President Cyril Ramaphosa
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) is conducting its own probe into public fund misappropriation allegations against the African National Congress (ANC), which surfaced in a leaked audio recording, even though the matter has already been referred to the Public Protector.
The committee believes that the comments only reflect a part of the discussion that was captured in the clip and that the publicly available portion has far-reaching implications. On Tuesday evening, the committee resolved that it was necessary for the committee to conduct its own probe.
In the clip, someone who sounds like President Cyril Ramaphosa can be heard admitting that he was aware that the party used public funds for party purposes. The person suggested that the funds came from the State Security Agency (SSA).
Scopa will first ascertain the authenticity of the recording and whether it was indeed Ramaphosa's voice. In the next few days, it will write to the president and demand a written statement or affidavit on the clip's authenticity. The committee expects a response from him seven days after receiving the letter.
In addition to Scopa's decision, ANC MP Mervyn Dirks said he would ask Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to investigate a possible perjury charge against Ramaphosa.
Dirks said Ramaphosa did not disclose the issues which surfaced in the audio clip to the Zondo Commission when he testified.
In his opening remarks, Dirks said Ramaphosa and other party leaders had not denied the authenticity of the recording, except to question how it made its way into the public domain.
Dirks wrote to Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa to ask that Ramaphosa be investigated. The ANC suspended him for this. He took the matter to court and it was dismissed. He was admitted to the meeting despite his suspension.
The committee, in accordance with a legal opinion it obtained, will, through a written response from Ramaphosa, also seek to establish whether and how the alleged unauthorised expenditure was captured in the financial statements.
They also want to establish whether the alleged unauthorised transactions were detected by the Auditor-General when auditing the State Security Agency's books. If this is not established, it should be determined whether any officials misrepresented facts in the financials.
Scopa will also find out who the individuals are who benefited from the funds and whether the unauthorised expenditure was reported. If it was not reported, the committee will also try to determine if there was any conduct that constituted a misrepresentation by any individual and where the gaps were to allow the misconduct to go unpunished.
Hlengwa said the committee would also remind Ramaphosa that they have the right to compel him to appear before it or issue him with a summons if necessary.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP and Scopa member Veronica Mente proposed that Ramaphosa be treated as a whistleblower because he might have information that could assist the committee in holding to account those who squandered public funds.
In the leaked recording, Ramaphosa could be heard saying, "And I said in this case, I am prepared to fall on the sword so that the CR17 campaign should be the only one that's looked at and not the others… each one of us knows that quite a bit of money that is used in campaigns and bussing people around and doing all manner of things is often from state resources and public resources and we cannot kid ourselves when it comes to that."
"One of the officials said, as these people from the State Security testify, one of the officials said soon they will be revealing about how money was used for some campaigns, and I said I would rather they say you got money from this business for CR17 than for the public to finally hear that their public money was used to advance certain campaigns… one of the officials said, soon they will be revealing about how money from the SSA was used for some campaign. And I said Heaven forbid," he adds.
Democratic Alliance MP and Scopa member Robert Lees said if Ramaphosa was serious about a "new dawn" within the executive, he should have presented himself before he is compelled to do so.
Given that Dirks is still suspended, the ANC caucus, anticipating a vote, quickly moved to replace him with Bheki Hadebe as ANC Scopa whip.