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Criticised NPA bill a stopgap, Jeffery tells MPs

Linda Ensor

Deputy justice minister John Jeffery says the criticised bill to establish the Investigating Directorate Against Corruption (ID) as a permanent entity in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is a “stopgap measure” pending a report by the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council (Nacac).

Opposition parties have criticised the NPA Amendment Bill as giving the ID too little independence outside the NPA, which means, they say, that it can easily be disestablished if the ruling party so wishes.

The existing ID was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2019 by proclamation and not as a permanent entity for it to investigate and prosecute serious, highprofile and complex commercial and corruption cases and cases arising from the Zondo inquiry into state capture.

Jeffery told parliament’s justice committee members this means the ID could be disestablished by another proclamation. As lack of permanence makes it harder to attract investigators, the ID has to rely on seconded investigators.

The ID’s investigators and prosecutors were seconded from the Hawks, the State Security Agency and the NPA.

Jeffery said the bill would give the ID greater investigative capacity. He told MPs the Nacac’s work, which is long term, will include advising on strengthening anticorruption institutional arrangements including possibly establishing an anticorruption commission as recommended by the Zondo commission. He said Nacac aims to produce a report next year.

“These are not issues that can be decided overnight. This bill is something that is urgently needed now. We want it passed as soon as possible so that the NPA is better equipped to fight corruption cases.” Further legislative changes could be made based on the Nacac report.

Jeffery said: “We are not setting up a wonderful new institution. We are beefing up what is already there with the Investigating Directorate. This is a stopgap measure while the anticorruption council do their work.

“I agree we need to have longer discussions but right now we need this bill. Having this bill is not going to stop those longerterm discussions once the council has reported.” Whether the ID should be outside the NPA could be addressed later.

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach insists that to be fully independent the ID must be a chapter nine institution under the constitution, reporting to parliament and having a separate budget to prevent it being dissolved if the ruling party does not like what it is doing as happened with the Scorpions. Such an institution can be dissolved only by a twothirds majority in parliament.

“It is our view that this bill is ill-conceived,” Breytenbach said. “We need an institution that is housed outside the NPA, that is independent and that has security of tenure.”

ACDP MP Steve Swart shared Breytenbach’s concerns, saying more time should have been spent on establishing an anticorruption commission outside the NPA. Accountability Now director Paul Hoffman SC has called the bill “execrable” as the ID’s independence would be entirely illusory since it could be easily closed down.

Justice department deputy director-general for legislative development and legal services Kalay Pillay said in her presentation on the bill that “at present the independence of the ID can be compromised since government departments or institutions can (and in fact have threatened to) recall reassigned employees from the ID”. The bill will give the ID the power to appoint its own investigators.

Ramaphosa appointed the Nacac members in August 2022 to advise how to strengthen the fight against fraud and corruption. It includes representatives from civil society, including business, labour and academia.





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