As Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan gears up for a grilling by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane tomorrow, her office has made it clear it did not need evidence of wrongdoing to investigate the minister.
The public protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said Mkhwebane had repeatedly made direct contact with Gordhan.
“Regarding the use of attorneys and advocates during appearances before the public protector, the law provides for legal assistance and not legal representation,” he said. “This means that attorneys or advocates cannot speak on behalf of the person appearing before the public protector.”
Segalwe said the public protector’s office was empowered by the constitution to probe any conduct alleged or suspected to be improper. This included allegations contained in media reports.
“In such instances, [Mkhwebane] is not provided with evidence supporting the allegations, but this never stops her from investigating,” he said, adding that the office was empowered to conduct a preliminary investigation for the purpose of determining the merits of a complaint, an allegation or information.
Segalwe said Mkhwebane was affording Gordhan the opportunity to respond to the allegations and that she expected nothing but full cooperation from public officials and members of the executive when doing so.
The office is investigating allegations of maladministration, dishonest and improper conduct against Gordhan following a complaint in November 2016 relating to the approval of former SA Revenue Service (Sars) deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay’s early retirement package in 2010.
The complaint was lodged by Lebohang Hoveka three weeks after the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to withdraw charges against Gordhan on the matter.
Hoveka is a speech-writer in former president Jacob Zuma’s office.
Segalwe said the fact that criminal charges were withdrawn had no bearing on Mkhwebane as her mandate was to investigate.
Segalwe said the insinuation that the subpoena was timed to coincide with Gordhan’s appearance before the State Capture Inquiry on Thursday was false.