Cape Town - The board of defence arms manufacturer Denel has put the blame on the Department of Public Enterprise for allegedly failing to inform them about a meeting they missed with the public accounts watchdog last week.
The board had been threatened with a subpoena and having to explain itself as to why the costs of the postponed meeting with Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) should not be carried by them personally.
On Wednesday, Scopa chairperson Mkhueko Hlengwa said it would have been pointless to proceed with last week’s meeting in the absence of the board.
Denel was meant to brief the committee on its failure to table its audited 2021/22 annual report and its liquidity crisis, as well as update the committee on irregular, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure.
The Special Investigating Unit was to have briefed MPs on the investigations it was conducting at the entity.
The board’s non-attendance drew criticism from Scopa, with accusations that it undermined Parliament and failed in its fiduciary duties.
Board chairperson Gloria Serobe said she exercised her responsibility, as if there were no question about her acting in the position.
“I take full responsibility for everything that happened on this board. I had to make that call last week and take ownership of what seems to have irritated the committee,” she said.
Serobe said the board “never missed a meeting with Scopa”, until last week.
“The scheduling became an issue. We got the notice late and I was travelling immediately after that,” she said.
“We got the notice on Friday and the physical nature of the meeting made it a problem,” she said.
“I must apologise again. As the board of the SOE, we understand how important this committee is and we have given it all the respect. There is no intention to do otherwise,” she said.
“It was not practical for the board to be here last week. I need to apologise for that again,” Serobe added.
Hlengwa said Parliament dispatched timeous communication to the boards of SOEs.
He said while protocol dictated that communication go via the department, it was incumbent on the ministry to ensure it reached the boards.
“It can’t be that the board received communication on Friday when it was timeously dispatched,” he said.
While Hlengwa said the question of who would pay the costs remained, ANC MP Sakhumzi Somyo noted that Serobe had undertaken to ensure there was board representation.
“I accept that they failed to be part of our meeting,” Somyo said, before enquiring about the interim status of the board, the chief financial officer, and the chief executive.
Deputy Minister Obed Bapelan said the board was full-time and that Serobe was a permanent chairperson.
“It was interim in 2021 for reasons known at the time because they were restructuring as a result of the collapse due to state capture,” Bapela said.
Serobe said the board was permanent and that she was an acting chairperson.
“We had a board of 13 people and when a number of members left, the board members that remained had to find somebody to chair that board and that is me,” she said.