Minister Letsatsi-Duba wants to 'arrest the rot' at the SSA

2018-05-18 22:34
State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba during her department's budget vote debate in Parliament. (Paul Herman, News24)

State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba during her department's budget vote debate in Parliament. (Paul Herman, News24)

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New State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba says her department is focused this year on "arresting the rot" that has hurt the State Security Agency's functioning over the last few years.

Letsatsi-Duba, appointed to the post in February under President Cyril Ramaphosa, delivered her department's budget speech in Parliament on Friday.

She was open about the SSA's "weaknesses" and challenges of late, and told MPs that their primary focus now is restoring public confidence by restoring their capacity.

"Part of restoring the public's confidence in the intelligence services will include deliberate acts of professionalising the service. In this regard, there could be no place for rogue elements within our intelligence services.

READ: State Security dept seeks 'greater independence' for IGI's office

"We have a responsibility to ensure that the institutions responsible for being the 'guardians of peace, democracy and the Constitution' have to be clean and free to conduct its work with integrity."

They will therefore be investing in the SSA's ability to produce intelligence products of the highest quality, following repeated criticism of the poor or "compromised" they had been presenting to Cabinet. 

They would also strengthen controls around financial management of operational funds, and review their curriculum at their training academy.

"Our products must meet the highest standard of analytical and methodological rigour so that they can stand up to critical scrutiny. They must improve in their quest to provide the policy-makers with timeous, critical and unique information that warns them of risks and dangers.

"We are resolute in ensuring that we reconstruct the Agency, arrest the rot while ensuring at the same time that corporate governance and efficiency is enhanced."

President's SSA review panel being set up

One of the big mechanisms to be used in rebuilding the country's security agency will be the review panel ordered by Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address in February.

Having embarked on her own fact-finding missions since taking over the portfolio, Letsatsi-Duba said she was confronted by "systemic structural and governance weaknesses" requiring serious intervention.

"It became clear that these challenges stem from recent past where the Agency has been in a perpetual state of transition.

"We are therefore encouraged by and welcome the decision of President Ramaphosa to appoint a Review Panel that will assess the structure of the Agency in relation to its mandate and inquire into its systems and capacity."

The panel will be established shortly, and will comprise a team of no more than 10 experts.

READ: Heavyweights Vusi Pikoli, Anwar Dramat and Gibson Njenje to join intelligence

She told journalists at a media briefing afterwards that the panel will be completely independent from the department, and be comprised of academics, security veterans and strategic thinkers in the public sphere.

They would work speedily to implement the recommendations put forward by the panel once its work is complete.

"These are some of the interventions we will make in our quest to restore the integrity, credibility, operational capability as well as public's confidence in our intelligence service," she said.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi however had a word of warning for the minister in his debate speech, saying processes around the SSA needed to become more open and transparent, as spooks were good at hiding information, "even from the minister".

He called for the budgetary process to become open so they can "know what the SSA is spending on", and for a mechanism to be developed so that Parliament can hold regular open meetings with the SSA.

Earlier, Letsatsi-Duba also said they would be reviewing legislation governing the Inspector General of Intelligence to strengthen the office's independence, as well as improve vetting practices to assist the country's SOEs.

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