Cosatu's Matthew Parks. Picture: SUPPLIED
Cosatu's Matthew Parks. Picture: SUPPLIED

Union federation Cosatu has urged the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) select committee on finance not to delay the passage of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Amendment Bill. This is before the NCOP rises at the end of the month ahead of elections. 

Cosatu believes that if the bill is allowed to lapse in the current term of parliament it will not be resurrected by the next one that takes office after the May elections, and that it will be “dead”.

The federation strongly supports the bill, which provides for three trade union representatives on the PIC board and for stronger transparency and governance requirements for the asset manager that manages over R2-trillion in assets on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund and other social security funds.

Cosatu believes such measures are crucial, given the allegations of irregularities that have emerged during the commission of inquiry into the PIC headed up by retired judge Lex Mpati. The federation warned in a submission during public hearings on the bill by the committee on Tuesday of deep anger and a sense of betrayal if the bill is delayed by the NCOP, saying this would have a devastating impact on its alliance with the ANC. 

The bill was adopted by the National Assembly two weeks ago.

However, the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism advocacy co-ordinator Karabo Rajuili argues in a submission that the NCOP should not pass the bill and that any amendments to the PIC Act should await the recommendations of the commission of inquiry.

Rajuili said this is especially so given the little time for public representations to the NCOP on the bill. She also called for an amendment to the bill providing for public access to the investment decisions of the PIC to ensure its accountability.

However, Cosatu parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks stressed the need for haste.

“The NCOP rises in two weeks time. There is thus simply no time to waste. The NCOP has drafted a clear programme to process and adopt the bill. No one must be allowed to undermine, interfere or delay it,” Parks said. “While there may be proposed reasonable amendments to the bill by the parties, there is simply no time left. Cosatu urges members not to allow amendments at this stage. Any delays will only serve to exacerbate the crises at the PIC.”

If the select committee makes amendments to the bill it will have to be referred back to the National Assembly’s standing committee of finance — but there would be no time for this because the National Assembly rises on March 20 and the NCOP on March 28, and the bill would thus lapse.

Powerful people in the PIC

Parks noted that throughout the development of the bill “there has been strange, unusual and determined covert resistance against it”. 

“The critics have largely been those who want to see the status quo of looting and poor governance and a sheer lack of accountability. The covert resistance to this anti-corruption bill is not an accident. There are powerful people in the PIC, the government, politics and business who want to stop this bill,” he said. 

“They are making phone calls, writing letters, knocking on doors. Some have even made hints that deals can be made if the bill can be killed. Powerful persons are seeking to convince members to stop the bill.”  

Parks said Cosatu was “surprised and alarmed” to learn that Mpati had written to finance minister Tito Mboweni requesting his intervention to stop the bill. Parks said Cosatu was “deeply shocked and angered” to hear that Mboweni then wrote to the speakers of the National Assembly and the NCOP requesting that the bill be stopped.

The Treasury has confirmed that the letter from Mboweni was sent to parliament.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za

Correction: March 12 2019

An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Karabo Rajuili as a man.