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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

New Scopa chair talks tough, wants prosecutions

'We need to enforce consequence management and ensure that people get punished,' said Mkhuleko Hlengwa.

The newly appointed chair of the parliamentary select committee on public accounts (Scopa) Mkhuleko Hlengwa has vowed to crack the whip to ensure that state officials account for every cent spent, otherwise they will face prosecution.

According to Hlengwa, Scopa would adopt a new approach where it would work closely with the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to ensure that law enforcement and prosecution prevailed against those who transgressed the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury regulations.

They would be vigorous in fighting irregular and fruitless expenditure by state entities and departments.

However, he said in an interview with the SABC that Scopa wouldn’t focus only on problems but would also be solution-oriented.

“We need to enforce consequence management and ensure that people get punished. That’s why we need to foster a strong working relationship with the Hawks, the NPA, the SIU and maybe the anticorruption task team in its entirety so that we can begin to see prosecutions taking place because that’s what has been lacking,” Hlengwa said.

“I think it’ll be important that we must take advantage of the amendments in the Auditor-General Act as well which allows us to press charges …”

There has been widespread lack of basic accounting systems by departments and state entities. Often, they submitted reports that were inconsistent with the accounting format as required by the auditor-general (AG).

That the AG often found financial statements were prepared inconsistent with the format prompted Hlengwa to question the competencies among officials.

“We’re going to adopt a no-nonsense approach, I am just fed up, I am so tired with going through the normal motions and DGs (directors-general) appearing before us and giving us a fairy tale kind of reporting,” he said.

“We are emboldened by the fact that there is now a new conviction to ensure that people are prosecuted. I think we need to make that a norm in South Africa. We must not shield people. But Scopa is reliant on a functional parliamentary machinery from portfolio committees and so on.”

Hlengwa, who is an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) member of parliament (MP) and national chair of the IFP Youth Brigade, has been a Scopa member since he became an MP.

He was appointed its chairperson to replace Themba Godi of the African Peoples’ Convention, which failed to secure a seat in the May 8 election.

Hlengwa, 32, is an IFP rising star and is seen as one of its future leaders.

But the IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, 90, had anointed Velenkosi Hlabisa as his successor at the July congress.

The young leader has acknowledged that there was a lot of work lying ahead for his committee. State capture had made Scopa’s task even more intense and the committee was expected to unravel the problem and get state departments and entities on the trajectory of good governance and sound financial management.

He insisted that the enforcement of consequence management would be the new norm to ensure that people get punished, adding that Scopa would be more proactive instead of just waiting for the AG’s and annual reports.

“We need to be strong on the problem children such as SOEs [state-owned entities],” he said.

“There are some departments we know already are just struggling with their finance management. So quarter-to-quarter and month-to-month reporting becomes important for us so that we avoid a situation of waiting for them.”


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