their own finances and a topic that was already in the public domain.
According to AMP MP Sakhumzi Somyo, the entire conference was prompted by the reality that vetting processes were failing at government agencies, which had been a long-standing concern for more than a decade.
“[Former] Minister [of Intelligence Ayanda] Dlodlo attended our meeting as the minister for that department, particularly to discuss screening. She described their disagreements on such issues at the time. On that basis, I truly don’t see how they don’t account to us can be true “Somyo stated.
Hlengwa stated that Scopa will seek legal advice on SSA’s correspondence from Parliamentary Legal Services, and that the committee would discuss the topic next week.