Bosasa scandal: ANC knew of 'havoc' and they did nothing, Dennis Bloem tells Zondo commission

2019-02-01 18:45
Dennis Bloem. (Luluma Zenzile, Netwerk24)

Dennis Bloem. (Luluma Zenzile, Netwerk24)

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Cope spokesperson and former ANC Member of Parliament Dennis Bloem on Friday laid bare Parliament's inability to provide proper oversight of the corruption-plagued Department of Correctional Services.

He also told the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture, led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, how the ANC was acutely aware of many MPs' concerns about the department's arrangements and deals with controversial service provider Bosasa, but did nothing.

His testimony was delivered shortly after the marathon examination by the commission of allegations by former Bosasa executive Angelo Agrizzi, who told Zondo how Bosasa scored hundreds of millions of rand by bribing officials, including ministers and senior government functionaries.

READ: Bosasa scored more than R12bn in state contracts - report

Bosasa and a subsidiary, Sondolo IT, scored tenders worth hundreds of millions of rands from the department, often awarded without proper procedure. They also did not provide the services they tendered for and simply "took the money", Bloem said.

It was "havoc" in correctional services, as recommendations from the public accounts committee and the auditor general were ignored, and there was "no control and no (financial) discipline", he said.

WATCH: Cope MP Dennis Bloem at #StateCaptureInquiry

The commission of inquiry into state capture will on Friday hear testimony from Congress of the People MP Dennis Bloem.

Bloem, time and again, told advocate Paul Pretorius, the commission's evidence leader, how he had raised concerns about Bosasa's numerous contracts with correctional services in the committee, inside the ANC's parliamentary caucus and with party office bearers, including then speaker Max Sisulu. And time and again, his answer to Pretorius' question was that "nothing" was ever done.

'We mustn't treat this comrade like that'

In fact, when his questions became incessant and increasingly urgent, he was reprimanded by then ANC chief whip in Parliament Mbulelo Goniwe and told that he should toe the line.

Goniwe seemingly also threatened him with losing his parliamentary seat, saying Bloem should remember that he was a "deployee of the ANC". Bloem said it was clear that, as an MP, he wasn't his "own boss", but rather the party was.

His recollections are reminiscent of former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein's thwarted efforts to ensure that Parliament provide proper oversight of the controversial arms deal in the early 2000s. Feinstein resigned from the legislature after his attempts were shut down and smothered.

Bloem also told Zondo how then minister of correctional services, Ngconde Balfour, had attempted to dissuade him from scrutinising the department and Bosasa.

"He told me: 'Comrade, this comrade (then commissioner of correctional services Linda Mti) is an experienced comrade. We mustn't treat this comrade like that…'"

Balfour, he said, "was very protective of Mti" and whenever MPs started asking difficult questions of him and Patrick Gillingham during appearances in Parliament, he would answer the questions himself.

'Nobody did a thing'

The former ANC MP, who later served as chairperson of Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services, raised issues around irregularities at the department inside the the ANC's study group (that consists of ANC MPs serving on the committee and includes the minister) and with the chairperson of the ANC's parliamentary caucus (Vytjie Mentor, who also delivered testimony to the commission).

When questioned by Pretorius about the outcomes of his engagements with the party leadership in Parliament, Bloem replied: "Nothing, nobody did a thing." 

There were also attempts to coerce Kgalema Motlanthe, who as deputy president at the time was in charge of "deployments", to have Bloem removed.

Motlanthe apparently refused, saying that Bloem was doing what was expected of an MP.

Zondo and Pretorius emphasised the role of Parliament in a constitutional democracy, asking Bloem to explain the role of parliamentary committees in ensuring that government departments and other state entities planned and spend their budget prudently, and within the limits of governing legislation.

Bloem told the commission that committees have the authority to request any piece of information, including details of tenders and contracts, and can ask anyone to appear before them.

Broke down in tears

Bloem agreed when Pretorius said: "A multiparty committee is therefore a central instrument in our democracy."

At one stage Bloem broke down in tears when he asked the commission to investigate the "sudden and unexplained" death of former correctional services director general Vernie Petersen.

He said Petersen had tried to clean up the department and "hated" corruption, but that he was suddenly moved to the Department of Sport and Recreation after only a year with the correctional services department.

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Petersen's death shocks Mbalula

Zondo, who seemed particularly taken aback by Bloem's testimony, said: "There's no reason why this country cannot arrive at a place where corruption is so small that we can say we live in a corruption-free country."

He asked other MPs to come forward and explain what the impact of state capture was on the legislature.

The commission resumes on Tuesday.

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Read more on:    bosasa  |  anc  |  raymond zondo  |  dennis bloem  |  state capture inquiry
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