Latest ‘rogue unit’ subpoena by Mkhwebane baffles Gordhan

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan briefs media  at Lethabo Power Station in Free State, 3 April 2019, on electricity supply. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan briefs media at Lethabo Power Station in Free State, 3 April 2019, on electricity supply. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Evidence of corruption comes streaming from the state capture commission, yet the public protector elects to harp on about a legal unit, Gordhan says.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said he was baffled by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s harping on the “dead SA Revenue Service’s matter of the alleged rogue unit”, despite overwhelming findings to the contrary.

The row between the duo was thrust back into the spotlight after the public protector (PP) issued yet another subpoena to Gordhan on the matter on Thursday.

Mkhwebane has given Gordhan until April 23, to hand over all evidence relating to his alleged establishment of a clandestine illegal intelligence unit in violation of the country’s intelligence protocols during his stint as Sars commissioner in 2007.

Gordhan’s spokesperson, Adrian Lackay, said there were three investigations conducted on the matter and none had found the establishment of the high-risk investigative unit illegal.

“Even Judge Nugent made it clear that there was nothing in law or evidence pointing to the unit having been illegal. Despite this, the office of the public protector elects to pursue the matter.

“This is when the country is gripped by the body of evidence of corruption coming out of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. Yet [Mkhwebane] chooses to prioritise this investigation, despite three investigations finding nothing illegal,” Gordhan said.

Lackay said they have planned a briefing session with Gordhan’s lawyers to think of an appropriate response to the subpoena.

Mkhwebane said she noted with disappointment the leaking of the subpoena within hours of it having been served on Gordhan and the related commentary attributed to both Gordhan’s attorney and Lackay.

Her spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said the utterances reduced Mkhwebane’s legitimate investigation to a harassment of Gordhan.

“This comes on the back of similarly baseless comments in the public domain that Mkhwebane’s investigations concerning allegations levelled against Gordhan are part of factional battles involving a political party,” he said.

Segalwe charged that Mkhwebane had, in the past, subpoenaed and interviewed a number of ministers, members of executive councils and premiers as part of investigations. He said not once did any of these public office-bearers take issue with this, label it “harassment”, or see the investigation as a source of irritation.

He said Mkhwebane wishes to point out that an investigation is essentially a fact-finding mission that could go either way.

He said the fact that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) abandoned criminal charges against Gordhan on similar issues had no bearing on Mkhwebane’s probe.

Segalwe said another false statement was that the “rogue unit” matter had been dealt with by former public protector Thuli Madonsela and that she had found no wrongdoing.

Segalwe said the truth was that a former South African Revenue Service employee had approached the public protector in 2012, alleging that the appointment of investigators to a “National Research Group” at Sars was irregular as there were no formal employment contracts.

Segalwe said that investigation, which was closed on October 11, 2017, and not by Madonsela as alleged, on the grounds that it was being dealt with by the Inspector General of Intelligence, was part of a backlog of cases now being addressed.

siphom@citizen.co.za

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