Travelgate records to be released

2011-07-29 14:07

Grahamstown - The Eastern Cape High Court has ruled in favour of the Centre for Social Accountability (CSA) to access records regarding the so-called "Travelgate" saga.

The scandal involved the alleged abuse by MPs of travel vouchers, and came to light in the early 2000s.

On Thursday, the court ordered the Secretary to Parliament and National Assembly Speaker to release to the CSA within 10 days two schedules of a Sale of Claims Agreement - concluded in February 2009 - between Parliament and the liquidators of Bathong Travel (Pty) Ltd.

The documents include the names of MPs and claims against them.

This agreement allowed Parliament to buy, at taxpayers' expense, claims which were being pursued by the liquidators of Bathong against MPs implicated in travelgate, CSA spokesperson Jay Kruuse said on Friday.

"This occurred despite Parliament being a majority creditor in the liquidation of Bathong.

Transparency and accountability

"By buying the claims Parliament was able to secure control over the collection of outstanding money and could decide whether to pursue MPs or not," he said.

The court judgment followed a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request for access to the agreement, which was submitted to Parliament by the CSA during March 2009.

After Parliament refused to release the entire agreement, arguing among other things, that it would amount to an unreasonable disclosure of personal information relating to MPs, the CSA brought an application to court using PAIA.

Kruuse said the judgment reinforced the obligations placed upon Parliament and other duty bearers by the Constitution and PAIA and noted that such laws sought to foster transparency and accountability in government and by implication within Parliament's own corridors.

"The ruling also contributes to jurisprudence on PAIA and considers what information should be protected from disclosure versus information which should be released in the public interest, as required by section 46 of PAIA," he said.

The judge noted that the personal life a MP chose to live was of no concern to the state.

"But how they execute their duties as MPs, under what circumstances they claim payment in respect of travel vouchers, and whether or not they obey the rules of Parliament and act in accordance with the code of conduct which society expects from its MPs, all of this is the business of the state.

"The state has the right to know, and through the state, the members of society who have elected the MPs in an open and democratic society."

The judge noted that public interest was at stake when the structure of institutional democracy was threatened by a culture of "secretive and unresponsive" government, and found that any conduct by members of Parliament which on balance of probability would disclose unlawful or irregular conduct in the exercise of their parliamentary duties, constituted a threat to South Africa's institutional democratic order and warranted disclosure in the public interest.

The CSA called on Parliament to explain what steps it had taken to recover claims against MPs and the extent of claims still outstanding, Kruuse said.

  • melchiedek - 2011-07-29 14:15

    there we go name and shame them sisssssssssss!

      WiseOwl2 - 2011-07-29 16:00

      The corrupt will investigate the corrupt and the never ending saga will go on and on.

      Organist-1 - 2011-07-29 17:05

      Hooo boy, This is really going to let the fox loose in the chicken coop. They already have so many spin doctors working on cases to plug holes that those documents will probably also "disappear". Maybe this will also fall under the new "protection of information" bill and be classified as "sensitive" information. WiseOwl is right. How can corrupt investigate corrupt? A house divided against itself will fall (and fail).

  • Fedup - 2011-07-29 14:35

    Now this should be interesting

  • Ann - 2011-07-29 14:43

    Whoooo Hoooo! The gravy train being exposed!

  • Greg - 2011-07-29 15:05

    The problem is once again all will be exposed and after lengthy 'investigations' nothing will come of it. The rot has spread so far and deep that it would be in the best interest of the government to sidestep and move on as soon as possible.

  • Greg - 2011-07-29 15:07

    Furthermore why do we keep responding to Mad Man. He obvsiously a bloody ANC agent. Ignore the D00$ and hopefully he will go away.

  • Voyager - 2011-07-29 15:21

    You can run but you can't hide. Next one to come into the open is the arms deal!

  • Deon - 2011-07-29 15:30

    Most of the information and documents have been "lost" - mark my words !!!!

  • fly - 2011-07-29 15:46

    slowly but surely all will be revealed but nothing will happen because every poor previously disadvantaged cadre deserves some gravy to go with his/her free BMW/MERC that us imperialists have to pay for ,shame it is not their fault its Apartheid's fault so vote ANC again and again and hopefully there will be some gravy left for idiots like madman and the rest of them to plunder

  • Douglas Hendry - 2011-07-29 16:03

    I wonder if the Govt will try to do what the UK Govt did when MP's expenses were queried. They published all the figures, but redacted most of the names. It took some doing by the Press to get that resolved. Let us hope our Govt doesn't try the same shoddy trick.

  • Roy - 2011-07-29 16:58

    Let's hope that these crooks will be delt with.They should be punished because they were chosen to sit in Goverment as representatives of the country,earn good salaries etc and not be dishonest.

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