The anti-corruption task team (ACTT) was hammered by parliament’s standing committee on public accounts yesterday for its lacklustre functioning and poor performance.
Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza, who chairs the ACTT, was repeatedly under fire from frustrated MPs who demanded answers that he tried but failed to provide. For almost two hours, Ntlemeza was grilled about how the team actually operated given that since it was established in 2010 the total number of cases it had dealt with was a meager 189.
Of these, 68 were finalised, 77 were under investigation and 44 serious corruption cases sat on the court roll. For almost two hours the committee waited for answers as to the task team’s budget to fight corruption, who attended its meetings, which departments were repeatedly absent, who reported the cases and why were so few being investigated.
Deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba came to Ntlemeza’s aid, asking for an adjournment effectively so the team could get its ducks in a row. On returning, ANC MP Vincent Smith gave the delegation a stern warning: “If you lie to us, there is going to a problem. Rather tell us the truth or keep quiet.”
Ntlemeza was unable to say which of the 13 departments that formed part of the task team were always in attendance but it emerged that more often than not they were attended by “representatives” from the organs and not the director or deputy director generals.
“So it’s a warm body … minimalist approach … You should know because you chair the meetings,” an apparently frustrated committee chairperson Themba Godi said, adding that the department of public service and administration was not even present yesterday. Neither was the department of monitoring and evaluation, which Ntlemeza said was “the key to the task team”.
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said he has a sense meetings were causal, ad hoc and “willy nilly” affairs.
It also emerged the majority of cases dealt with were for fraud and corruption because convictions under that class were easier to deal with as opposed to crimes against the Public Finance Management Act, which had a lesser charge.
This meant that civil servants further down the ladder were targeted rather than officials on higher rungs. Jiba said there was also a dearth in the number of investigators as a result of budget constraints. To this, Godi quipped: “This is because money is lost through corruption. If you do your job you will have more money.”