National Treasury’s search for a new Director-General must be Gupta proof

The Director-General of National Treasury, Lungisa Fuzile, who was central to the fight against state capture, looting and big spending, retires today after twenty years of service at National Treasury.
The process to replace him is reportedly already well underway with more than thirty applications having been received, including some applications from internal candidates within National Treasury.
There is a real risk that the appointment process will be hijacked and that a person who is more committed to serving President Jacob Zuma’s and his most important clients, the Guptas’, private interests, rather than the public interest, will be appointed as the next Director-General of National Treasury.
I will, therefore, submit a series of parliamentary questions probing the appointment of the new director-general to ensure the appointment process is “Gupta proof”, and that the successful candidate does not come with the Guptas’ “stamp of approval”.
In the end, Lungisa Fuzile served his country well for the past twenty years at National Treasury. We wish him well in his retirement and have a sneaking suspicion that he will not be farming for long. We hope he will bounce back and play an important role, perhaps in the financial sector, in South Africa.

DA to probe performance of SAA CFO

At a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance (SCOF), I managed to persuade National Treasury to announce that Ms Phumeza Nhantsi had been appointed as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of South African Airways (SAA), after having served as the interim CFO since November 2015.
Her appointment as CFO has been made despite the enormous current projected losses of R4,6 billion for the 2016/17 year.
Furthermore, during her time as interim CFO, SAA was involved in a number of controversial financial debacles including the infamous Airbus debacle that resulted in Jacob Zuma firing Nhlanhla Nene as the Minister of Finance in December 2015, rocking South Africa’s economy.
The most egregious financial crisis arose in July 2016 when SAA, apparently without following due process, appointed BnP Capital to raise debt funding for SAA at a fee cost to SAA of R256 million, a cost far exceeding what the market would have determined. When this outrageous contract was exposed by the DA and others, SAA were forced to cancel this contract but even so the cancelation fee was reported to amount to almost R50 million without any value at all received by SAA.
The BnP debacle was clearly pursued with the goal of enriching the principals of BnP at the expense of SAA and taxpayers. The same taxpayers who have had to continually bail out SAA, and will likely very soon have to bail SAA out yet again. The appointment of BnP was a financial contract and therefore would have required the approval of Ms Phumeza Nhantsi, the newly appointed CFO. Indeed the BnP contract may well have been initiated and negotiated by Ms Nhantsi.
SAA will be appearing before the SCOF on Wednesday the 17th of May 2017. At this meeting, I will ensure that the newly appointed SAA CFO is questioned about her performance as the interim CFO as well as her culpability with regard to the financial debacles at SAA during her time as the interim CFO.

Instead of building homes, DHS wastes almost R5 million on workshops

The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) has admitted, in a written reply to a DA parliamentary question, that the department and its 7 entities needlessly spent over R4.8 million on workshops and conferences between 2014 and 2016.
The DHS was the biggest spender and splurged over R1.8 million in this period.
The DA is not opposed to government officials receiving training and learning to improve their skills to provide services to our people. However, upon closer examination, these workshops and conferences show a clear duplication and a tendency for hosting these events at luxury hotels and lodges such as 15 on Orange in Cape Town.
The exorbitant expenditure on these events, during a period where National Treasury continuously warned against spending on non-essential services, appears reckless and financially imprudent, and is quite frankly a slap in the face of the poor.
The R4.8 million spent on these workshops in total could have provided 40 RDP houses to those in need.
The DA will now write to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to establish what austerity measures she has initiated, if any, in her department as part of National Treasury’s cost-cutting initiatives.
After 23 years of democracy, millions of South Africans still do not own title-deeds, yet the department responsible for building homes for our people, would rather waste money on luxury hotels and lodges.

Tegeta Exploration & Resources will be the first big test of Malusi Gigaba’s political backbone

Note to Editors: Please find correspondence between National Treasury and Tegeta Exploration & Resources (Pty) Ltd relevant to the report discovered as a result of a request for access to information, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000), submitted by DA Shadow Minister of Finance David Maynier MP here.
The Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba’s, first big test is going to be his handling of National Treasury’s final report on the review of coal contracts entered into by Tegeta Exploration & Resources (Pty) Ltd and Eskom.
The draft report reportedly finds inter alia that there was no evidence that the advance payment was used for its mining operations and recommends that the R659 million be converted to a loan with interest payable by Tegeta Exploration and Resources (Pty) Ltd.
The controversy surrounding the report is not new and exploded last year when Tegeta Exploration & Resources (Pty) Ltd threatened to apply for an urgent interdict to prevent National Treasury handing me a copy of the report, which I had requested in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000).
In a letter, dated 23 June 2016, Tegeta Exploration & Resources accused National Treasury of trying to defame their business as follows: “…your efforts to obtain our feedback on the request of Mr Maynier must be seen as an unwarranted attempt to obtain approval to publish your report to a political party with the motive of defaming our business with facts not tested or commented on.”
And Tegeta Exploration & Resources went on to threaten National Treasury as follows: “We will consider obtaining further legal advice in launching an urgent application to interdict you from releasing the report until it has been subjected to scrutiny of all parties concerned.”
Tegeta Exploration & Resources (Pty) Ltd and Eskom clearly have something to hide and have worked hard to frustrate and delay the review conducted by National Treasury.
This matter has gone on for too long and it is now imperative that the report be completed, made public and that action be taken against Tegeta Exploration & Resources (Pty) Ltd and Eskom.
I have, despite numerous requests for access to the report, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, (No. 2 of 2000), been unable to obtain a copy of the report from National Treasury.
The reply is always the same: “Your request has been assessed and it has been established that the report is not yet finalised. Some technical information was received from Eskom and this necessitated the appointment of experts to assist in reviewing it. The report will be released once the experts have completed the review process.”
However, I have not given up and on 05 April 2017 I submitted a further request for access to the report, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000), to National Treasury.
The handling of the final report will be the first test of the minister’s willingness to stand up to his political master, Jacob Zuma, and his most important clients, the Guptas, who control Tegeta Exploration & Resources (Pty) Ltd.

Social grants crisis: Dlamini fails to answer 93% of questions

Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, has become a master of dodging accountability. The Minister has failed to answer an astounding 93% of parliamentary questions, submitted by the DA, relating directly to the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the social grant crisis, since we began to raise the alarm about the impending crisis in mid-2016.
This is yet another clear indication of the Minister’s reign of impunity and how she continuously dodges any opportunity to account for her department’s failure to ensure that 17 million South Africans continue to receive their grants when the current invalid CPS contract ends on 31 March 2017.
In 2016, the DA submitted 15 questions and Dlamini saw fit to only answer two. This year, the DA submitted 13 questions and not one of them has been answered. A full list of the questions submitted can be found here.
The DA will be writing to the Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to get an update on when these questions will be answered.
Parliamentary questions are vital component of accountability in Parliament and provide the opposition with the opportunity to ensure that the Executive conduct themselves in a transparent manner.
Some of the questions we submitted included:

  • Whether she submitted the proposed payment model for the takeover of the payments of grants by SASSA to the National Treasury for analysis and evaluation;
  • Whether SASSA intends to extend its contract for the distribution of grants with Net1/CPS before the specified contract concludes on 31 March 2017; and
  • What are the details of the various work stream categories set up by her department to action the transition of the distribution of social grants from Net1/CPS to SASSA.

The Minister’s failure to answer these questions is highly problematic, as it indicates that she has once again violated her oath of office by not performing her functions to the best of her ability.
The DA is of the belief that Dlamini is no longer fit to hold office and have repeatedly called for President Zuma to fire her. His silence on this matter is deafening and serves to confirm that the ANC rewards failure.
The DA has approached the Constitutional Court specifically seeking a declaration that Dlamini has violated her oath of office by failing to perform the functions of her office with honour, dignity and to the best of her ability. We are also seeking a declaratory order confirming that Dlamini and SASSA have violated their duties in terms of Sections 165 (4) and (5) and Section 195 of the Constitution.
The DA will not allow for the Minister to dodge accountability any longer, that is why we will march in our thousands on Friday, 10 March 2017, to the Department of Social Development to send a clear message to the Minister that poor South Africans will no longer be treated in this disgraceful manner.

Carbon tax: DA to request National Treasury to appear before Tourism Committee

The DA will be writing to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism, Beatrice Ngcobo, in order to request that the National Treasury appear before the committee to clarify the impact that the proposed carbon tax will have on domestic air travel.
In a recent reply to a parliamentary question, the Minister of Transport, Dipou Peters, conceded that she was unsure of the impact that the proposed carbon tax would have on the cost of domestic air travel, and that carriers would be left to determine how its introduction would affect travellers.
Many South Africans already cannot afford air travel due to the high charges and taxes imposed by domestic carriers.
With several reports suggesting that domestic tourism is declining due to affordability, we need to explore ways to minimise the impact of taxes on domestic air travel.
Tourism is a key job providing industry in South Africa, with one in 22 employed people working in tourism, and we should not seek to restrict it but rather aim to grow it throughout South Africa. It seems ludicrous that no assessment is available which is indicative of how the tax will balance the interests of the job-creating tourism sector with the aim of reducing carbon emissions.
We need to minimise taxes, we need to be truthful in our advertising, treat air transport as a strategic catalyst for economic growth, and increase our number of flights to all parts of the country.