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PAC criticises ban on parliament chambers

Pascalinah Kabi

THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson, Selibe Mochoboroane has described as “ridiculous” the decision by the deputy speaker of parliament, Teboho Lehloenya to bar all parliamentary committees’ from conducting their hearings in the National Assembly chambers.

Mr Mochoboroane also said the decision negatively affected his committee’s ability to carry out its mandate.

His comments come in the wake of last week’s ruling by Mr Lehloenya that the PAC proceedings should be held in the committee rooms.

Mr Lehloenya said the PAC’s proceedings in the National Assembly chambers posed a security threat to the 120 legislators when they attended the normal parliamentary sessions.

He also said that it was possible that the ordinary people who attended PAC sessions could plant a bomb in the chambers.

However, Mr Mochoboroane said the committee rooms were too small to accommodate the 13 committee members and government officials hauled before the committee to give evidence before the PAC.

The PAC has since suspended all its proceedings pending the resolution of the issue or the availing of alternative space big enough to accommodate its members and those who would have been summoned to appear before it.

This week Mr Mochoboroane said they were initially informed of the ban on the use of chambers by the speaker of parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, on the 16th of April this year.

Mr Mochoboroane said immediately afterwards, he told Mr Motanyane that the ban would affect the PAC because there was limited space in the committee rooms and lack of recording equipment.

“After our meeting, the speaker agreed that we should continue to use the chambers until an alternative had been found,” Mr Mochoboroane said.

He added that they were surprised when Mr Lehloenya made a ruling last Tuesday that no committee was allowed to use the chambers without addressing their concerns.

He said they were called to parliament on Monday where they were shown the committee rooms readily available for use. He said those were the same rooms which did not have enough capacity to accommodate all the PAC proceedings.

Mr Mochoboroane said although the National Assembly had bought new microphones, the recording system was the same old one which failed to work during one of the previous PAC proceedings.

“I told the parliamentary staff yesterday that they should call us the Speaker and the deputy speaker so that we can discuss this matter. He (Mr Lehloenya) is dodging me. I have been to his office and he refused to see me to discuss the matter,” he said.

He said negotiations were underway so that PAC could use one of the senate rooms to allow them to record all proceedings as evidence which could be used in the courts.

Mr Lehloenya however, denied making a ruling, saying all he did was to “announce a ruling was made during the 16 April meeting where all committee chairpersons were present”.

He said there were genuine security concerns given that a mosque was recently attacked in Durban by knife-wielding men who killed one person and wounded two others.

Mr Lehloenya also accused Mr Mochoboroane of using PAC processes to campaign for his Movement for Economic Change (MEC) party. Mr Mochoboroane has denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, the Clerk of Parliament, Lebohang Fine Maema, this week insisted that the committee rooms had the capacity to host the PAC proceedings.



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