By Chantelle Benjamin
The Gauteng ethics and privilege committee is expected to receive a report next month detailing allegations of a conflict of interest and misuse of public funds by provincial speaker of the legislature Lindiwe Maseko.
It is not clear when in the month the report will be submitted to the Gauteng legislature, as there is no stipulated time period in the rules.
The legislature’s integrity commissioner Dr Ralph Mgijima, former chairperson of the Public Service Commission, has confirmed that an investigation into Maseko is under way.
Corruption Watch has reliably ascertained that should the investigation continue as scheduled, his report is expected to be handed over to the Gauteng ethics and privilege committee – or the multiparty ethics committee as it is generally known – for consideration in June.
The committee, chaired by deputy speaker in the Gauteng provincial legislature Brian Hlongwa, is made up of representatives of the various parties in the legislature.
This committee will then consider Mgijima’s report and submit its own report with recommendations for considerations and resolution by the legislature.
The committee can reject the findings of the integrity commissioner, and the legislature is not obliged to adopt the committee’s findings. It is the committee that recommends what sanctions are to be taken against the member, should he or she be found guilty of contravening the rules.
Corruption Watch, on Monday 14 May, sent a letter to the integrity commissioner requesting information on the status of the investigation and report on Maseko.
The civil society organisation said it was important that the public were kept appraised of an investigation of this importance, with the last report on this matter being released in March, when it was announced that an investigation would be undertaken by the integrity commissioner.
Mgijima, in reply on Tuesday 15 May, acknowledged the letter, saying that the investigation was under way and that questions relating to when a finding regarding Maseko’s alleged conflict of interest can be expected “will be answered by the multiparty ethics committee”.
According to Mgijima’s spokesperson, Keaobaka Kgosithebe, the integrity commissioner initiated the investigation himself after concerns were raised in the media about Maseko’s conduct.
Catering tender, groceries bought
The first part of the investigation relates to a catering tender awarded to Delmont Caldow Caterers, of which Edna Maseko, the speaker’s daughter, is a director.
The company catered for the opening dinner of the Gauteng legislature at the Dome in Johannesburg.
The second issue relates to the purchase of groceries, which included personal items such as tampons and Rennies, as well as, among other things, two cases of 15-year-old Glenfiddich whisky.
Corruption Watch rejects speaker’s explanation
In an open letter sent to the speaker on 12 March, Corruption Watch head David Lewis asked that Maseko be willing to give an undertaking that no companies owned by her or linked to her family would benefit in any way from contracts, and that she be prepared to reimburse the public funds spent on groceries and alcohol.
On the issue of the tender awarded to Delmont Caldow Caterers, Lewis said he rejected her explanation, furnished by her spokesperson, that she had declared her interest in her daughter’s company. “Surely simply declaring your interest in a service provider does not then permit you to push business its way,” he said.
Lewis also rejected the argument that the groceries were purchased for international dignitaries whom Maseko entertains from time to time. This was the reply given by legislature spokesperson Nondumiso Msomi.
Lewis questioned why it was necessary for her office to purchase wine and whisky brands that are among the most expensive on the market, and said the large number of personal products were also questionable.
The investigation will include submissions from all groups involved, including Maseko, the administration team involved in organising the opening dinner, the company awarded the tender and other interested parties, according to the integrity commissioner’s spokesperson.
Political advisor for the Gauteng legislature, Mmusi Moraka, responding to comments posted on Corruption Watch’s Facebook site regarding the allegations against Maseko, said the media reports about the alleged corruption and the purchase of alcohol by her office “are misleading and have hurt the integrity of the speaker and the legislature”.
Moraka asked that everyone await the outcome of the investigation by Mgijima before drawing any conclusions on the subject.