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Judicial inquiries have cost SA almost R300m - so far

Fin24 2019-08-23 09:30:15

The four inquiries into allegations of wrongdoing within various arms of the state in the last two years have cost R297.1m so far. 

South Africa's headlines have been dominated by revelations at the various inquiries relating to state capture, the SA Revenue Services (SARS), the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and the National Prosecuting Authority. 

The funds for a commission pay for the venue, logistics, investigators and legal experts such as evidence leaders involved in the daily work. The Zondo Commission also revealed that former President Jacob Zuma's legal fees were funded by the state, like all witnesses who appear before the inquiry.

The Department of Justice is responsible for allocating the funding to the inquiries. They are not adversarial processes but investigative. The chairperson of the inquiries, usually retired or sitting judges, only have the power to make recommendations. In terms of these inquiries, recommendations are made to the president. The recommendations, however, are not binding - unlike court orders.


'Significant loss of public funds'

Spokesperson for the Department of Justice Crispin Phiri told Fin24 that the commissions are taking place "in a context where there has been a significant loss of public funds to corruption, [and] state-owned enterprises and public institutions in general find themselves in difficult financial circumstances".

"Thus, a commission investigating these problems is an accessible method of taking the public into confidence, through open hearings, broadcast publicly, public access (such as a website and an enquiry desk) and a strong, independent commissioner [who are] normally judicial officers," Phiri said. 

Fin24 looked at the breakdown in the costs.

Zondo Commission - R230m

The Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture began sitting in Parktown a year ago, this week. Headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, it has seen explosive allegations related to Bosasa and former president Jacob Zuma. It is expected that it will take another year to hear all the testimony, and there are calls to broaden the terms of reference.

Proceedings cost R230m in the first year of running and the Department of Justice is in the process of allocating the budget for the second year. This is yet to be finalised. 

PIC Commission - R54.5m  

The Commission of inquiry into allegations of impropriety regarding the Public Investment Corporation was appointed in October 2018.

Work at the commission wrapped up on August 14 and the report will be submitted to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the end of October. Retired judge Lex Mpati chaired the commission and was assisted by former SA Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus and investment expert Emmanuel Lediga. 

The commission heard startling evidence about investment decisions made by the state asset manager regarding AYO Technologies and Steinhoff. The 54.5m cost includes a request for additional funding of R40 211m during the adjustment budget 2019, and this is still awaiting an allocation from Treasury, according to the Department of Justice.

SARS Commission - R8.8m  

The Commission of Inquiry into tax administration and governance at the SA Revenue Service was established in May 2019. Retired Judge Robert Nugent chaired the proceedings and published his final report in December 2018. The Commission found that former commissioner Tom Moyane "arrived without integrity and then dismantled the elements of governance one by one" and "seized control of SARS". 

Moyane was fired by Ramaphosa in November and former SARS deputy commissioner Edward Kieswetter was appointed as the new tax agency boss, effective from May 1. 

Mokgoro Board of Inquiry - R3.6m 

In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa ended the tenure in the National Prosecuting Authority of advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, as recommended by the Mokgoro inquiry into the fitness of the two officials to hold office. The panel was chaired by retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro. Jiba has asked the High Court to set aside the Mokgoro findings.