Cape Town - Barbara Hogan, the chairman of the national assembly's finance committee, was "outraged" yesterday when the legal head of the Financial Services Board (FSB) withdrew his review of the proposed Public Investment Corporation Bill midway through his presentation.
But she later refused to comment on another bombshell that had been thrown her way: that she was due to be replaced soon as chairman of the committee by fellow committee member Rhoda Joemat.
She was her usual, vocal self, however, when Franso van Zyl, the board's head of legislation and research, said after a tea break that he wanted to withdraw anything he had said about the bill and that he was doing so on the instructions of his chief executive Jeff van Rooyen.
Van Zyl gave no further explanation, although Hogan was furious and would demand an immediate letter of explanation from Van Rooyen.
The Public Investment Commissioners (PIC) is the biggest investment management operation in the country, with assets worth more than R360 billion, mostly made up of government employee pension funds.
Finance minister Trevor Manuel has said he wanted it to be corporatised so that it could play a more active investment role in the country. His spokesperson said Manuel had in no way been behind the upset at the committee meeting.
Contacted later, Van Rooyen said he had been "blissfully unaware" of the fact that Van Zyl was to make a presentation on the bill to the committee as the "FSB has been in consultation with the PIC during the past six months around the ". Most problems areas, he said, had now been sorted out.
The amendments Van Zyl wanted to present to the committee were therefore "unauthorised ... and I instructed the official this morning to withdraw the submission, which he did. However, before he withdrew the submission, he addressed the committee on a range of issues in his personal capacity.
"It is unfortunate that an impression may have been created that this official was conveying a FSB view, which was not the case. No disrespect to parliament was intended by the withdrawal of the submission."
Hogan had received a similar telephonic message from Van Rooyen but still wanted it in writing. However, Van Zyl's presentation was made on official FSB stationery and appeared to be about concerns expressed by committee members last week that the bill gave the finance minister discretionary powers to direct its investments that were too wide.
He also wanted to streamline the bill in line with the provisions of the Financial Intermediaries and Services Act.
Hogan would take legal advice whether these recommendations should be considered even if Van Zyl had made them in his personal capacity.
Hogan's pending departure as chairman of the committee emerged when the Independent Group's parliamentary bureau was handed a copy of a recent memo to MPs from Nkosinathi Nhleko, the ANC chief whip, which announced a major reshuffle of committee chairmen.
These would take effect when the current system of "ad hoc" national assembly committees reverted to being "portfolio committees" again at a date yet to be set.
While Neo Masithela will remain chairman of the agriculture committee and Mbulelo Goniwe chairman of the minerals and energy committee, Rob Davies will move from the trade and industry committee to the joint budget committee and his place will be taken by Connie September. But Salie Manie will be replaced as chairman of the labour committee by Rebecca Kasienyane.