Pansy Tlakula’s two excuses are fishy, says lawyer

2014-06-07 09:57

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Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Pansy Tlakula has given two different reasons to explain her conduct in the R320 million lease saga, but the court should not take either of these into account in its judgment.

This was the argument put forward yesterday by David Unterhalter SC, who is representing a multiparty forum of opposition political parties at the Electoral Court.

The parties have asked the court to recommend that Tlakula be removed from her job.

Unterhalter told Judge Lotter Wepener that Tlakula offering two contrasting explanations for why the IEC approved an irregular lease agreement that benefited her business partner and ANC MP Thaba Mufamadi, should be reason enough to doubt her defence and find against her.

Soon after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela completed her investigation into the flawed tender processes followed by Tlakula and found her guilty of gross irregularities, Tlakula wrote to Parliament questioning Madonsela’s findings.

In her submission to Parliament, Tlakula claimed that she did not follow the prescribed tender process in acquiring new accommodation because the IEC “urgently” needed to enter into a lease agreement for new offices.

Unterhalter told the court on Friday that Tlakula had changed this version in her defence at the Electoral Court and blamed the error on a “lapse of judgement” on her part.

“In her submission to Parliament, Tlakula said she thought she could deviate from procurement policy in the interest of urgency and used that as justification for the irregular expenditure. Now she tells the court she didn’t realise that she was bound by these (procurement policy) norms. She’s inconsistent,” said Unterhalter.

“This is not conduct that amounts to the high standards required of her office because it casts serious doubt on her integrity,” said Unterhalter.

He said Tlakula had “compromised the fairness of the tender process” to the detriment of the IEC and other bidders who lost out in the deal.

“Tlakula’s office should be held to high standards. The fact that she’s been in that office for years and knew what the law was on procurement means that this was not a mistake, but wilful breaking of the law,” he said.

Tlakula, who attended the first day of the hearing on Wednesday, was not in court yesterday.

The matter was adjourned for judgment, but no date has been set for this yet.

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