Tito Mboweni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Tito Mboweni. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

The DA has questioned why the letter sent by finance minister Tito Mboweni to a parliamentary committee chair on the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Amendment Bill has not been available to MPs.

In the letter the minister raises his concern about the bill, particularly its provision that the deputy finance minister or another deputy minister in the economic cluster be the chair of the PIC board.

The contents of the letter came to light on Tuesday when the Treasury's chief director for financial markets, Roy Havemann, told a meeting of the select committee on finance in the National Council of Provinces that Mboweni was concerned about whether a political office bearer should be the chair of the PIC board.

He also mentioned the work of the commission of inquiry into the PIC under retired judge Lex Mpati. Mpati wrote to Mboweni highlighting the fact that the commission was considering matters around the governance of the 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 they have written to the minister of finance to ask that they be allowed to complete their work on that. That is what they have proposed,” Havemann said at the time. 

DA finance spokesperson Alf Lees said in a statement on Thursday that he had written to the house chair of the National Assembly, Cedric Frolic, to request that he intervene to ensure that the letter  “be made public immediately".

But chair of the committee Charel de Beer said in an interview that Mboweni's letter was addressed to him personally and not to him in his capacity as chair of the committee. He therefore did not feel he was able to share it with members of the select committee or with the media. He said he had replied to Mboweni, merely saying that the contents of the minister's letter had been noted.

De Beer also said that Frolick only had authority over committees in the National Assembly and not the NCOP. He said he would refer to Mboweni's letter and his reply at the next meeting of the select committee on finance.

Lees said Mboweni's letter was apparently delivered to De Beer on Monday morning.

“Despite there having been two committee meetings since Monday, one of which dealt with the PIC bill, the letter has still not been given to committee members and the content has been kept secret,” he said.

“At the meeting of the select committee on finance held on Wednesday, the DA requested that the letter from Minister Mboweni be given to committee members. Chairperson De Beer assured the DA that the letter would be sent through that morning. It has now been more than 24 hours and the letter has yet to be circulated. Chairperson De Beer has subsequently stated that the letter will only be circulated by Tuesday, March 19.

“It is incomprehensible that there can be any legal reason why the letter has not been distributed, and simply leads to unnecessary suspicions of some sort of plot for the NCOP to deal with the PIC Bill without the contents of the minister’s letter having been thoroughly dealt with in the public domain,” Lees said.

The DA is also opposed to the political appointment of a deputy minister as chair of the PIC board.