Sisulu skips Scopa meeting

2010-03-23 18:02

Cape Town - Tensions between Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Parliament rose further still on Tuesday when she failed to appear before the public accounts committee (Scopa) to face questions about the department's financial woes.

Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said he received notice from the defence ministry only on Tuesday morning that Sisulu could not make it because she had to accompany President Jacob Zuma on a two-day state visit to Uganda starting on Thursday.

"Apparently it is protocol that she arrives before the president," he told reporters.

"Up until this morning we didn't know they were not coming."

Flew members to CT

Godi pointed out that Parliament had incurred the unnecessary cost of flying three members of the Auditor General's office to Cape Town for the meeting, only to learn at the last moment that it would not happen.

The defence department has in recent weeks been grilled by Scopa and the portfolio committee on defence over its latest qualified audit, the ninth in a row, and its failure to provide MPs with clear information on what went wrong and how they were fixing it.

Sisulu appeared before MPs last month after Godi cut short an earlier briefing in frustration at acting defence secretary Tsepe Motumi's handling of questions on the qualified audit.

She denied that the department's finances were in chaos.

The minister has also been criticised by the opposition for failing to respond to written questions in Parliament on time or in full and failing to oblige the defence portfolio committee with a briefing on the combat readiness of the SANDF.

Plan 'lacks credible vision'

Godi said he was not happy with the way in which the defence ministry had responded to Scopa's questions about its financial administration problems, which include an asset register in disarray.

"I think generally they have not been forthcoming," he said.

The Democratic Alliance accused the minister of "playing fast and loose" with Scopa.

Last week, Treasury officials told Parliament the defence ministry's strategic three-year plan lacked "credible vision" of what the military should be doing and was more than a decade out of date.

The plan bears Sisulu's signature and opposition MPs have called on her to withdraw it.