State supply-chain employees ‘refusing to undergo security’ vetting
State Security Minister Bongani Bongo and his director-general Arthur Fraser have told Parliament that state employees involved in the government’s multi-billion rand procurement space are refusing to undergo security screening.
Bongo and Fraser appeared before the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) to explain why thousands of government officials and employees of state-owned companies dealing with supply-chain management had not been vetted as a mechanism to tackle corruption, despite a 2014 Cabinet memo instructing the State Security Agency (SSA) to vet all supply-chain employees.
Scopa wanted answers from Bongo after it emerged last week that, at Transnet alone‚ only 7% of about 700 supply-chain management employees had been vetted.
Fraser said there were a few reasons why a lot of officials were not vetted. "There have been challenges and the minister has indicated that the joint standing committee on intelligence is engaging us on exactly how we are going to deal with the issue of vetting. Our responsibility is to not only look at supply management. We must ensure we vet all staff of organs of state."
He added that in many instances, state officials simply refused to be vetted.
"What has been a challenge within the democratic dispensation ... it has taken five years for security to adapt to its mandate. We would find that even in the National Intelligence Agency, and probably the SSA ... people were not vetted in the first five years," said Fraser. "Vetting in the main, until now, has been done in a manual form, which meant that it was labour intensive."
Fraser said they relied on heads of institutions to inform the SSA and to provide the relevant information on people that required vetting. "We would find ... documentation would go amiss or incomplete documents [were] forwarded by institutions."
Bongo said they were now planning to use new technology to expedite the vetting of state employees.
"Since I joined the department, we are busy with regulatory framework and taking samples of technology that can do vetting as fast as possible because it is quite a tedious process," he said. "The vetting process itself is quite a lengthy process. But we are happy we can take one or two members to the joint standing committee on intelligence so we can take members through the process to see what are the technological samples we are taking so we can move faster."
IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the SSA had basically admitted to its failure to vet supply chain officials. "We asked the question ‘Have people been vetted’ and the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Supply-chain management is the playground of corruption. That is where corruption takes place. Supply chain is where people are looting funds day in day out."
DA MP David Ross said they were all concerned at the "lack of progress" in the vetting of supply-chain officials.