Scopa still stalled on forensic reports

2011-10-24 00:00

THE KZN standing committee of public accounts (Scopa) is still having problems accessing forensic and other investigative reports to investigate possible abuses of the public purse.

This emerged during Friday’s Scopa sitting, when Dr Lionel Mtshali (IFP) asked about the investigation into the Social Development Department’s sustainable livelihood projects. Mtshali said that to the best of his knowledge MEC Meshack Radebe had an closed-door briefing with party leaders in the legislature. He asked at what stage Scopa will discuss the report in the presence of the department to ensure that all the recommendations have been carried out.

Belinda Scott (ANC) said the report must be passed by the legislature and then Scopa can deal with it. The committee’s legal advisor said he doubts that it was a precondition that the report must be passed by the house.

Similarly Scopa has taken a resolution about a report on a forensic investigation within the Economic Development Department into the awarding of R169-million contract to Bombe Chitey Construction. The resolution says that a copy of the report on the forensic investigation has been provided to the chairperson of Scopa, with a request from MEC for Economic Development Mike Mabuyakhulu that the report not be distributed to members of the committee due to confidentiality. Scopa resolved that:

• The MEC be asked to report by November 30 on the reasons for the confidentiality of the report and the requirements that the report be considered in a closed-door meeting of Scopa

• That the MEC be advised that there can be no legal liability on the part of members of Scopa in so far as the release of the report to members of the committee is concerned

• That a date be set during the January and February 2012 hearings of the committee to consider the report.

In January this year a joint meeting of Scopa and the finance portfolio committee was held to discuss the problems that both committees have experienced over the years with forensic investigation reports not being released to the legislature by members of the executive council.

Legal opinion given to both committees is that the reports should be made available to the legislature immediately after completion for effective oversight to be carried out over the implementation of the findings in the reports. Departments have to prove that releasing the report to Scopa and the finance committees would prejudice further investigations and prosecutions, in which case the report would be treated in camera and members sign confidentiality agreements.

Both Scopa and the finance committee noted in a resolution that “the release of a conclusive forensic investigation report would not ordinarily result in criminal investigations being jeopardised because by that stage all evidence should have been gathered and secured, witnesses interviewed, bank accounts frozen and any other necessary action taken”.

• nalini@witness.co.za

 

IN April 2008 The KZN of Social Development Department appointed the Independent Development Trust (IDT) to review its sustainable livelihood projects, which support poor communities.

The IDT found financial mismanagement in 127 projects. KZN Treasury then conducted a forensic investigation. The report was presented to the department in August 2009. An overview of the investigation released by Treasury in January 2010 had the following recommendations:

•179 project members be criminally investigated

• Nine departmental officials to have disciplinary action taken against them.

• Over R3 million to be recovered from implicated organisations (this is money existing in bank accounts)

• Civil proceedings be instituted against implicated organisations to recover over R2 million.

Two years since the release of the report to the department, Scopa members want to review it to see if the recommendations are being carried out and what progress has been made.

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