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‘No finding of unethical conduct’, says Parli registrar

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This is a response by Fazela Mahomed to an article on TimesLIVE by Jan Jan Joubert, published on 29 June 2016.

On the 27 June 2016 Jan Jan Joubert wrote on TimesLIVE in an article headlined “Parliament’s ethics commissar resigns” that I had resigned following a court judgement from the Western Cape High Court. The article contains many errors of fact about the content of the judgement and its general tone is couched as a personal attack on my work in the committee and the manner of my appointment.

First of all Mr Joubert states that “Parliament’s ethics commissar‚ Fezela Mahomed‚ has resigned after a court finding that she violated the very ethical code she was supposed to enforce.” I am not Parliament’s ethics commissar. In fact, my title is Registrar of Members Interests, and the committee is called the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members Interests. Moreover my name is spelt Fazela Mahomed.

With regards to the actual judgement which Mr Joubert is reporting on, even a cursory reading would show that there was no finding of bias or unethical conduct against the Registrar. The judgement makes only one finding that “none of the Committee Members who participated in the decision taken on the 17 February may participate in the reconsideration of the matter.” There is no finding against the conduct of the Registrar.

Secondly Mr Joubert writes that “The three MPs concerned were Archie Figlan‚ Makashule Gana and DA leader Mmusi Maimane‚ on different issues.” The Committee has not finalised the case related to Hon. Figlan so this matter could not be before the court. This is another factual error.

Allegations related to my integrity and the “leaking of information to the ANC” only arose after complaints related to a particular party were brought to the Committee. It is a matter of public record that the 2015 Register was adopted on Wednesday 28 October 2016, and made available to all political parties. The ANC made allegations of the non-disclosure of sponsorship by the MPs mentioned above on the 29 of October 2016. The MP disclosed his interests at the end of the same day, after it was publicly reported that he did not disclose. These facts are a matter of public record.

For Mr Joubert, bad journalism then turned into a personal attack. “… Mahomed has been ethics commissar since 1998‚ despite the fact that the parliamentary rules clearly state that the registrar of members’ interests must be newly appointed after every election and only after consultation with the leaders of all political parties with parliamentary representation.” The facts, available to the public and Mr Joubert in the Code of Ethical Conduct, paragraph 11.2, which states that the Committee must be served by a senior official, on the staff of Parliament, appointed by the Speaker and Chairperson of the Council, acting jointly, after consulting the leaders of parties represented in the Assembly and the Council. The Registrar must be assisted by staff assigned by the Secretary for the work of Parliament”. Therefore Mr Joubert’s assertion that each Parliament must appoint a new Registrar is erroneous.

However, this is not the first time Mr Joubert has made this allegation. On the 27 September 2015 in the Sunday Times, he originally made this allegation which Parliament then refuted and this information was distributed to the media and public by the Committee at its meeting of the 28 October 2016. But still, Mr Joubert keeps making this claim.

On the issue of my resignation due to the court judgement, had Mr Joubert called and asked me whether I had resigned and why, I might have told him that on 10 May 2016 I submitted to the Secretary to Parliament a request for early retirement. I sent the same correspondence to the Presiding Officer on 20 May 2016.

I call on the publishers of the Rand Daily Mail to withdraw this article and furnish me with an apology commensurate with the coverage this story has received. The personal nature of Mr Joubert’s attack, repeated false allegations and poor journalistic practise have caused me harm.

It has been a difficult 20 years to establish systems and processes in the Office of the Registrar. I would be the first to admit we have made mistakes, however, to rubbish the important work of the Committee and the Office of the Registrar only serves to weaken Parliament.

[Source: Registrar of Members Interests, Fazela Mahomed]
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