Fraser mum on new post during budget meeting in Parliament

2018-04-19 15:57
New correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser in Parliament. (Paul Herman, News24)

New correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser in Parliament. (Paul Herman, News24)

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New correctional services commissioner Arthur Fraser declined to comment on questions, from MPs and journalists, around his abrupt transfer to the department on Thursday.

Fraser made his second appearance before the justice portfolio committee this week, having joined Justice Minister Michael Masutha for the justice department's annual budget presentation on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Fraser was again present for the Department of Correctional Services' own presentation. Deputy minister Thabang Makwetla acted on behalf of an absent Masutha.

The new commissioner, however - who was controversially moved to the post from the State Security Agency by President Cyril Ramaphosa two days ago - was given very little to do.

READ: IGI court action against Fraser to go ahead despite his move to Correctional Services

"We welcome the appearance of the new commissioner today," Makwetla said at the beginning of the meeting.

"We have agreed with him, we will not burden him with the responsibility of presenting today. We will ask the deputy national commissioner to present today."

The committee heard that Fraser would only officially assume his duties on Friday.

He was there to "hit the ground running" before then, which committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga welcomed.

Makwetla proceeded to present on behalf of the department, as did regional commissioner Mandla Mkhabela.

Fraser sat quietly during proceedings, listening to the presentations and occasionally browsing through his phone.

Journalists door-stopped Fraser after the meeting to ask him about his appointment and whether he was given reasons, or whether he was surprised by the decision.

"No comment," he replied, before refusing to answer the numerous subsequent questions posed to him while he waited for the lift.

'President makes the judgment call'

Fraser's surprise transfer has been met with controversy this week, after the Inspector General of Intelligence Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe claimed in an affidavit that Fraser was interfering in his duties.

During a round of questions, DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach asked Makwetla, whether the vacancy for Fraser's position had been advertised, whether there was a shortlist process and whether interviews took place before he was placed.

"The position of DG (director general) was advertised in October last year, and at the end of that period, we actually approached the office of the acting national commissioner to extend the closing period, in order to allow more candidates to come into the pool," Makwetla eventually answered.

"We had a meeting with the minister and acting national commissioner to get a report about the shortlisting for the [post].

"At that meeting, when we got the report about the candidates, the issue was discussed thoroughly and there was a view that we must actually consider proposing that the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) be allowed to headhunt for the department."

Ramaphosa's decision to move Fraser was a practice that "now-and-again" occurred, through the DPSA.

"DGs are contracted and employed by the president, and the president, depending on what the issues are, with the advice of the minister of DPSA, can always change the deployment of DGs.

"With this particular instance, we could not say no, and we have no right to say no. The president is the one that these DGs have contracts with, and the president makes the judgment call as how best those negotiations are handled."

The department would also commit to forward a more elaborate answer through Masutha, as the one who made the decision, if the committee so wished.

Masutha has 'full confidence' in Fraser

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria was on Thursday expected to hear an urgent application from Dintwe on the matter.

On Wednesday, during his first appearance in Parliament, Fraser was also tight-lipped, Eyewitness News reported.

"It's my first day, so no comment yet. Once I've settled in we could have a chat, to engage," he told the committee.

On Wednesday, Masutha backed his new commissioner before MPs, saying President Cyril Ramaphosa had explained to him the reasons for his "urgent and necessary" change in position.

ALSO READ: Dintwe can’t be trusted with state secrets – Fraser

"I am aware of the negative publicity around him. I am looking at it positively," Masutha told the committee.

"I have a man with vast experience who I believe can bring to bear such valuable experience to assist us at corrections to address some of the challenges. I am confident in him playing a positive role in the department going forward."

Fraser has previously said that the legal wrangle with Dintwe was a move to discredit him, claiming in court documents that Dintwe could not be trusted with state secrets.

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