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Parliament - IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula is off the hook for now after technical mistakes by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, an ad hoc parliamentary committee decided on Thursday.
The committee was tasked with considering Madonsela's report, which found Tlakula had played a “grossly irregular” role in procuring the Riverside Office Park building in Centurion, Pretoria.
A legal opinion tabled in the committee found Madonsela had made several procedural mistakes - a position accepted by all political parties represented on the committee.
Committee chairman Luwellyn Landers said the opinion meant it would be illegal for the committee to take any action based on Madonsela's report.
Both the Public Protector's office and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) are chapter nine institutions.
MPs said Parliament could not be seen to be impeding the independence of the bodies.
“We are going to draft a report that says it is not within our competency to take any action; that any remedial action proposed in her (Madonsela's) report will be dealt with in our report,” Landers said.
“It will simply say something to the effect that Treasury, the IEC and home affairs need to tighten up any procurement processes in the IEC and that's it.”
Parliament could not do anything more because of the constitutional principle of separation of powers.
Landers and Democratic Alliance MP James Selfe were tasked by the committee to draft a report, which would more than likely be formally adopted by MPs next week.
Selfe said Madonsela had followed the wrong processes, creating the impression that she had overstepped her mandate.
“We think that it is illegal in terms of the way the Electoral Act is written, read with the relevant provisions of the Constitution.... It is impossible for Parliament to do what the Public Protector is asking it to do,” Selfe said.
The Public Protector made two requests when submitting her report to Parliament, Selfe said.
One was to ask the National Assembly Speaker to meet the electoral commission, with the exception of the chairperson, to look at Tlakula's allegation that the report was in some way defective or biased.
The second, that the report be referred to the Electoral Court, was branded as bizarre by MPs in the committee because of the constitutional principle of separation of powers.
Selfe said Madonsela had dealt with matters the wrong way around.
“If it had been her (Madonsela's) intention to refer the matter to the Electoral Court, she should have, on finding evidence of prima facie misconduct, referred the matter directly to the court,” Selfe said.
“If the Electoral Court, after investigation, found that to be the case, then the court would have produced a report for the National Assembly which would have set up an ad hoc committee to consider that report, and then, if it was found she had indeed committed misconduct, to recommend to the president that she be dismissed.”