Minister in the Mondli Gungubele Presidency.
- The Standing Committee on Public Accounts heard that the State Security Agency was required by law to inform it about vetting officers in state entities.
- Parliamentary legal services said the committee could summon accountants who were unable to attend committee meetings.
- Scopa will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss the legal opinion and consider its options thereafter.
- For more financial stories, go to News24 Business Cover.
Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) has been informed that the State Security Agency (SSA) has no reason to withhold information on vetting of officials in state entities, and that the committee could convene the Minister for the Mondli Gungubele Presidency for account.
Scopa received this advice in a legal opinion from Parliamentary Legal Services, which News24 has seen. This comes after the SSA failed to appear before Scopa to update them on the vetting of SOE officials and informed Scopa in advance of the meeting that he would not be attending.
The SSA sent a letter last week to Scopa’s chairman, Mkhuleko Hlengwa, saying the agency had a legal opinion saying it only needed to be accountable to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI), which usually holds meetings door to door. closed.
The SSA was moved to the presidency last year after intelligence weaknesses hampered the agency’s ability to detect or counter the events that led to the July riots that rocked KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
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Hlengwa and other Scopa members took issue with this claim last week and agreed to obtain a legal opinion from Parliamentary Legal Services. Scopa members said they refused to hold them accountable on a matter that was already in the public domain and smacked of secrecy.
In Scopa’s legal opinion, top parliamentary legal adviser, lawyer Zuraya Adhikarie, said the committee’s power to call on the SSA for an update comes from the Constitution, just like any committee in Parliament.
“Scopa is empowered by law to request updated vetting of public company employees. This is a matter for a number of committees, including the Public Company Portfolio Committee.
“Arguing that such an update is part of the accountability to JSCI as the minister is doing, could lead to a situation that is inconsistent with the Constitution and the requirement to maintain supervision of all state organs,” Adhikarie said. .
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“If the minister refuses to inform Scopa, Scopa can start the process to summon the minister to provide such information,” Adhikarie said.
He said that while responsibility for SSA’s financial management may lie with JSCI, Scopa can request documents from the agency.
“Where reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society, such documents should be considered in a closed committee meeting, excluding the public and the media,” it said.
Scopa will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss the legal opinion and consider its options thereafter.