Parliament spending watchdog, the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), has written to the Presidency asking why President Jacob Zuma's legal costs shot up from R5-million to R9.6m - and to discover who got paid what.

The letter, by Scopa chairperson Themba Godi to Presidency chief operations officer Jessie Duarte and Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane, seeks an explanation for the discrepancy between the R5m cost given by Duarte to Scopa a fortnight ago, and the R9.6m figure provided by the Presidency in the more detailed explanation requested by the committee and received by Godi last week.

Duarte told Scopa there were "unavoidable legal fees of R5m" for Zuma. The sum was part of unauthorised expenditure by the Presidency of R14.5m that, in turn, formed part of R24m deemed irregular expenditure for the 2008/09 financial year.

Godi now wants a detailed breakdown of the legal costs, and specifically wants to know how much was paid to each lawyer who represented Zuma.

The Presidency document Godi received last week detailed legal costs of R10.1m incurred during the 2008/09 financial year, and showed that R9.6m had gone towards Zuma's legal fees.

But Godi was unhappy about the discrepancy and the failure by the Presidency to break down this amount as his committee had requested.

"Although the committee is satisfied that the Presidency has responded to its request for a breakdown of the president's legal fees, we are still requesting a breakdown of the (R9.6m) legal costs as mentioned in the document," his letter states.

The Presidency had by on Tuesday not responded to the letter.