Balance must be struck between accounting to parliament and jeopardising investigations: Batohi
‘Suspects are not sitting around waiting. They are planning strategies how to get around this and we are giving them a lot of information,’ NPA boss tells Scopa
When law enforcement agencies account in parliament, it should not be done in a manner that jeopardises sensitive investigations.
This was the concern expressed on Tuesday by National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shamila Batohi during a standing committee on accounts portfolio (Scopa) sitting in parliament.
Batohi’s office, together with the national police and Special Investigating Unit (SIU), jointly updated the committee on several investigations the SIU had referred to the NPA for further action.
The committee was expected to receive an update on the controversial R150m Digital Vibes investigation, but Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa told MPs he had received a letter from the SIU’s advocate Andy Mothibi requesting to postpone the matter.
Reading Mothibi’s letter, Hlengwa said the SIU handed its report to the presidency on June 30. “The SIU submitted further documentation related to the report on July 2. In view of the presidency considering the report, the SIU respectfully requests Scopa to reschedule the requested update by the SIU on the investigation involving Digital Vibes.”
We need to have a discussion on how we balance accountability with the possible compromise of very complex and sensitive investigations.Shamila Batohi
The presidency has confirmed receiving the final report. Acting presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said: “The presidency is studying the report and will keep the public abreast of developments in this matter.
“It will do so in a manner that preserves information that may be or become the subject of prosecution, civil action or disciplinary proceedings.”
Briefing the committee with her team, Batohi said: “We have serious reservations about the extent of detail that is being provided. We need to have a discussion on how we balance accountability with the possible compromise of very complex and sensitive investigations.
“Suspects are not sitting around waiting. They are planning strategies how to get around this and we are giving them a lot of information.”
Deputy police minister Cassel Mathale confirmed that formal communication would be sent to house speaker Thandi Modise and chair of chairs Cedric Frolick. “We need to make sure the flow of information is managed in such a manner that it does not compromise the processes,” he said.
ANC MP Bheki Hadebe said: “We don’t want a perception that makes it seem like we are forcing you to give us sensitive information. Ours is to ensure that in cases that have been concluded, consequence management action is taken, and we want that information to be at our disposal to ensure we follow up on those cases.”
However, the DA’s Alf Lees said it was not that simple. “There is far more to the subject, so we cannot simply give carte blanche authority for presenters to decide whether a matter is sensitive,” he said.
Earlier, Hawks head Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya told MPs that as at March 31, the Hawks were studying 20,000 case dockets which comprised approximately 76,000 charges. He said the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) was working at 47% capacity.
With 108,736 employees already in the system, Lebeya said a further 274 were in the process of being employed to assist with capacity.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has played a critical role in our investigation capacity because we have to isolate, quarantine and decontaminate offices nearly every day, and the rotation of staff causes delays in the work we are doing.”
Regarding progress in SIU case referrals by the NPA to the Hawks, Lebeya said there were 131 live cases. “These are matters that have been reported since 2010 until present and amounting to an estimated R3.4bn.”
Of the 131 cases, 118 are case dockets and the rest are enquiries.
“Most cases are fraud, corruption, contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and Municipal Finance Management Act and money laundering.
“A total of 60 of the 131 cases involve legal entities, 50 involve private individuals and 22 involve both. Most referrals emanate from the Eastern Cape, which has 25 cases, followed by Gauteng and Limpopo at 24 and KwaZulu-Natal with 21.”
Of these cases, 23 are with the office of the senior public prosecutor for decisions, 20 are on the court roll at different stages and 88 are under investigation.
Regarding Covid-19 corruption matters being investigated, Lebeya said there were a 197 incidences with 163 investigated and 63 closed.
A total of 151 cases are registered, with 107 being investigated, 25 closed and 19 in court involving 77 suspects.