IPID: Senna, like McBride, doesn't have security clearance

2019-03-06 19:36
Robert McBride. (Christiaan du Plessis)

Robert McBride. (Christiaan du Plessis)

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One of the reasons the Portfolio Committee on Police gave for not renewing Robert McBride's term as executive director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is also applicable to the person appointed by Police Minister Bheki Cele to act in his place.

Victor Senna, IPID's chief financial officer, was appointed in the acting role for three months by Cele on Friday after the committee controversially decided on Thursday not to renew McBride's contract. Among the five reasons for not renewing his contract that the committee adopted was "the fact that the executive director has no security clearance".

On Wednesday, Senna appeared before the committee.

DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard asked Senna whether he had security clearance.

He did not answer her directly but said out of 29 IPID top structure members, only 15 had security clearance.

Committee chairperson Francois Beukman released a statement after the meeting, stating: "The committee is concerned by the lack of security vetting of 15 of the 29 senior managers at IPID, including the acting executive director, and has called for this vetting to take place urgently."

'Business as usual' at IPID

Security clearances lapse after five years. During its deliberations on McBride's contract, the committee heard McBride's clearance had lapsed in 2018, and it was in the process of being renewed.

Addressing the committee, Senna said it was important that he assures the committee that there was no crisis at IPID in the wake of McBride's departure.

"It's business as usual," he said.

He said while officials were saddened by McBride's departure, he had laid a solid foundation.

Senna said the watchdog's investigation programme would continue to operate in line with the standard operating procedures.

"Ongoing investigations, especially high-profile investigations, will receive priority in line with the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority)," reads his presentation to the committee.

NPA looking at matters raised by McBride

He said IPID had requested a meeting with National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi to address the prosecution of IPID cases and the appointment of prosecutors to deal specifically with high-profile cases. 

On Saturday, News24 reported that McBride wrote to Batohi, urging her to fast-track high-profile cases which he says were "singled out" by IPID.

In the letter – which News24 has seen – McBride notes that he repeatedly appealed to former prosecutions boss Shaun Abrahams over two years to intervene in IPID cases that were not being prosecuted, and questioned Abrahams' impartiality.

The NPA said on Monday that the matters McBride raised were receiving attention.

In the committee's partisan deliberations last week on whether McBride's contract – which expired last Thursday – should be renewed, the DA's assertions that IPID was performing well under McBride were countered by the ANC which stated that arrests were made, but cases were withdrawn. The case of former acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane was used as an example. 

At the start of the meeting committee chairperson Beukman presented Senna's CV. He holds several qualifications related to finance and accounting. He was appointed as IPID's chief financial officer in February 2018 after serving as the chief director of budget and revenue in Gauteng's department of health.

'Extremely impressive' CV

Before that, he was general finance manager at the South Africa Social Security Agency regional office for the Western Cape for two years, after he spent eight years at the Department of Science and Technology's financial unit. 

Kohler Barnard said his resumé as an accountant was "extremely impressive", but she wanted to know what experience he had in the type of work IPID was doing.

He said IPID was not a Chapter 9 institution.

"If you're asking if I can perform the duties of executive director, definitely yes," Senna said. He said IPID's executive director was not an investigator.

Kohler Barnard also asked how many times he had met Cele and why a blue-light brigade was dispatched to fetch him from his sickbed for a meeting with Cele.

"Maybe the honourable member can enlighten me about the blue lights," he said.

ANC 'leaving the past to the past'

He said he had only met with Cele at a lekgotla and when he was appointed.

DA MP Zakhele Mbhele said the decision not to renew McBride's contract "was irrational and lacking in substantive merit".

ANC MP Jerome Maake said Mbhele was out of order and was not in the meeting when the decision was taken. Mbhele and Kohler Barnard had opted to boycott the meeting.

"He mustn't start making political statements," Maake said.

ANC MP Leonard Ramatlakane said, in reference to Mbhele's statement: "From our side, we would think it is an unfortunate statement. We're leaving the past to the past."

ANC MPs welcomed Senna and said they were happy that IPID would continue with its cases and protect its independence.

In his statement, Beukman said while was it important to ensure that investigations are undertaken without fear or favour, it was also important to the committee that Senna should focus, in the short term, on strengthening corporate governance and accountability frameworks, as well as financial management and professional investigative practice.

"Another matter of importance is the speedy appointment of personnel in senior management positions, especially provincial heads, to assist in driving the strategic objectives of the institution," reads the statement.

Beukman said the committee had urged the acting director to work with it and that the committee had pledged its commitment to supporting IPID to deliver its mandate.

Read more on:    ipid  |  robert mcbride
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