Busisiwe Mkhwebane ‘disappointed’ by leaking of Gordhan subpoena
Department of public enterprises spokesperson Adrian Lackay says probes of Gordhan amount to a campaign to disrupt efforts to uncover and prosecute corruption in entities of government
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is “disappointed” by the leaking of a second subpoena for public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan relating to her investigation into the SA Revenue Service's (Sars's) so-called rogue unit.
Mkhwebane lamented the comments made by Gordhan’s spokesperson, Adrian Lackay, which labelled the investigations into Gordhan a “fightback campaign to disrupt efforts to uncover and prosecute malfeasance and corruption in various entities of government”.
Gordhan appeared before the public protector for the first time in November. This was in relation to the early pension payout to former Sars senior official Ivan Pillay during Gordhan's first stint as finance minister. Oupa Magashula was Sars commissioner at the time.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) withdrew charges linked to the pension payout against Gordhan, Magashula and Pillay in October 2016.
Mkhwebane received a complaint about the matter in November 2016 and acted on it only in February 2018.
The second subpoena served on Gordhan was in relation to a complaint lodged by EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu about the rogue unit, a narrative that has been discredited over the past few years.
Mkhwebane said the subpoena relates to her investigation into allegations of improper conduct and a violation of the Executive Ethics Code, irregular and unlawful activities by Gordhan.
She said the comments made by Gordhan’s representative reduced a legitimate investigation to harassment of Gordhan.
Mkhwebane has also called allegations that the investigations against Gordhan were part of factional battles involving a political party, baseless.
“Advocate Mkhwebane has, in the past, subpoenaed and interviewed numerous ministers, embers of executive councils and premiers as part of investigations. Not once did any of these public office-bearers take issue with this, label it ‘harassment’ or see it as a source of irritation,” her office said.
She said others co-operated, with the understanding that the public protector had the power and authority conferred by the constitution and the law to hold them to account.
“Advocate Mkhwebane therefore expects no less from any other public office-bearer and official whose alleged conduct has been brought to her office for scrutiny,” her office said.
Mkhwebane said the point of an investigation was essentially a fact-finding mission that could go either way.
“It is therefore in the interest of all those whose conduct is under investigation to co-operate with her processes so as to clear their names,” she said.
Correction: April 11 2019
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Adrian Lackay as Public Enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan’s lawyer. He is in fact the department’s spokesperson.