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Scopa snub: ANC backs Sisulu

2010-04-22 07:10

Cape Town - The office of the ANC Chief Whip is satisfied that Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu remains "fully committed" and "submissive" to the oversight authority of Parliament, a statement said on Wednesday.

The party said it was clear that a "misunderstanding" resulted in Sisulu's failure to attend a meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).

"The Chief Whip yesterday (Tuesday) held separate meetings with the minister, the chairperson of Scopa Temba Godi and the chairperson of defence and military veterans committee Mnyamezeli Booi, with an objective to clear any issue that may have brought about this situation," the statement said.

"The parties agreed that the lines of communication between the committee and the ministry needed to be enhanced to ensure that this challenge does not arise in future."

"We are satisfied that the minister remains fully committed and submissive to the oversight authority of Parliament."

It is a long standing practice that in arrangements of parliamentary meetings, committees and ministries take into account each other's schedules for a date that suits both parties, the statement read.

"We note that the last two occasions that the minister was unable to appear before Scopa were regrettably due to reasons beyond her and the committee's control.

Misunderstanding

"She had to form part of the President-led delegation on important international visits.

"It is clear that a misunderstanding resulted in the postponement of yesterday's (Tuesday) meeting of Scopa."

The party said Sisulu had requested a bilateral meeting with Godi, ahead of her appearance before the full committee, to discuss some of the issues raised by the committee relating to her department.

"It is unfortunate that this requested meeting was understood to be a meeting with the whole committee.

"Both the chairperson and the minister will agree on a date in which the committee would meet with the minister."

Godi told Sapa on Tuesday that he had met with ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga after Sisulu's no-show on Tuesday and won an undertaking that the ANC would deal with the matter.

"There will be a process led by the chief whip to address the situation that has unfolded and to bridge any misunderstanding," Godi said.

Scopa has been seeking a meeting with Sisulu since February when former acting defence secretary Tsepe Motumi appeared before the committee and buckled under questioning on the dire state of the department's finances.

Accompany Zuma

In March, the minister was due to accompany financial officers from her department to brief Scopa, but sent word at the last minute that she had to travel to Uganda ahead of President Jacob Zuma, who was due in the east African nation two days later.

She had already missed an earlier meeting because she was accompanying Zuma on his state visit to Britain.

In a letter to Godi dated April 18, she assured him that she would attend Tuesday's meeting but warned that she might have to leave early to attend a meeting of the portfolio committee on defence.

When she failed to appear, the chairperson of that committee, Nyami Booi, admitted that he had told Sisulu she could skip the Scopa meeting.

Booi later also attended the meeting with Godi and Motshekga.

Godi said the minister was guilty of "a breach of engagement" but added diplomatically that since this was the first year that Scopa had implemented a policy of summoning ministers, "we could expect to encounter glitches".

Motshekga was criticised by ANC colleagues earlier this year for saying that ministers were not obliged to appear before Scopa.