Parliament keeps findings against its secretary Mgidlana a secret for now

Gengezi Mgidlana
Gengezi Mgidlana

Outcomes of the five-month investigation into the conduct of Parliament boss will remain a secret for a bit much longer because the institution’s head honchos are wary that publicising the report may jeopardise the disciplinary process.

Parliament has decided to keep the much-awaited findings of an independent auditing committee that investigated a slew of allegations of maladministration and abuse of power against secretary to Parliament, Gengezi Mgidlana, under lock and key with only supervised access for MPs. Ten days ago, Parliament announced that the committee had concluded its investigation and its recommendations and allegations were serious and warranted that Parliament institute a disciplinary process against him.

At last week’s meeting, MPs were expecting to receive the report of the audit committee but instead it emerged that only ANC MP Vincent Smith, who co-chairs the joint standing committee on the financial management of Parliament, was in possession of the report and that Parliament’s executive authority – National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and national council of provinces’ chairperson Thandi Modise had warned that the report be dealt with in a manner that didn’t jeopardise the disciplinary process.

This meant the report wouldn’t be shared with other MPs, the media or members of the public but would be kept under lock and key and curious MPs could view it under supervision. Smith informed MPs that Mbete had also indicated that not even Mgidlana was given the physical report. He was only given an opportunity to read it under supervision and in the presence of the chairperson of the auditing committee. ANC MPs did not object and, in fact, agreed with the proposal, adding that the matter was a human resources issue and outside of the committee’s mandate.

Co-chairperson of the oversight committee, Motalane Monakedi, agreed that the disciplinary process in particular was a sensitive process that needed to be handled with care.

“If we don’t we run the risk of jeopardising the whole process. We run the risk of prejudicing the rights of the main character and we may end up shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said.

“In fact, under normal circumstances, we are not even supposed to have this report because the process is not yet concluded. The management including [disciplinary committee] issues of senior people in Parliament are being handled at a particular level and let’s allow that process to run its course. The best approach is to take the report back,” added Monakedi.

This raised temperatures, especially with the DA, which threatened court action to force the publishing of the findings.

While the Inkatha Freedom Party and United Democratic Movement agreed with the ANC proposal, likening the publishing of the report to a demand for police evidence while the investigation was ongoing, they raised concerns about the report leaking to the media and a possibility of a settlement being reached between Parliament and Mgidlana behind the scenes with MPs in the dark about the audit committee’s findings. The IFP’s Narend Singh added it was important for MPs to be told about the next step in the process including who is going to conduct the disciplinary inquiry and whether this will be a public process.

The DA MPs were not buying any of it.

Both the party’s chief whip John Steenhuisen and his deputy Michael Waters demanded access to the report especially since Smith had it. They also argued this was not an human resources matter but that each time they raised concerns about Mgidlana and his behaviour, they were told about the investigation and that they would get briefing and being taken through the report.

“It’s my belief that the document is being kept from selected members of the committee because there is another process at play. I can tell you now had the document exonerated Mgidlana, we would have been sitting here with it being issued by Mr Mothapo [Parliament spokesperson] from the rooftops,” argued Steenhuisen.

He added that the report would simply constitute a charge sheet in the disciplinary proceedings and nothing else. He added that MPs who leaked it could be taken to the ethics and disciplinary committees of Parliament to face consequences.

Waters explained that their concerns related to the fact that often employees who were found guilty of wrongdoing received a golden handshake from government institutions and then signed a secrecy clause because it might have other implications for other people.

Mgidlana was placed on special leave, at his own request, on June 9 while the audit committee investigated the allegations levelled against him. Last week, Parliament gave him seven days to say why he should not be put on precautionary suspension, pending the finalisation of the disciplinary proceedings against him. Among the allegations investigated by the committee included his receipt of an ex gratia payment of R71 000 four months into his job, improper allocation of a study bursary, improper travel management and irregular procurement of services.

Andisiwe Makinana
Parliamentary journalist
City Press
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