accountability

accountability

  • How the Seriti Commission is Failing

    The Arms Deal, which saw South Africa spend up to R70 billion on military equipment in the late 1990s and early 2000s, has faced numerous accusations of corruption and accusations that go right up to the President himself. Facing legal threats in late 2011, President Jacob Zuma set up the Seriti Commission to investigate these allegations.

    But for the past year since it started its work, the Seriti Commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, has attracted a lot of criticism, and there are serious concerns about its integrity and impartiality. As the Commission heads into Phase 2 of its work - where it must probe allegations of massive corruption in the Arms Deal - there has not been enough public engagement with these concerns. So what is happening at the Commission?

    Sudden resignations and concerns of a ‘second agenda’

    The first worrying signs appeared in early 2013 when two members of the commission resigned in protest. In his letter of resignation, Norman Moabi, a lawyer and former acting High Court judge, claimed that the commission was concealing a ‘second agenda’. He accused the chairperson of a ‘total obsession with the control of the flow of information’, hinting that the Commission’s work was being guided by ‘unknown person/s’.

    In March, attorney, Kate Painting, also resigned, later stating that, “Fear is a common theme at the Commission and any non-compliance with the second agenda is met with hostility.”

    Secrecy and the Seriti Commission

    Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is representing three critics of the Arms Deal: former African National Congress (ANC) MP, Andrew Feinstein, and researchers, Paul Holden, and Hennie van Vuuren, who have been called to testify about evidence of corruption. But the commission has denied them access to crucial documents that are needed to get to the truth. After struggling for nearly 18 months to get the commission to release these documents, LHR has posted a list of all the information that is being withheld. This includes minutes of meetings where the deals were discussed and decided on, and all the evidence that was collected by the various law-enforcement investigations that took place in the 2000s. Aside from the fact that this is needed by LHR and its clients to prepare their own testimonies, it is also information that should be at the heart of a public inquiry about the Arms Deal; it should be available to all.

    Refusing to engage with evidence of corruption

    At the same time, the commission is ignoring evidence that is in the public domain.

    One example is a draft report by the Auditor-General, which investigated allegations of the Arms Deal in 2000. Though the final version of the report gave the Arms Deal a clean bill of health, the draft report has come to light. It found many irregularities, but was apparently revised completely before being released. It is vital evidence both of irregularities in the Arms Deal but also attempts to cover up irregularities afterwards. But Judge Seriti ruled that as a draft report it is not admissible without the author testifying to its contents.

    The commission has also refused to engage with a report commissioned by German arms company, Ferrostaal, which gives details of their own involvement in bribery. Although the document has been in the public domain for several years and has received a lot of media coverage, and reportedly was part of the Hawks investigation, the commission has ruled that it is inadmissible because it is a leaked document.
    As Bob Marley once said: “In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty.”

    Leading a one-sided process

    LHR has also expressed concern that the commission is leading a one-sided process. When former Trade and Industry Minister, Alec Erwin testified, key documents which LHR needed for his cross-examination were still classified. (Some have since been declassified.) Without access to those documents, LHR said it would have to recall Erwin once the documents had been received, but after a debate about cross-examination Judge Seriti excused Erwin, saying, “Thank you Mr Erwin, no-one wants to cross-examine you.”

    A similar situation arose when former rear-admiral, Jonathan Kamerman, appeared before the commission. LHR in this case was given permission to cross-examine at a later date.

    In both cases LHR was not in a position to cross-examine the person testifying, and ask the questions that the commission itself is not asking, because information was only made available at the last minute or not available at all.

    What is the way forward?

    The Arms Deal itself happened more than 15 years ago under a cloud of secrecy and lack of accountability. Sadly, the commission may be following a similar path. At best its approach is playing into the hands of those who benefited from the Deal and those who do not want the full truth to come to light.
    The public needs to make its presence felt at the commission and to start by arming ourselves with information. If we are not happy with its approach, we can choose either to challenge it, or to withdraw. Withdrawing comes at a cost, as we may never get to the truth.
    If the Seriti Commission fails the public, how will the citizens of this country recover from such a betrayal? And who will ever be motivated again to take a stand against secrecy and corruption? 

    Kholiswa Tyiki is a journalist and researcher at the Right2Know Campaign. This article was first published by GroundUp.  
    See also:
    • Corruption Watch’s updates and analysis of the Seriti Commission.
    • Corruption Watch’s What You Need to Know About the Arms Deal
    Author(s): 
    Kholiswa Tyiki
  • SASSA to Act Against CPS

    According to an article by Asha Speckman, it could not get much worse for Net1 UEPS Technologies, which faces the wrath of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) over unlawful charges for airtime and loans that the service provider has been deducting from the monthly payout to beneficiaries under its R10 billion social grant tender.

    Net1 shares went into free-fall following the ruling, dropping 28 percent to R70 during intraday trade on the JSE, before recouping some of the losses to end the session down 12.76 percent at R85.50.

    Meanwhile, SASSA chief executive, Virginia Petersen, says the agency is considering its options and is intending to revise its contracts with the service provider.

    To read the article titled, “Now we can clip the wings of CPS – SASSA,” click here.

    Source: 
    IOL News
  • Weaker APRM Bad for Governance

    The African Peer Review Mechanism (ARPM) - set up by former President Thabo Mbeki to tackle the continent's problems - is a shambles.

    According to a report by former mechanism chairman Akere Muna, the institution lacks backing by African leaders and is being ‘driven into the ground’ by its chief executive officer and its secretariat that can barely function.

    The mechanism has in the past served as a reliable indicator of emerging troubles on the continent.

    In South Africa, an ARPM report alerted the government to tensions between locals and foreigners that culminated in 2008's wave of xenophobic violence.

    To read the article titled, ‘Mbeki brainchild 'now a shambles'’, click here.

    Source: 
    Times Live
  • SACC Calls for Resignations Over Nkandla

    The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has responded to the Public Protector's report by saying those implicated should consider stepping down.

    In a press statement, the SACC points out that, "For the future of the nation and the sustainability of our fledgling democracy, we urge those implicated in the report to consider stepping down."
     
    The organisation also says that the report on Nkandla "should be interrogated, not on the timing of its release, but the merits of the contents therein and the implications for the country."

    To read the article titled, “Those implicated by Nkandla report should resign: SACC,” click here.

    Source: 
    Times Live
  • SABC Board Backs Motsoeneng

    The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) chairperson, Ellen Zandile Tshabalala, has laughed off public protector, Thuli Madonsela's findings of irregularities in acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng's salary.
     
    Tshabalala states that Hlaudi is diligent and very capable, the members of the board are right behind him.
     
    A group of opposition parties is laying criminal charges against Motsoeneng following a damning report, titled ‘When Governance and Ethics Fail,’ released by Madonsela on 17 February 2014.
     
    To read the article titled, “SABC chief: Nevermind Thuli, long may Hlaudi reign,” click here.

    Source: 
    Mail and Guardian
  • IPO Calls for Intervention at SABC

    The Independent Producers Organisation (IPO) has called for an urgent intervention at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) following a damning report by Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela.
     
    The IPO appeals to all institutions designed to provide oversight - Parliament, the shareholder in the department of communications, and Independent Communications Authority of South Africa - to exercise their mandate and to intervene urgently.
     
    The organisation, which represents the majority of South Africa's working producers, says it is concerned and distressed by the continuing instability at the SABC.
     
    To read the article titled, “Urgent intervention needed at SABC: IPO,” click here.

    Source: 
    Times Live
  • Civil Society Calls for Accountability

    Zimbabwean civil society groups have expressed their unrelenting disapproval of the breakdown of public accountability and called on the government to urgently set up a commission of enquiry into corporate corruption.
     
    In a joint statement, 66 civil society groups states that the commission should investigate 'obscene salaries' and other underhand dealings in the local government and public sector.
     
    The groups also called on the country’s President, Robert Mugabe, to break his silence on corruption, in which his aides and close allies have been named.
     
    To read the article titled, “Civil society call for commission of enquiry Into corporate corruption,” click here.

    Source: 
    All Africa
  • Think Tanks Hold Govts Accountable - ISS

    The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) says that that think tanks are there to research issues such as service delivery.

    ISS executive director, Jakkie Cilliers, says the perception that think tanks are there to criticise the government is not true.

    Cilliers, who is of the view that think tanks are there to hold the government accountable on behalf of civil society, adds that they have the responsibility to look at how African leaders can invest their countries’ income.

    To read the article titled, “Think tanks to hold governments accountable: ISS,” click here.

    Source: 
    SABC News
  • Call to Prosecute ‘Thieving’ NGO Leaders

    Zambian women rights activist, Emily Sikazwe, has urged police to investigate unscrupulous and thieving non-governmental organisation (NGOs) leaders and make them account for donor funds.
     
    Sikazwe, who is former Women for Change executive director, says thieving NGO leaders should be prosecuted and sent to jail for stealing and abusing donor funds.
     
    She who is of the view that Zambia has adequate laws to stamp out corrupt activities among NGOs, is also calling for the beefing up of the Registrar of Societies so that the institution will be able to trace the sources of funding for NGOs.
     
    To read the article titled, “Investigate thieving NGO leaders – Sikazwe,” click here.

    Source: 
    Zambia Daily Mail
  • e-Toll Glitches in Collection System - SANRAL

    The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) admits to some glitches in the e-toll collection system.

    Spokesperson of SANRAL, Vusi Mona, expressed to a local newspaper that there had been some 'genuine' complaints about the system.

    “There are genuine customer complaints, there is no system that is foolproof and 100 percent correct,” states Mona.

    To read the article titled, “SANRAL admits to e-toll glitches in collection system,” click here.

    Source: 
    The Citizen
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