Carrim: 'We did look at Lackay's SARS memo'

Adrian Lackay, former SARS spokesperson, keeps claiming in the media that he wrote to Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance (Scof) and the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) on SARS mismanagement, under Commissioner Tom Moyane, of allegations against the "High Risk Investigation Unit" – the so-called "rogue intelligence unit" – and that we were not responsive in terms of our responsibilities.

I have desisted from responding to his inaccurate claims before because of the court case against him, but with that now over, I respond briefly.  

My colleague, Ms Connie September, the former chairperson of the JSCI, is not able to speak freely because of the way the JSCI functions, but I have no such restraint. It's simply not true that we did not take up Mr Lackay's concerns. I do not recall all our exchanges – there were, I think, at least three over the phone – but several through emails, most of which, if not all, I have managed to trace.

Mr Lackay sent an email to Ms September and me on 24 March at 17:25, I replied to him and Ms September at 18:48 on 24 March, and he replied at 18:53, in fact, even expressing his appreciation for my "swift response". I spoke with him over the phone on 25 March and subsequently, including on 15 April.

We also received emails from Mr Lackay on 25 March, 31 March and 15 April, and Ms September wrote to him on 27 March and 14 April.

To complicate matters, Ms Belinda Walters, who was allegedly working for the State Security Agency (SSA), also wrote to me on 22 April (13:27) to refute some of Mr Lackay's allegations, and I also spoke with her over the phone.

In my first response to Mr Lackay's email on 24 March, I explained to him that, after exchanges with Ms September and others, we had developed a "complementary division of labour" between what the JSCI would deal with and what our committee would, but that almost all the issues he raised fell under the JSCI. I also stressed that the committee could not serve the role of a tribunal or commission, but that we were committed to contributing in any way we could to an amicable solution to the issues.

His concerns were raised

At a Scof meeting a parliamentary lawyer explained that it was the JSCI that had to primarily deal with the matters raised in Mr Lackay's correspondence. The "division of labour" between the two committees was also raised with the Speaker's Office. 

Mr Lackay's concerns were also raised at the ANC Finance Study Group and it was decided that, while Scof could play only a very limited role in the matter, Mr Des van Rooyen, the then-Study Group Whip, and I should explore the possibilities of contributing to the political process being proposed to settle the matter. 

While we were exploring this and finalising the parameters of the respective committees' roles, Mr Lackay's correspondence was publicly released, causing huge tensions within the ANC and the committee. 

There was also a conflation of Mr Lackay's labour relations issues with the so-called "rogue intelligence unit" issues, and Ms September, a former trade unionist, suggested that he consider pursuing his personal issues through seeking legal advice on whether it was a constructive dismissal.

She explained that the intelligence issues he raised fell under the JSCI, and also proposed that the matter be forwarded to the Inspector General. 

At the time, there were allegations and counter-allegations around the so-called "rogue intelligence unit", and in that world of "smoke and mirrors" we did not want to be used by anybody. 

The Scof could not take over the role of the JSCI or the Inspector General. Mr Lackay expected us to act outside of the norms and conventions of parliamentary committees in dealing with allegations such as he made, but this we, rightly, refused to do. 

'He's certainly not entitled to make false claims'

If we were allowed to invite him to address the Scof, we would have had to call SARS, the SSA, Ms Walter and other interested parties. How would we have been able to have discussed these complex, elusive issues relating to intelligence in the Scof? And with political parties in the committee taking their narrow, sell-interested, "point-scoring" positions on these issues, how would we have been able to arrive at independent and fair outcomes? 

Even if the information that has since emerged in the public domain about SARS' management of the "rogue intelligence unit" matter was available in 2015, our committee would still not have been able to hold an open parliamentary inquiry into the allegations about the so-called "rogue intelligence unit". It would have required a full-time independent commission of inquiry, with the necessary mandate, expertise and resources to attend to this. 

To some extent the Nugent Commission has come to serve that role, although this is not its specific mandate. But perhaps the review panel of intelligence agencies that government has set up headed by Sydney Mufamadi might want to consider issues related to so-called "rogue intelligence units", or government could perhaps consider a specific inquiry into these issues? 

Mr Lackay presents himself as a person of integrity, who is concerned that people should observe the law and act in terms of the rules. It certainly doesn't do him well to question the integrity of others who also observe the rules and act within their legal mandates.Of course, Mr Lackay is entitled to his view that we could have done more. But he's certainly not entitled to make false claims that we were not responsive to his concerns.  

Yunus Carrim is chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance. 

** Update: After publishing this column, we received the following statement from Adrian Lackay: 

In my media statement of Sunday 30 September 2018, I clearly recorded that "regrettably, the Parliamentary committees chose not to consider or entertain the substance of my submission..."

I did not state or imply that the committee chairpersons "did nothing". There were numerous telephone and email exchanges between the chairpersons, Mr Yunus Carrim and Ms Connie September. 

Amongst other things, I was advised to consider instituting labour proceedings before the CCMA against SARS for constructive dismissal, which I duly did and lost.

I was further advised that the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence would deal with most of my written concerns as these fall within the ambit of that committee. The reality, however, is that neither I nor any of the former SARS colleagues were provided an opportunity to be heard by any of the committees. 

In October 2018, that still remains profoundly regrettable.

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