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Parliament - An ad hoc committee of Parliament on Thursday unanimously adopted a report stating it could not accede to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's request that action be taken against IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula.
The decision not to pursue action against the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairwoman following findings of alleged misconduct was made after the committee obtained legal opinion that it would be illegal for it to take the matter further.
Madonsela found Tlakula had played a “grossly irregular” role in procuring the Riverside Office Park building in Centurion, Pretoria.
“At its meeting on 23 October 2013, the ad hoc committee... resolved that it was unable to accede to the recommendations or requests of the Public Protector... on the grounds that to do so would be unlawful and/or unconstitutional,” it said in the report adopted on Thursday.
The ad hoc committee recommended that the IEC, the home affairs department, the National Treasury and the Auditor General “complete the actions in which they are currently engaged in pursuance of the remedial action recommended by the Public Protector in this report”.
This should be done only “to the extent that it is legally permissible”.
The remedial action includes tightening procurement procedures at the IEC.
Last week, the committee resolved that Parliament could not act because of, among others, the constitutional principle of separation of powers.
MPs sitting on the committee said Parliament could not be seen to be impeding the independence of the bodies.
Both the Public Protector's office and the IEC are chapter nine institutions, which are funded by the state and accountable to Parliament, but function independently from the government and Parliament.
During Thursday's meeting, African National Congress MP Johnny de Lange said the fact that the committee's decision was unanimous showed that political parties acted in a “mature way”.
“It's just prior to an election. It would have been very easy to play political games with this issue and it shows that often, when it really counts, that we are mature enough as a democracy to be able to treat matters on their merit and I think this is such an instance and I think all parties should be congratulated for that,” De Lange said.
DA MP James Selfe reminded MPs that there was a need for law changes to address the dilemma the committee faced.
“I do think that one of the aspects raised in the legal opinion was that we consider... some sort of legislative amendment to deal with this. I think there is a gap in our law and I think we can address it, not now, but going forward,” Selfe said.
The ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party supported the possible legislative amendments.
Committee chairman Luwellyn Landers said the amendments would most likely apply to the Electoral Commission Act and the Public Protector Act.
“They should probably address the question of one chapter nine institution investigating another and what are the proper steps that have to be followed, following such an investigation,” Landers said.