Chairperson of standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) Themba Godi believes debating whether ANC MP Mnyamezeli Booi should not have attended the Sars press briefing on the KPMG matter is a distraction.
“It is a storm in a teacup, a very big distraction. We should be focusing on how public funds were used,” Godi told The Citizen when asked if he thought it was appropriate for Booi to attend the press briefing.
Scopa is a parliamentary watchdog on public funds, with its key mandate in recent years centering on ensuring government departments and public entities are compliant with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Known for its robust engagement with those appearing before it, the committee has since the dawn of democracy never been chaired by an ANC MP despite the party’s majority in parliament.
During yesterday’s press briefing convened by Sars commissioner Tom Moyane, where the revenue collector announced it would be taking legal action against KPMG for withdrawing the contentious “rogue unit” report, Booi made a surprise attendance.
He went to articulate ANC’s study group of public accounts views on the matter. Parliament is currently in short recess, and most MPs are doing constituency work. According to the People’s Assembly website, Booi’s constituency is Somerset West in the Western Cape.
Godi dismissed the debate that ensued, insisting the focus should be on “KPMG, not just in relation to Sars, their work has now been called into question. They are doing work in the public sector. As soon as parliament reopens, we will be making them our priority”.
Booi told the media this morning he regretted his decision to attend the press conference, saying he was not trying to create an impression that he supported Sars commissioner Tom Moyane. He said as a public representative, he had the right to attend the briefing to listen to both sides of the story.
‘[Booi] was out of order.’
“And also while I was listening there, I need to be a little bit concerned about what they are saying about their own reports, as their reports are broader than Sars itself,” he told Eyewitness News.
EFF member of the committee Veronica Mente told The Citizen it was extremely inappropriate for Booi to flank Moyane during the press briefing, as the only logical conclusion the members of the public could come to was that Scopa had discussed the matter and Booi was delegated to express the committee opinions during the gathering.
“He [Booi] was out of order. We are the overseers of government institutions. Our mandate is to ensure that there is no mismanagement of public funds. There was R2.1 billion paid to KPMG to undertake auditing. It means that this money was thrown down the drain.
“We must find out from KPMG and Sars what happened … and we can’t have someone from Scopa to making statements on the matter. You can’t go there and sit next to Tom Moyane as if he is innocent,” Mente explained.
Political analyst Lukhona Mnguni cautioned that Booi’s presence during a Sars briefing on the matter that both Sars and KPMG are expected to appear before the committee augments public perception that Sars is politicised.
“On the politicisation of Sars, already there is a view that it is pursuing certain people in a manner that is politically charged. It means Sars may not be able to account seriously. Booi’s attendance at that conference seems coordinated, you don’t just walk into a press briefing.
“Was he meant to be in Gauteng [during constituency work time]? It suggests that the integrity of the Sars commissioner is questionable. The only value you can get from Moyane’s argument that the report belongs to that is that he is hellbent on acting on the basis on the report and those opposed to it will have to litigate,” Mnguni added.