‘Pay back THE MONEY’

IEC gets le­gal help to re­coup R2m it coughed up for Tlakula’s de­fence in ir­reg­u­lar lease deal

CityPress - - Front Page - XOLANI MBAN­JWA xolani.mban­jwa@city­press.co.za

he In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) has turned to lawyers to find out how to re­coup for­mer chair­per­son Pansy Tlakula’s le­gal costs. The IEC paid R2 mil­lion to­wards Tlakula’s ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful at­tempts to de­fend her­self from al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct in­volv­ing a R320 mil­lion lease saga.

The com­mis­sion­ers’ move, which the IEC con­firmed to City Press, pits them against chief elec­toral of­fi­cer Mosotho Moepya.

The com­mis­sion­ers also want lawyers to find out if Moepya acted legally when he al­legedly took a “uni­lat­eral” decision to use IEC funds to foot Tlakula’s le­gal bill.

Vice-chair­per­son Terry Tse­lane said: “The Elec­toral Com­mis­sion has briefed se­nior coun­sel to pro­vide a le­gal opin­ion, firstly, on whether the for­mer chair­per­son was en­ti­tled to re­ceive as­sis­tance with le­gal fees from com­mis­sion funds. Se­condly, on whether the CEO acted prop­erly in terms of the rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion in ap­prov­ing and pay­ing th­ese fees. Thirdly, whether there was an obli­ga­tion on the for­mer chair­per­son to re­pay th­ese funds in light of the fail­ure of her court ap­pli­ca­tions.”

Tse­lane said the IEC would de­ter­mine “the most ap­pro­pri­ate course of ac­tion” based on this le­gal ad­vice.

“Ap­prox­i­mately R2 mil­lion has been spent to date, but an as­sess­ment of the fi­nal amount will form part of this le­gal process.”

Tlakula re­signed from the IEC last month after the Con­sti­tu­tional Court in Au­gust turned down her ap­peal against the Elec­toral Court’s rec­om­men­da­tion that she be re­moved from of­fice.

“We’ve al­ways had dif­fer­ences with Moepya be­cause the com­mis­sion­ers never au­tho­rised those pay­ments in the first place, but he paid for them,” said a wellplaced source in the IEC.

City Press un­der­stands that com­mis­sion­ers want Tlakula to pay back the money. This is the norm in many gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and en­ti­ties when the state foots the bill for le­gal costs for any charges or al­le­ga­tions re­lated to acts com­mit­ted in the course of the du­ties of se­nior civil ser­vants.

“The decision that the com­mis­sion­ers have taken is to also seek le­gal opin­ion be­cause [Moepya] was say­ing he had a le­gal opin­ion au­tho­ris­ing him to pay for her [Tlakula’s] lawyers,” said the source.

“As far as we know, if the state is pay­ing for a se­nior civil ser­vant in court and they lose the case, the of­fi­cial has to pay the money back in full.”

Two in­ves­tiga­tive re­ports, one by the Trea­sury and the other by Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela, found Tlakula guilty of im­proper con­duct and mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion.

She did not dis­close to the IEC that she had a business re­la­tion­ship with ANC MP Thaba Mufamadi, whose company, Le­hotsa In­vest­ments, owned 20% of Ab­land – the company to which Tlakula had awarded the R320 mil­lion lease deal.

Moepya would not an­swer ques­tions about Tlakula’s le­gal costs, say­ing the mat­ter was now up to the four com­mis­sion­ers to de­cide.

“I’m not go­ing to com­ment on those mat­ters be­cause they are now be­ing han­dled by the IEC [com­mis­sion­ers]. The com­mis­sion has de­cided it will deal with th­ese mat­ters and not me,” said Moepya.

Tlakula said she wished ev­ery­one would let her be since she was now a “pri­vate cit­i­zen”. “I have put the IEC be­hind me now. Please leave me in peace. “I have noth­ing to say. Don’t I de­serve peace? Just leave me in peace,” she said when City Press con­tacted her for com­ment.

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