The investigation into State capture by Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises on Wednesday hit its first hurdle as it was confirmed to members that the legislature would not pay for an independent evidence leader.
Acting chairperson Zukiswa Rantho told MPs she had asked the chair of chairs, Cedric Frolick, for an evidence leader for the probe, which has been extended to cover not only allegations of State capture at Eskom, but Transnet and Denel as well. But Parliamentary legal advisers then made a submission in which they claimed it would set a precedent, if the task of evidence leader would be outsourced, that the institution could not afford.
MPs from across the political spectrum rubbished the argument, and questioned whether the reluctance to hire a professional from outside Parliament meant that there had been an instruction to undermine the probe from the outset.
“I must indicate my total dismay at the failure of Parliament to provide the necessary resources for these purposes,” said ANC MP Zukile Luyenga.
He added that it was strange that the same State that was being looted on a grand scale was failing to support an inquiry designed to help stem the abuse of its resources.
The allegations of corruption at State-owned enterprises was so serious that the money for a proper probe had to be found, “even if we have to sell our shoes”, he said.
Fellow ANC MP Mondli Gungubele said the argument of precedent was spurious as it applied to courts, not Parliament.
Narend Singh from the Inkatha Freedom Party said it begged the question as to whether the committee was encountering interference from “the powers that be” before it had begun its work.
Committee members had requested that Advocate Nthuthuzelo Vanara‚ a senior parliamentary law adviser who served as evidence leader for the SABC Ad Hoc Committee‚ led the State capture probe as well. But Frolick has said it would not be possible as he had too much work in his new role as Registrar of Members Interests.