Travelgate: more dirt to be dished

2011-07-30 18:09

South Africans are a step closer to knowing the true extent of the ­so-called Travelgate scandal and the names of the MPs who abused ­Parliament’s travel-allowance ­system.

On Thursday, the Grahamstown High Court ordered Speaker of ­Parliament Max Sisulu to give the Centre for Social Accountability (CSA) the schedule of which MPs were involved in the scam. Sisulu was also ordered to disclose how much the MPs defrauded Parliament for ­following an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to ­Information Act.

Now Sisulu has 10 days to comply with the court order, sought after Parliament had in effect bought the debts of Travelgate MPs from ­Bathong Travel.

The liquidators of Bathong had pursued claims against the MPs, with Parliament – itself one of ­Bathong’s major creditors – stepping in and buying the debt book.

The judgment states that the secretary of Parliament and the Speaker, who were the two respondents in the case, must release the two schedules of a February 2009 sale of claims agreement between it and the liquidators.

The schedules contain both the names of the MPs involved and how much is being claimed from them.

Parliament had refused to release the agreement on the basis that it would be an unreasonable disclosure of the MPs’ personal information, an argument dismissed by the high court.

Jay Kruuse of the Centre for Social Accountability said it was not yet clear whether Parliament would comply with the order or ­appeal against it.

He said: “The ball is now in their court. We are pleased with the outcome as this has been a very long process.

“The schedules will show the ­extent of the monetary value of the claims, as well as how much is still outstanding and still owed.

“This will also assist in finding out?.?.?.?what steps have been taken to recover the amounts.

“Without access to those schedules we would never know to what extent and by whom Parliament has been defrauded, and whether those people have been held to account.

“We will now be able to see what has been recovered and if the abuse or the voucher system consisted of ­irregularities or fraudulent acts.’’

The scandal took place in the ­early 2000s, with MPs allegedly conspiring with travel companies to defraud Parliament through fraudulent or irregular use of travel warrants paid for by the state.

Several MPs have already paid ­admission-of-guilt fines for their role.
 

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