Cape Town - The Western Cape public accounts committee (Scopa) has a political agenda and is misusing government structures, former health MEC Pierre Uys said on Wednesday.
“There is a political agenda. They are trying to attack the ANC in the Western Cape because we are making inroads,” Uys told Sapa shortly after he and provincial African National Congress leader Marius Fransman walked out of a Scopa hearing on the mismanagement of public funds.
“We could see it. Why is it two weeks before the election? There is clearly politics at play here.”
Fransman and Uys were summoned to appear before Scopa to be questioned about the Auditor General's report on the use of consultants dating back to 2003. The report showed irregularities and mismanagement of public funds, allegedly to the tune of R10.3 billion.
Uys said they walked out after telling Scopa members they wanted a fair and transparent process. Uys said only ANC members were summoned to the hearing and questioned.
Scopa chairman Grant Haskin said the two were summoned because they failed to appear at the previous hearing in March. Uys dismissed this as lies.
“We were invited to the last meeting... and were informed that it started at 9am. Without giving us notice they started it at 8am. They did not inform us of the time change.
“At 8.30am they took a decision that we didn't show up and then summoned us. It's so wrong. We were told to be there at 9am. They are not speaking the truth.”
At Wednesday's hearing, Uys said he had asked for the questions in writing. He and Fransman needed time to respond and access the relevant files.
“We said we will respond to it, but we needed time to get the proper answers. We cannot take an oath without the correct information.
“We believe this was very reasonable. We believe we substantially complied with the regulations, and we abided by the rule of law, that's why we came.”
He added that Scopa was wrong to question them about public funds.
“None of the contractors were appointed by us, but by financial officers. Politicians are not involved in procurement processes,” he said.
“We were not involved in procurement process. The people who must be held accountable are accounting officers.”
Earlier, Haskin described the walk-out as disrespectful and said it seemed as though they were not prepared for the hearing.
“They chose to walk out. It makes a mockery of the processes and acts of Parliament,” he told Sapa.
Haskin explained that they were in breach of the Western Cape Witnesses Act for failing to take the witness affirmation.
“They left because they didn't want to answer questions. This exposes them to sanctions, including a fine or imprisonment or both... which is unfortunate.”
Haskin said it was now up to Scopa's legal advisers to recommend to the legislature what action to take against them. Scopa resolved to pursue the case in the new term of office, even if Fransman and Uys were elected to Parliament. He said it was likely they would be elected to Parliament.
“I hope that they don't enter the next term of office with the same sense of disrespect.”
Scopa member Bokkie Geyer said the committee resolved to take legal action against Fransman and Uys for their failure to give testimony.
"Their refusal to testify does not come as a surprise," said Geyer, a Democratic Alliance member.
"If Mr Fransman had this morning testified under oath it would almost certainly have spelled the end of his political career and the start of criminal proceedings."