The Chair of Chairs, Cedric Frolick. Cedric Frolick File picture: Tracey Adams/ANA Pictures

Parliament - Parliament - The investigation into state capture by Parliament's portfolio committee on public enterprises on Wednesday hit its first hurdle as it was confirmed to members that the legislature would not pay for an independent evidence leader.

Acting chairperson Zukiswa Rantho told MPs she had asked the chair of chairs, Cedric Frolick, for an evidence leader for the probe, which has been extended to cover not only allegations of state capture at Eskom, but Transnet and Denel as well. 

But Parliamentary legal advisers then made a submission in which they claimed it would set a precedent if the task of evidence leader would be outsourced that the institution could not afford.

Chief legal adviser Zuraya Adhikarie said the investigation might take longer than expected and it might be "impractical" to fund an independent evidence leader.

After MPs from across the political spectrum objected in strong terms, Rantho resolved to send a multi-party delegation of members to ask Parliament for "sufficient resources to assist it to execute its oversight mandate effectively in terms of the inquiry into state-owned enterprises".

Earlier, MPs from across the political spectrum rubbished Adhikarie's argument, and questioned whether the reluctance to hire a professional from outside Parliament meant that there had been an instruction to undermine the probe from the outset.

"I must indicate my total dismay at the failure of Parliament to provide the necessary resources for these purposes," said African National Congress MP Zukile Luyenga.

He added that it was strange that the same state that was being looted on a grand scale was failing to support an inquiry designed to help stem the abuse of its resources.

The allegations of corruption at state-owned enterprises was so serious that the money for a proper probe had to be found, "even if we have to sell our shoes", he said.

Fellow ANC MP Mondli Gungubele said the argument of precedent was spurious as it applied to courts, not Parliament.

Narend Singh from the Inkatha Freedom Party said it begged the question as to whether the committee was encountering interference from "the powers that be" before it had begun its work. 

Democratic Alliance public enterprises spokeswoman Natasha Mazzone said it was ludicrous to suggest that Parliament lacked the resources and left one wondering whether MPs oversight role was taken seriously

Steve Swart from the African Christian Democratic Party then cautioned that the committee must keep sight of the fact that it needed to recuperate money that was stolen from the state, and therefore it had to acquit itself well of its task.

Committee members had requested that Adv Nthuthuzelo Vanara‚ a senior parliamentary law adviser who served as evidence leader for the South African Broadcasting Corporation Ad Hoc Committee‚ lead the state capture probe as well. But Frolick has said it would not be possible as he had too much work in his new role as Registrar of Members Interests.

Rantho said the committee hoped that somebody who had the necessary expertise could be found within the system.