IEC: ‘Pay back the money’

2014-10-19 15:00

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IEC gets legal help to recoup R2m it coughed up for Tlakula’s defence in irregular lease deal

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has turned to lawyers to find out how to recoup former chairperson Pansy Tlakula’s legal costs.

The IEC paid R2?million towards Tlakula’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to defend herself from allegations of misconduct involving a R320?million lease saga.

The commissioners’ move, which the IEC confirmed to City Press, pits them against chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya.

The commissioners also want lawyers to find out if Moepya acted legally

when he allegedly took a “unilateral” decision to use IEC funds to foot Tlakula’s legal bill.

Vice-chairperson Terry Tselane said: “The Electoral Commission has briefed senior counsel to provide a legal opinion, firstly, on whether the former chairperson was entitled to receive assistance with legal fees from commission funds. Secondly, on whether the CEO acted properly in terms of the relevant legislation in approving and paying these fees. Thirdly, whether there was an obligation on the former chairperson to repay these funds in light of the failure of her court applications.”

Tselane said the IEC would determine “the most appropriate course of action” based on this legal advice.

“Approximately R2?million has been spent to date, but an assessment of the final amount will form part of this legal process.”

Tlakula resigned from the IEC last month after the Constitutional Court in August turned down her appeal against the Electoral Court’s recommendation that she be removed from office.

“We’ve always had differences with Moepya because the commissioners never authorised those payments in the first place, but he paid for them,” said a well-placed source in the IEC.

City Press understands that commissioners want Tlakula to pay back the money. This is the norm in many government departments and entities when the state foots the bill for legal costs for any charges or allegations related to acts committed in the course of the duties of senior civil servants.

“The decision that the commissioners have taken is to also seek legal opinion because [Moepya] was saying he had a legal opinion authorising him to pay for her [Tlakula’s] lawyers,” said the source.

“As far as we know, if the state is paying for a senior civil servant in court and they lose the case, the official has to pay the money back in full.”

Two investigative reports, one by the Treasury and the other by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, found Tlakula guilty of improper conduct and maladministration.

She did not disclose to the IEC that she had a business relationship with ANC MP Thaba Mufamadi, whose company, Lehotsa Investments, owned 20% of Abland?–?the company to which Tlakula had awarded the R320?million lease deal.

Moepya would not answer questions about Tlakula’s legal costs, saying the matter was now up to the four commissioners to decide.

“I’m not going to comment on those matters because they are now being handled by the IEC [commissioners]. The commission has decided it will deal with these matters and not me,” said Moepya.

Tlakula said she wished everyone would let her be since she was now a “private citizen”.

“I have put the IEC behind me now. Please leave me in peace.

“I have nothing to say. Don’t I deserve peace? Just leave me in peace,” she said when City Press contacted her for comment.

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