Parly staffer who spoke out about vetting may face disciplinary action

2015-10-26 12:18
Dan Calderwood, News24

Dan Calderwood, News24

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A senior parliamentary official who spoke out in the media against Parliament’s controversial security clearance of personnel may face disciplinary action.

Parliamentary spokesperson Luzuko Jacobs said that the official, Moira Levy, violated Parliament’s code of ethics and would now be subjected to “internal processes”.

Levy, content manager in Parliament’s communication service department, was previously an active ANC member and a former journalist.

In an opinion piece in the Mail & Guardian on Friday, she criticised the security clearance, which is driven by agents of the State Security Agency (SSA).

When contacted for comment, Levy declined to say anything more than what she wrote in her article in the Mail & Guardian.

Levy’s article followed last week’s action by the union Nehawu, which officially complained in a meeting with Parliament’s management about the process and demanded explanations.

Until recently, Parliament had insisted that no complaints were received from employees, but Jacobs confirmed on Friday that Levy had officially submitted a complaint about the process last Tuesday.

“Ms Levy’s article was published under her official title. No permission was requested nor granted in this regard. Parliament’s code of ethics and conduct for its employees states that they may only communicate with the media if [they are] authorised to do so by the secretary to Parliament. What happened here is violation of policy. Such conduct is subject to internal processes.”

Levy refused to undergo the security clearance that Parliament in statements described as “normal practice”.

But there were other staff members who Media24 spoke to who were disgruntled with the type and volume of personal information being requested and the little time that were given to complete it.

Nehawu chairperson Sthembiso Tembe confirmed that Levy was a member of the union. He said the union would meet with its members this week. Nehawu also expected feedback on the concerns regarding the process they raised last week.

According to Levy she had to provide four months worth of bank statements and a passport photo as well as the identity numbers of five friends who she had to inform they might be contacted by SSA agents.

She said staff members would also have personal interviews with the SSA agents and would also undergo lie-detector tests.

She complained to her manager that the role of the security agents bothered her, and had no place in “a transparent, accountable and credible Parliament”.

“I thought all this talk of a security threat posed by unnamed foreign states was a load of nonsense.”

Levy added that she thought it was a case of the ruling party feeling threatened because its support was waning.

“I was employed to serve Parliament, not the ruling party,” she wrote.

She described the meetings between staff members and the SSA agents. Employees were allegedly told to take out their cell phone batteries and were given a talk on cyber terrorism and foreign agents who wished to recruit people.

Staff were apparently warned that “over-the-counter-gizmos” could intercept their private conversations and that they were perfect targets because they worked at Parliament.

“We were reminded that we live in a democracy now and as long as we do not present a national security risk, we were fine.”

“As a content manager in the parliamentary communication services, I was quite sure that no confidential material would be allowed anywhere near me. Anyway, my job is to inform citizens about what their Parliament is doing, not keep that information from them,” she wrote.

. This article was updated after first published.

Read more on:    parliament  |  vetting

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