Minister Muthambi treats Public Protector and Parliament with contempt
26 August 2014
Today's briefing to the Portfolio Committee on the progress with implementing the Public Protector's Report on the SABC was a sickening display of accountability evasion.
Minister Muthambi had until 16 August to finalise the remedial action required by the Public Protector. It emerged today that most of the directions have not been actioned simply because the Minister and the SABC do not agree with them.
The Public Protector ordered Hlaudi Motsoeneng and others to pay back the money spent irregularly on salaries. The Minister's response was that "the funds were spent correctly and all the necessary approvals were given."
The Public Protector requested the SABC to discipline Mr Motsoeneng for falsifying his matric qualifications, purging staff and irregularly increasing salaries. The Minister said that it could not do so because he "had never lied" about his matric, that the salary increases followed appropriate guidelines and "there was no purging of staff."
The Constitution and the Public Protector's Act enjoins the Minister to implement the remedial action in a Public Protector's report. If the Minister does not agree with the Public Protector's findings and directions, she needs to lodge a court application to take the report on review. She cannot simply ignore the directions that she does not agree with.
When pressed on specific issues, the Minister claimed that she was not at liberty to discuss them because they were ‘sub-judice', as the matter of Hlaudi Motsoeneng's appointment is before the Western Cape High Court.
This is deeply ironic. In court, the Minister is arguing that the Motsoeneng matter should be dealt with in Parliament. In Parliament, she is arguing that it should be dealt with by the courts.
The Minister's invoking of the sub-judice rule is flawed for a number of reasons:
The DA's review application relates to the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng. It is separate to the matter of the Public Protector's report on his conduct at the SABC.
The sub-judice rule should be invoked only when the discussion of an issue interferes with the administration of justice or could prejudice the outcome of a court case. That does not apply in this instance.
The parliamentary sub-committee reviewing the rules of Parliament agreed last year that the sub-judice rule should not be interpreted "to prevent a general political debate on a matter before the courts".
In any event, it is not up to the Minister to interpret parliamentary rules and procedure, only Parliament can do that. That is why I requested this morning that a parliamentary law advisor be summoned to brief the Committee on the correct application of the rule. The Committee Chairperson, who seemed intent on shielding the Minister from accountability at all costs, rejected the request.
The DA will not rest until there is accountability for the culture of corruption and fraud that has become entrenched at the SABC during Hlaudi Motsoeneng's tenure.
I will be writing to the parliamentary law advisor to request clarification of the sub-judice rule in order to summon Minster Muthambi back to Parliament. The public deserves answers for her failure to implement the findings and recommendations of the Public Protector's Report.
Statement issued by Gavin Davis MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, August 26 2014
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