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LETTER: Public protector can police the executive

The office has the power to investigate allegations of money laundering

09 July 2019 – 05:02 Business Day

Genevieve Quintal is mistaken to think the public protector does not have jurisdiction to investigate money laundering (or indeed any criminal activity) on the part of a member of the executive (“Legal costs: president could set an example”, July 5).

The Executive Members’ Ethics Act of 1998 makes it clear that it is a breach of ethics to engage in crime. While it is so that the act specifies that an investigation under it, the preserve of the public protector, does not prevent or delay a criminal case in court, this very provision makes it clear that criminality falls within the scope of the act. The precedents set in the Nkandla and state capture reports by the previous public protector also make it clear that crimes are covered by the act.

The constitutionally proscribed “risk of a conflict” of interest between “official responsibilities and private interests”, as would happen in circumstances in which a well-concealed “donation” via an attorney’s trust account in the name of a shelf company could be construed as a bribe, is further reason for giving the public protector the power to swiftly investigate allegations of money laundering within 30 days. This rapid procedure is the law. It was passed with a view to keeping the executive squeaky clean at all times.

The criminal justice administration, such as it is, is incapable of completing an investigation within 30 days. It is for this reason, among others, that parliament turned to the public protector to police the executive.

Quintal is, however, quite right to reason that the president should pay out of his own pocket such legal costs as he may incur in the matter of the DA’s complaint. It is not an official duty to mislead parliament, whether wittingly or unwittingly.

Paul Hoffman, SC
Accountability Now

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