MPs roast public enterprises officials

2012-08-07 18:35
Public Enterprise Minister Malusi Gigaba.

Public Enterprise Minister Malusi Gigaba.

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Cape Town - Public enterprises officials got a roasting from MPs on Tuesday for not being ready to present a report on the state-owned SA Forestry Company Limited (Safcol).

"This is completely unacceptable," public enterprises portfolio committee chairperson Peter Maluleka told department officials.

Some had travelled down from Pretoria for the briefing.

Earlier, public enterprises' acting deputy director general for Safcol, Phahlani Mkhombo, told members that a report on the forestry company's future was not finalised.

Among other things, the report would first need to be seen by Cabinet before it could be presented, he said.

Safcol manages its commercial forestry plantations through a number of operational subsidiaries, including Komatiland Forests (KLF).

A review of its future, including possibly winding up the state-owned entity and selling off of its subsidiaries, has been dragging on for several years.

Committee members on Tuesday expressed dissatisfaction with the department.

Unacceptable attitude

"[It's a] totally unacceptable attitude of the [department] to come to Parliament to say you're not ready." ANC MP Gerhard Koornhof said.

"It's just not on; I don't find it acceptable," DA MP Gloria Borman said.

Responding to the criticism, Mkhombo said the department did "have an idea" of what needed to happen with Safcol.

"However, there are other aspects that [still] need to be addressed, such as the land claims and the business model... so there are a number of aspects that need to be put together before we can say this is the final model."

A task team had been put in place to tackle this, he explained, before Maluleka cut him short.

"I don't think anything you are going to say now will give the committee any comfort. You've said you can't give a presentation on the future of Safcol, and that's what the committee wants," the committee chair told him.

Expensive exercise

Maluleka said it was a very expensive exercise for officials to come all the way to Parliament just to tell MPs they were not ready. He asked why the department had not said anything earlier, between the time the meeting programme was agreed to and Tuesday's meeting.

"This is completely unacceptable, and I don't think it can be defended... you could have asked for an extension. You can't justify the fact that you travel all the way from Pretoria... to say you're not ready."

He said the matter would be taken up with Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba.

Responding to the chairperson, a department official insisted the department had communicated with the committee.

"[We told the committee] the department was not ready to communicate at this stage. In fact, there's a letter that was sent on this issue, addressed to you," the official said.

Maluleka said the matter would be looked into.

According to a document Safcol tabled at the briefing later, land claims and a slow restitution process are among the company's biggest challenges.

"Our statistics reflect that about 61% of the land which we are managing is under claims," it states.
- SAPA
Read more on:    public enterprises  |  malusi gigaba  |  parliament 2012
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