Evidence leader at the commission of inquiry into state capture, Advocate Kate Hofmeyr, told the inquiry’s chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that the commission will in due course submit that the security vetting of SAA executives and their support staff may have been one of the ways in which state capture was carried out at the national carrier.
The executives and officials at SAA underwent security vetting during Dudu Myeni’s tenure as the chairperson of the board of the state-owned entity (SOE).
Evaluator at the State Security Agency (SSA) who was project manager of the security vetting operation, Nokunqoba Dlamini, on Wednesday told the commission that the project came about following a letter written by former SSA Minister David Mahlobo to former Finance Minister Nhlanhle Nene.
The letter is dated 13 October 2015
“We will make submissions in due course to this commission that the type of security vetting that was conducted at SAA, and contrary to the views of both former ministers and indeed the views of those who executed the operation, that that type of security vetting may not lawfully be undertaken unless it is used to first establish that those who are to be vetted have access to classified information in a manner in which they may be able to divulge it to unauthorised persons,” Hofmeyr said.
She said the commission’s team will also likely recommend that this clarification be included in the commission’s report “because it has grave implications in all state-owned enterprises” if vetting by SSA does not comply with legislation in terms of the law.
Hofmeyr said Dlamini’s evidence on Wednesday is relevant to the mandate of the commission because the latter is tasked with not only determining whether state capture, corruption and fraud took place in the public sector, but also “how, if it did happen, it happened” and make recommendations to prevent the reoccurrence of it.
“It will be our submission that using the intelligence services of this country to conduct unlawful vetting operations at state-owned enterprises and where that vetting operation is then employed for ulterior purposes may well be shown to be one of the ways in which state capture, corruption and fraud is allowed to take place in entities such as SAA,” Hofmeyr said.
Hofmeyr asked Dlamini to respond to conclusions drawn from the latter’s evidence on Wednesday
Dlamini conceded that SSA officials who conducted the operation did not obtain the job descriptions and daily duties of the executives that were to be vetted, and so had not determined whether the persons to be vetted had access to classified information.
Dlamini said she could not respond to evidence that these executives and officials from SAA who were to be vetted had not been told that they could opt to not take a polygraph test.
Earlier, Dlamini told the commission that the vetting process unfolding in four steps which included administration, vetting fieldwork, polygraph stage and analysis.
Dlamini said since she had not seen the letters of the seven executives who resigned during the security vetting process she could not say whether their leaving SAA was linked to the operation.
Hofmeyr suggested that the loss of these seven executives may have been a loss of certain skills for the airline.
Dlamini accepted that during the operation the executives and officials who were vetted had to divulge personal and private information to the SSA.
Earlier, Hofmeyr described the questions posed to the executives and officials during the interview stage of the process – the vetting fieldwork stage – as “extremely invasive” in nature.
Dlamini conceded that the process may not have had an impact on the airline because some of those who were vetted by the SSA, but were not granted security clearance, retained their positions.
Hofmeyr said the commission previously heard testimony that Myeni wanted to use the fact that the head of finance at the time, Lindsey Olitzky, had dual citizenship – a fact revealed by the vetting – to remove her from the airline, because the latter did not want to do what the former board chair wanted.
Dlamini conceded that it would be improper to charge someone for misconduct for having refused to divulge information to the SSA. This, Hofmeyr said, happened to the then-acting CEO at SAA, Thuli Mpshe.
Hofmeyr had asked Dlamini whether she accepts that SSA officials who conducted the vetting had not been properly informed about legislation around such an operation.
“No, I don’t accept that,” Dlamini responded.
Makhosandile Zulu – Citizen
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