Pansy Tlakula’s denial of misconduct ‘unsettling’

2014-07-30 12:18

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Opposition political parties are “astounded” by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Chairperson Pansy Tlakula’s argument that a seemingly misleading statement she made to Parliament is not admissible as evidence in court.

The United Democratic Movement, the African Christian Democratic Party, Cope and the EFF have filed joint papers in the Constitutional Court to oppose Tlakula’s bid to have an Electoral Court recommendation that found her guilty of misconduct overturned.

The parties have described Tlakula’s argument that she is not guilty of misconduct in relation to the dodgy leasing of the commission headquarters as “peculiar and unsettling”.

In the affidavit, Webber Wentzel attorney Okyerebea Ampfo-Anti, on behalf of the parties, says it is “both peculiar and unsettling to hear a public official suggest that she has not misconducted herself despite an admitted failure to comply with the prescripts of procurement law”.

The Electoral Court last month found Tlakula guilty of misconduct related to the irregular leasing of the IEC headquarters, in which a total of R71.8 million was declared irregular expenditure.

The complaint against Tlakula came after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that a relationship existed between Tlakula and the then chairman of Parliament’s finance portfolio committee, Thaba Mufamadi.

Mufamadi was a shareholder in Abland, which was awarded the lease after Tlakula intervened in the procurement process.

Tlakula did not disclose that she was a co-director with Mufamadi on a company called Lehotsa at the time the tender was awarded.

Tlakula has appealed the Electoral Court’s judgment, which largely confirmed Madonsela’s findings, to the Constitutional Court, arguing that she made an “honest mistake” when she deviated from normal tender procurement procedures.

But the complainant parties argue that this is at odds with Tlakula’s explanation to Parliament, which was that she thought she was entitled to deviate from normal procurement policies because of urgency.

“On this basis, the applicant urged the National Assembly [to accept] that the Public Protector’s report was wrong.

“Her version in the Electoral Court, however, concedes, and indeed presupposes, that the Public Protector’s report was correct in respect of the noncompliance with procurement prescripts,” said Ampfo-Anti.

The parties argue that irreconcilable difference between these two versions “entirely undermines the credibility of the ‘honest mistake’ defence”.

“Her deviation from the law was accordingly neither ‘honest’ nor a ‘mistake’.”

Tlakula has argued in her Constitutional Court application that her explanation before parliament cannot be treated as a “version”.

“The only relevant ‘version’, given on oath and admissible as evidence in response to the complaint pertaining to my removal, is the one I set out in my affidavit,” said Tlakula in her affidavit.

But the opposition parties called Tlakula’s argument “astounding” .

“The applicant’s palpable desperation to discount the contents of her submission to the National Assembly, with respect, can only be construed as confirmation that they are as damning as the Electoral Court considered them to be.”

The political parties have also argued that Tlakula cannot appeal an Electoral Court judgment to the Constitutional Court.

They argue that when the [Electoral] Court undertakes an investigation into a commissioner’s fitness to hold office, it does not act as an ordinary court but as “a forum of first instance in a parliamentary disciplinary process”.

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