Scopa can summon Gungubele and Kodwa – legal opinion

Parliament’s legal department has thrown down the gauntlet to Minister of State Security Mondli Gungubele and his deputy Zizi Kodwa, and said they were legally obliged to take the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) into confidence about the vetting of officials working in state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Zuraya Adhikarie, chief parliamentary legal adviser, in a legal opinion dated November 14 2022, said scopa is within its rights to demand it be updated on vetting processes at SOEs.

The legal advice was sought by Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the chairperson of Scopa, after Gungubele and Kodwa refused to appear before the committee to provide an update on the vetting of SOEs employees, on the grounds that the department only reports to parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence (JSCI).


However, Adhikarie said that is not the case.

“Scopa is empowered by law to request the update on the vetting of employees of SOEs. This is a matter that pertains to a range of committees, including the portfolio committee on public enterprises,” the legal opinion states.

“To argue that such update is part of ‘accountability to the JSCI’, as the minister is doing, could lead to a situation that is inconsistent with the constitution and the requirement to maintain oversight of all organs of state.

“Should the minister refuse to report to Scopa, Scopa may initiate the process to summon the minister to provide the said information.”

The SOEs, particularly embattled power producer Eskom, has often cited sabotage among its own ranks as some of the reasons for the unstable national grid.

Hlengwa welcomed the legal opinion. “Based on the legal advice received, the committee has written again to the Minister in the Presidency to inform him of the legal opinion and to request him to appear before SCOPA on this matter on Wednesday, 30 November 2022. Should the Minister refuse to report to SCOPA, the committee will exercise its right to initiate the process to summon the Minister to provide the information requested,” he said.


 

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