A witness appearing before the commission of inquiry into state capture on Wednesday struggled to detail how an “invasive” vetting exercise of South African Airways (SAA) executives and officials reduced the potential for corruption within the entity.
An evaluator at the State Security Agency (SSA), Nokunqoba Dlamini who is also the project manager of the operation, could not fully articulate the “great success” of the campaign which could support this claim.
When asked about the “great success” of the project, Dlamini told the commission: “We would advise SAA to revisit their recruitment agency because you would find that [of] the executives who are already in the system, there was no clause in the contract to subject them to vetting and the recommendations that there be a declaration of secrecy being taken by executives.”
“So that is the great success?” asked commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
“What I mean is that we were able to influence policy,” Dlamini said in response.
The commission earlier heard the exercise had come about after a letter was written by former state security minister David Mahlobo to former finance minister Nhlanhle Nene.
In the letter, dated October 13, 2015, Mahlobo indicated “it has come to the attention of the SSA that there is an urgent need for vetting in public enterprises due to sensitive information received on an ongoing basis”.
Evidence leader advocate Kate Hofmeyr put it to the witness the evidence she had described as the “great success” could have been achieved without going through the invasive exercise.
Dlamini, however, disagreed.
“If your theory is that this project reduces corruption and all government employees must be vetted, then there wouldn’t be high levels of corruption,” Judge Zondo put it to the witness.
“We have not vetted all,” she said in response.
Hofmeyr then asked the witness to explain to the commission how the vetting exercise reduced corruption within the entity, when individuals who had not acquired security clearance were still able to keep their jobs.
“That means it had no impact on reducing corruption,” she said.
“I do not think that is correct, as I have indicated before, that [the exercise identified] any risk that can be reduced at that time and advised the measure that needed to be taken in that institution. That does make a difference.
“Yes, we could not fire people, but we could advise the entity to be cautious of certain individuals,” Dlamini explained.
The inquiry will continue on Thursday.