RUTH BENGU , Sports and Recreation Committee Chairman

Babalo Ndenze

PARLIAMENT’S ethics watchdog has found that transport committee chairwoman Ruth Bhengu had a potential conflict of interest when her company sought a deal to provide fuel to the taxi industry.

Joint committee on ethics and members’ interests co-chairman Lemias Mashile said yesterday it had discussed the matter relating to Bhengu and the business deal her company, Riblore 22, was seeking in order to supply oil to the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco).

Bhengu entered into negotiations to supply oil to Santaco last year, with Riblore 22 to source the oil that Santaco would, in turn, sell to its members who owned taxis.

Bhengu chairs the portfolio committee on transport, which plays an oversight role over public transport matters, including Santaco.

“After investigation, we reached a conclusion that the particular deal, whether concluded or not, is putting her in a potential conflict of interest and therefore we are referring this particular matter to the Speaker…” said Mashile, who was accompanied by his co-chairman, Ben Turok.

Mashile added, however, that there were no problems with Bhengu in terms of the code of conduct and disclosures.

“That is why we cannot recommend any penalty. [She’s] not in breach of the current code,” said Mashile.

He said the Public Protector had also requested information on Bhengu.

Meanwhile, the committee has asked Communications Minister Dina Pule for her response to claims in the media that her alleged relationship with Phosane Mngqibisa, whose company Khemano won a contract in the organisation and management of an ICT indaba under the auspices of her department, constituted a conflict of interest.

Pule has said that a report on the matter by Auditor-General Terence Nombembe had found “all was good”.

Mashile also touched on disclosures and the failure of some members to submit these on time.

“Annually, all members are expected to submit disclosures of interests on… July 31. We have received disclosures. But… we still have 129 unsubmitted disclosures [and] on that basis we extended the closing date to August 31.”

Turok said some members were not aware of the obligations, although there were penalties for non-compliance.

Penalties can range from a reprimand and a fine not exceeding 30 days’ salary “or a reduction of salary”.

Bhengu could not be reached for comment last night.