Sisulu cannot boycott SCOPA: DA

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The opposition Democratic Alliance party says Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, is on flimsy constitutional ground in deciding to “absent” herself from the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA).

“The fact is that the buck stops with the minister and she can be summoned and compelled to appear before SCOPA, DA MPs Mark Steele and David Maynier said in a joint statement. “The minister’s political tantrum at [Thursday’s] meeting of the portfolio committee on defence and military veterans included the claim that it was a ‘misconception’ that ministers could be summoned to appear before a committee of Parliament.

Last week Sisulu said she wanted an apology from SCOPA and said she would not appear before the financial watchdog until she received that apology. She has also lodged a complaint with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe – in his role as leader of government business.
“I have decided that until this is resolved I will absent myself from SCOPA,” Sisulu is reported saying. Business Day newspaper Friday reported Sisulu was deeply offended that her integrity had been attacked through the media following her failure on three occasions this year to appear before the committee to discuss the department’s troubled finances. The South African Broadcasting Corporation added Sisulu believed the allegations were unparliamentary and malicious. Committee members had publicly and with “unprecedented venom” suggested that she was arrogant and disrespectful of Parliament, Sisulu said. “They were talking about me as though I was some recalcitrant child. I really did resent what I saw on television.”

But the DA duo say the Constitution is clear: in terms of Section 56 (a) any committee of the National Assembly – which includes Scopa – may “summon any person to appear before it to give evidence on oath or affirmation, or to produce documents”. Moreover, a person who fails to appear can be compelled to appear in terms of Section 14 of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act (No. 4 of 2004), they add.
“The minister now runs the risk of being summoned to appear before SCOPA. However, this is a very drastic step, and we would urge the minister to appear voluntarily before SCOPA. The fact is that the defence department is in a huge mess – the report on the department’s asset register comprises of ten blank pages – and we need to be assured that there are plans in place to sort it out,” they say. “We cannot allow the minister to ride roughshod over parliament and simply boycott being accountable to SCOPA”.