Monday, August 15, 2022

Seretse loses bid to remove information from PAC report

By a vote of 25 to 19, parliament has rejected a bid by Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, to delete information from the Public Accounts Committee report on the controversial P90 million lease agreement between government and property mogul, Sayed Jamali.

The PAC report has been tabled before parliament for debate this week. However, Minister Seretse’s ministry is uncomfortable with the committee’s findings regarding its search for office accommodation. The Report also reveals that the ministry violated procedure by entering into an unauthorized lease agreement with Jamali’s company, for the rent of office space at CBD mall.

The debate on the motion of whether the issue of office space by ministry of Defence, Justice and Security should be expunged from the report was spearheaded by Minister Seretse.

Seretse’s view was that the main contention was that the PAC did not have the mandate to probe details of the lease agreement since it was a matter that went beyond the financial years that the committee was supposed to examine.

He argued that the committee was supposed to inspect government books on accounts based on the Auditor General’s report, adding that the issue regarding office accommodation was not even in the Auditor General’s report.

“Madam Speaker, the matter relating to ministry of Defence, Justice and Security seeking accommodation for office’s space was not a matter dealt with and reported by the Auditor General at the end of the financial year,” Seretse told parliament.

However, Seretse’s contention was clearly at odds with views held by numerous legislators, including ruling party’s backbenchers, members of the PAC and opposition MPs.

At one point, MP Kagiso Molatlhegi wondered whether Seretse’s interpretation of the parliamentary standing orders is that the PAC should only focus on Auditor General’s report and shut itself out to any abnormal or illegal transaction that it may observe.

Enraged by Seretse’s proposal, Tati East MP Guma Moyo fiercely opposed the motion and labeled it recipe for a bad precedent if allowed to pass.

“We are not balancing books of accounts but we are examining books of accounts…government has insured an unbudgeted liability of P90 million. We cannot allow this motion; we will be setting a bad precedent. We cannot hide under some technicality,” fired Moyo.

Moyo was supported by legislators such as Daniel Kwelagobe, Kentse Rammidi and Nehemiah Modubule who felt the Report could not be discussed piecemeal.

Kwelagobe opined that if at all the issue surrounding the controversial lease agreement was not an issue that the committee was supposed to examine, the Permanent Secretary at the ministry of Defence, Justice and Security could not have included it in his ministry’s presentation to the PAC committee. He said that the accounting officer should again have alerted the PAC committee that it did not have authority to interrogate her on the lease agreement.

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