The rejection of the DA’s urgent request to convene the Portfolio Committee of Justice and Constitutional Development to discuss allegations of corruption and tender irregularities in the CaseLines-contract at the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ), as well as the developments surrounding the Phala Phala debacle, is deeply disappointing. It appears Parliament is once more failing to take its important oversight function seriously.
Today we have learnt that our request was rejected on the grounds that approval will only be given to meetings that are under a court deadline.
The South African public cannot be expected to wait almost two months for Parliament to reconvene next term, before these important matters are addressed.
On the eve of the release of the fifth part of the State Capture Report, which is widely expected to address the failing of Parliament to hold the Executive to account during the Zuma era, it is shocking that this sword is hanging over the OCJ without proper interrogation by the committee.
The R225 million CaseLines-contract appears to have been riddled with irregularities – the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) reportedly did not sign off on the contract as required by law. Three former employees of the OCJ have also allegedly benefitted directly – to the tune of R67.5 million – from the contract via their 30% of shares in ZA square, the company they set up a day after leaving the OCJ.
The Office of the Chief Justice should be beyond reproach at all times. It is an imperative that the public’s trust and confidence in this institution are upheld at all times.
The scourge of corruption and lack of accountability in government will only be addressed when Parliament holds all branches of government to account – irrespective of whether Parliament is currently sitting or not. Given the rejection of our urgent request today, it appears this cultural change may still be some time off.