DA wants Balfour, Mti to appear before Parliament

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The Democratic Alliance wants former Minister of Correctional Services Ngconde Balfour and former National Commissioner Linda Mti to appear before the National Assembly’s prisons portfolio committee to answer questions regarding contracts worth R1.7 billion awarded by the department to Bosasa and its affiliates between 2004 and 2006.

DA prisons spokesman James Selfe, in a letter to committee chairman Vincent Smith noted the National Prosecuting Authority’s corruption-busting Special Investigations Unit last week reported to MPs that substantial maladministration and suspected fraud had occurred in the award of the contracts.

Bosasa has denied the SIU’s allegations.

Selfe says Balfour was insistent that a certain catering contract worth R840 million be renewed when it expired at the end of 2007.

“Indeed his insistence that it be renewed, and his firm views about who should adjudicate and award the contract, led to a breakdown in relations between the minister and the then National Commissioner, Vernie Petersen,” Selfe said in a letter to Smith made available to the media.

“The Committee needs to understand why the Minister held these firm views, as they may explain why the contract was awarded in the first place and then renewed.

“I am obviously aware that Mr Balfour in now the High Commissioner in Botswana, but it ought to be possible for him to address the Committee given the proximity of his new post to South Africa,” Selfe added.

The Star earlier this week noted that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has said Cabinet ministers had no role to play in the tenders awarded by their departments, apart from approving them.

He was replying to a question about reported allegations that Public Works Minister Geoff Doidge had sought to interfere in the awarding of a R45 million tender to consulting firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr without its being put out to tender. Motlanthe told the paper the role of ministers was to sign approved contracts.
“(Ministers) have no role in tenders other than, when the tenders have been adjudicated, to sign them. That is why there are tender boards, and no minister sits on tender boards.
“If you have good people in tender boards, it doesn’t matter who comes to them, if they understand that they have the final authority. They have to adjudicate over that matter within the law and the submissions, consider the facts for what they are.
“That goes for any tenders or contract involving government work,” said Motlanthe.
 

The Sunday Times reports current prisons minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula allegedly sought to keep the report under wraps, sparking tension with Smith. “As a result, … Motlanthe had to intervene.”

Smith confirmed that Bosasa had demanded that the report be kept “confidential”, but denied Mapisa-Nqakula’s alleged role in the attempted cover-up, the paper said.

The investigating unit confirmed that Bosasa’s lawyers wrote indicating “that they (Bosasa) believed the proposed presentation was unlawful”. In February the company also launched “legal proceedings to stop the questioning of some witnesses and the investigation itself. The SIU has agreed not to question witnesses until the finalisation of the (court) proceedings.”

Smith said he took Bosasa’s demand to parliament’s legal advisers, who advised him to reject it on the basis that he did not have a copy of the unit’s report. It is not clear how Bosasa came to know about the pending release of the report to parliament, the Sunday Times reported.

Business Day today reports the chairman of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), Themba Godi, says Balfour should take responsibility for the fraud and corruption under his watch and quit his ambassador post or be recalled.

Speaking in his personal capacity, Godi, of the African People’s Convention, said the government would not succeed in rooting out corruption unless there were consequences both for those directly implicated and for those politically responsible for the oversight of a department.

“What … is lacking in SA is a sense of shame by officials and political heads so that when they have done wrong they do the honourable thing and quit,” he said.

Godi said Scopa would deal with the correctional services department only when Parliament resumed next year, but he believed Balfour should do the honourable thing and quit.

He said in an interview that Balfour “has been incompetent, caused severe embarrassment to the state and the loss of massive amounts of money through the bribery that occurred under his watch”. It did not send the right signal for such a man to be given the highest honour of an ambassadorial post.

“Surely you want to send people to represent the country with the highest integrity and without the slightest stain on their reputation.

“Here you have a minister who over the years presided over a department which was rotten to the core, and yet he was publicly and continuously very defensive about the issues in his department.”



Pic: Sondolo IT staff monitor prison access points from a national monitoring centre in Pretoria in this 2006 defenceWeb file photograph. Sondolo IT is a Bosasa subsidiary.