15 March 2012 – A full investigation is underway into speaker of the Gauteng Legislature Lindiwe Maseko’s conduct, after media reports on alleged conflict of interest relating to a tender and the misuse of public funds.
The investigation, formally announced on Friday 2 March, is being run by the Legislature’s Integrity Commissioner. It is headed by Dr Ralph Mgijima, the former chairperson of the Public Service Commission.
The IC is an independent authority appointed by a two-thirds majority of the House. Mgijima says that while the investigation has not been given terms of reference, it will be run according to the Standing Rules and Code of Conduct and Ethics for Members, the guiding policy of the Gauteng Legislature in these matters.
"We will be looking at all the angles and issues raised in the media," he says. He added that the probe has no time limit; its conclusion will depend on the necessary people being available for interviews and investigation.
The first issue relates to a catering tender awarded to Delmont Caldow Caterers, in which Edna Maseko, the speaker's daughter, is a director. The company was asked to cater for the opening dinner of the Gauteng Legislature at the Dome in Johannesburg.
The second issue relates to the purchase of alcohol and other groceries, which Maseko claims was for a function at the Legislature.
The probe will investigate the speaker herself; the administrative staff involved in organising the function, the catering company awarded the tender, and any other relevant parties. The IC will also review the Register of Members' Interest, particularly as it pertains to the speaker's disclosure of financial interests. The IC is responsible for compiling this register which is an inventory of, among other things, properties owned by members, companies in which they are shareholders or directors, and the financial interests of their immediate family members.
Some items on the grocery list, such as sanitary pads and breakfast cereal, have raised eyebrows as they are clearly for personal use, says David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch.
Corruption Watch also questions the fact that the most expensive brands of wine and whiskey were bought. This has caused a stir on Corruption Watch's Facebook page, where there has been lively debate on the issue.
In an open letter to Maseko dated 12 March, Corruption Watch highlights these two issues and asks that the speaker make a formal response on the allegations of corruption, "for the sake of public interest".
Maseko's counter response, made through her spokesperson, was that she has declared her conflict of interest in the tender contract. But Lewis says this does not carry any weight.
"We don't find her declaring of interest an acceptable response, only for her to then push for the business to go her daughter's way," he says.
As for the purchase of alcohol and groceries, Corruption Watch believes Maseko should make full disclosure and put speculation to rest. "If it is true that she purchased items with public funds, why should an investigation be necessary in the first place?" says Lewis. "We want her to come forward and state her case."
At the heart of the matter is the slow erosion of trust in public officials and elected representatives, Corruption Watch believes.
In response to the Corruption Watch letter and the media reports, Mmusi Moraka, political adviser to the Gauteng Legislature, has asked that everybody remain calm and allow the investigation to take its course. He believes media speculation on the issue is misleading and has hurt the integrity of the speaker and the Legislature.
"This is not the truth, it is not exactly what has happened," he says of the media reports and Corruption Watch statements. He believes too much is based on speculation and not on fact. "There are always two sides to a story. The truth will come out."
He also took a stab at Corruption Watch, warning the organisation to be careful not to pass judgment too quickly, especially while investigations are still underway. “This carelessness has the potential to undermine the very noble mission of Corruption Watch,” he states in his letter to CW.
"We need an objective process to take place first, and to await this process to take its course. This is a fair request."
When the probe is complete the IC will submit a report with recommendations to the Privileges and Ethics Committee, a multiparty Legislature body. This committee will then submit its own report with recommendations for consideration and resolution to the House.
A full investigation is underway into speaker of the Gauteng Legislature Lindiwe Maseko’s conduct, after media reports on alleged conflict of interest relating to a tender and the misuse of public funds.