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

2018-05-18 14:05
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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The Department of State Security will be reviewing the Intelligence Services Oversight Act to, among other things, ensure greater independence of the Office of the Inspector General of Intelligence (IGI).

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

During her speech, she acknowledged it was public record that there were tensions between former director general of the State Security Agency (SSA) Arthur Fraser and Inspector General of Intelligence Dr Isaac Dintwe.

Read: Panel will review SA's intelligence structures, Ramaphosa announces

"We will work on improving the institutional regulatory mechanisms between the Office of the Inspector General of Intelligence and that of [the] director general of the SSA," she said.

"Together with the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence, we must initiate a process that will yield greater independence of the Office of the IGI.

"We need to review the Intelligence Oversight Act and regulations to give effect to this and other matters, including the issue of a Deputy Inspector General."

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen led a short applause from his caucus, following the acknowledgement from the minister.

Also read: DA says it acted legally 'at all times' in state security saga

Restoring the credibility of the agency was the big, running theme in the minister's speech.

'State capture biggest threat'

She acknowledged that large-scale corruption in the "form of state capture" posed the most "significant threat to our national security and the well-being of our people".

"The state security structures unfortunately seem not to have been spared from this scourge either, with recent allegations of irregular and unlawful conduct.

"We will have to confront these allegations of corruption and misconduct in the state security structures head-on and hold the guilty parties responsible to the letter of the law and take steps to recover monies not accounted for."

Both sides of the House applauded this statement.

State security and other justice and policing structures needed to be "cleansed" first to fulfil their responsibilities when fighting corruption, she continued.

"In this regard, we have started to conduct proactive risk assessments of government institutions, including state-owned enterprises in order to gain an idea of the extent of actual corruption which we face and to put mitigation measures in place to effectively reduce such potential risks."

They would also lend all the necessary support required by the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Vetting problems

A big proposal emanating from the budget is the delivery on promises to ensure stricter vetting capacities at the agency.

The State Security Agency has been under pressure to deliver better vetting services, after a meeting in Parliament in December revealed that only 7% of senior managers at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) were vetted.

Then director general Fraser and then minister Bongani Bongo, were called before the standing committee on public accounts to explain the problems.

"We remain concerned that the inadequate state of security at government departments, state-owned entities and national key points, combined with generally inadequate security awareness among government officials, remains one of the most serious security threats facing government systems and processes at present," Letsatsi-Duba said on Friday.

Read more: New state security minister to straighten intelligence

To address those challenges, her department will employ measures to enhance vetting capacity.

"We will also complete the drafting of new vetting regulations for state institutions that will include sanctions for non-compliance, both for the individual, as well as for heads of the institutions who fail to ensure that staff under their supervision have the requisite security clearances which are commensurate with their responsibilities."

'We'll celebrate when we see delivery'

Although she did not mention "fit for purpose" in her speech due to time constraints, her speech notes said that the new regulations must recognise that the phrase was at the heart of some of the dubious appointments at state institutions.

Right2Know's Murray Hunter, who was present in the public gallery, told News24 that "of course all of these are good promises".

"[However], many of these recommendations have been sitting on the minister's desk for a decade.

"We can't celebrate promises to fix the spooks. We won't be happy until we see delivery: stop the illegal spying; protect the watchdogs; and end the SSA's budget secrecy."

Meanwhile, chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence Dr Charles Nqakula, said during the debate that the committee would continue to look at the issues surrounding the Fraser and Dintwe impasse.

They will continue to probe the issues at committee level, despite Fraser's transfer to correctional services.

The statement was met with applause from both the DA and ANC benches.

Read more on:    dipuo letsatsi-duba  |  parliament 2018

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