Finance minister Tito Mboweni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Finance minister Tito Mboweni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Finance minister Tito Mboweni has written to the chair of the National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP's) select committee on finance to prevent the passage of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Amendment Bill. 

Treasury chief director for financial markets Roy Havemann mentioned the letter during public hearings held by the committee on Tuesday. However, comments made by committee chair Charel De Beer in an interview afterwards indicated that the committee would not be influenced by the minister’s letter and that its process of considering the bill would proceed, saying “We were asked not to go forward with the process.”

Havemann said Mboweni is concerned about two outstanding issues. One relates to a governance issue as to whether a political office bearer should be the chair of the PIC board. The bill provides that the deputy minister of finance or another deputy minister in the economics cluster will be the chair.

The second issue relates to the work of the commission of inquiry under retired judge Lex Mpati, who wrote to Mboweni highlighting the fact that the commission is still considering matters around the governance of the PIC board. The judge asked that this be taken into account during the parliamentary process of deliberating on the bill.

“The commission is considering the appropriate governance structure of the board at the moment and it has written to the finance minister to ask that it be allowed to complete its work on that,” Havemann said.

‘Surprised and alarmed’

The bill is proposed by the standing committee of finance, which has held extensive deliberations and public hearings on its proposals. De Beer stressed in his interview that the multi-party chief whips and programming committees have instructed that the NCOP deal with the bill and report on it to the NCOP plenary.

The letter from the minister has been noted but can have no impact on the NCOP process.

De Beer said that the bill is an interim measure. There will definitely be recommendations arising from the commission of inquiry but these will definitely be incorporated into another bill that could be considered by the next parliament, which will take office after the elections, he said.

“We want to improve what is happening in the PIC and the workings of the PIC. There we agree with the minister 100% —  but that is the music for the sixth parliament.”

Trade union federation Cosatu’s parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks said it was “surprised and alarmed to hear from the media that the commission wrote to the minister requesting his intervention in stopping the bill”.

Cosatu is also “deeply shocked and angered” to hear that Mboweni has written to parliament.

“Both acts are tantamount to undermining the constitutionally guaranteed independence of parliament. The commission is an extension of the executive [and] the executive accounts to parliament. Under no circumstances can the executive issue an instruction to parliament. It is completely unacceptable that the minister did this,” Parks said.

“The [intrusion] by the minister ... is reckless, constitutionally undermining and politically dangerous at best. It plays straight into the hands of those who have looted, are looting and want to continue to loot at the PIC. A single day delaying passing the bill is one more day where looting and governance chaos remains rampant at the PIC.”

Cosatu is adamant that the NCOP pass the bill before its term comes to an end at the end of the month.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za