IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula has challenged the legality and findings of the Public Protector’s investigation into her role procuring headquarters for the electoral commission.
In a 55-page response to the allegations, Tlakula claimed that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela did not have the power to investigate the allegations of maladministration, or to refer the matter to the Speaker of the National Assembly, as she had, or to the president.
The document was handed to an ad hoc parliamentary committee considering Madonsela’s report, and was leaked to the media.
Madonsela found Tlakula’s role in concluding a R320 million lease contract for a new head office for the Independent Electoral Commission in Centurion was "grossly irregular” and amounted to maladministration and misconduct.
However, Tlakula said neither the legislature nor the president had any authority to deal with the conduct of the chief electoral commissioner, which is the position she held at the time the contract was signed.
"There is no legislation invoking the Speaker of Parliament or the president in allegations of improper conduct by the chief electoral officer,” she said in the document.
She said the Public Protector Act gave Madonsela the power to investigate maladministration on the part of government, but that although the Independent Electoral Commission was an organ of state it "does not form part of government”.
Furthermore, Madonsela had failed to observe the law by not giving her the right to reply before decisions were made on an integral part of the investigation, she charged.
She said she was not given a chance to respond to allegations that she had a romantic relationship with the chairman of parliament’s finance portfolio committee Thaba Mufamadi, who was a shareholder in the company that owned the Riverside building rented to the IEC.
"The investigation by the office of the Public Protector in this instance was fraught with numerous procedural and substantive irregularities,” she wrote.
The ad hoc committee has sought legal advice on how to deal with the unprecedented matter, which is raising concerns about the stability of the IEC some six months before the next national elections.
Committee chairman Luwellyn Landers said on Monday the committee was still waiting for a report from Parliament’s legal adviser and was likely to meet again only next week.
Landers said he regretted the leak, and had assured Tlakula that he had distributed the document only to MPs serving on the committee. - Sapa