Lease deal minister gives Parly a miss

2011-08-16 15:35
Cape Town - Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde failed to arrive in Parliament on Tuesday to answer questions from MPs on her role in an allegedly irregular R1.7bn police buildings lease deal.

"There is no excuse for Minister Mahlangu-Nkabinde's no-show at the parliamentary portfolio committee on public works this morning, where she was due to account for her role in the SA Police Service (SAPS) lease scandal," said DA MP John Steenhuisen.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde's failure to attend the committee comes after she missed a deadline on Monday to respond to the public protector's report that raised questions about her involvement in the deal.

In her report, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela called on President Jacob Zuma to take action against Mahlangu-Nkabinde for her role in the police buildings lease.

She also blamed national police commissioner General Bheki Cele for his role in maladministration relating to the tenders for the two leases.

Madonsela: Minister unco-operative

In the report Madonsela complained about her failure to co-operate with the public protector’s office.

The department of public works was found to have flouted tender processes in the lease agreement with businessman Roux Shabangu’s company, Roux Property Fund.

Steenhuisen said he would write to the committee chairperson, Catherine Mabuza, to exercise the committee's powers to summon the minister to appear.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde told the committee that she could not attend the meeting due to "parliamentary processes".

Steenhuisen said her excuse that the public protector's reports had been submitted to the speaker was "neither here nor there".

"There is no rule that prevents the Minister from appearing before the portfolio committee. On the contrary, it is right and proper that the portfolio committee summons the minister to explain why she signed off these lease agreements, despite legal opinions that she should not."

Something to hide?

Mahlangu-Nkabinde still has to answer several questions, including why she had not fully co-operated with the public protector's investigation and why she approved the police lease deals even after she had several legal opinions at her disposal indicating that doing so would be inappropriate, Steenhuisen said.

She should answer to why she approved the lease deals even though the rates were not competitive and whether she or anyone in her department had personal or business relations with Roux Shabangu.

"The minister's failure to meet the public protector's deadline, as well as her no-show in the national assembly, suggests that she has something to hide."

The minister's office was not available for comment.

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