SSA says state employees refusing to be vetted
State security minister Bongani Bongo and his director-general Arthur Fraser have told parliament that state employees involved in government's multi-billion rand procurement space are refusing to undergo security screening.
Bongo and Fraser appeared before the standing committee on public accounts to explain why thousands of government officials and employees of state-owned companies dealing with supply chain management had not been vetted as a mechanism to tackle corruption despite a 2014 cabinet memo instructing the State Security Agency to vet all supply chain employees.
SCOPA wanted answers from Bongo after it emerged last week that at Transnet alone‚ only seven percent of about 700 supply chain management employees had been vetted at the transport and logistics utility.
Fraser said there were a few reasons why a lot of officials were not vetted. "There have been challenges and the minister has indicated that the JSCI is engaging us on exactly how we are going to deal with the issue of vetting. Our responsibility is to not only look at supply management. We must ensure we vet all staff of organs of state‚" said Fraser.
He said in many instances state officials simply refused to be vetted.
"What has been a challenge within the democratic dispensation would have found that it has taken five years for security to adapt to its mandate. We would find that even in the National Intelligence Agency and probably SSA‚ you would have found that people were not vetted in the first five years.
“Vetting in the main till now has been done in a manual form which meant that it was labour intensive‚" said Fraser.
He said they relied on heads of institutions to inform the SSA and to provide the relative information on people that required vetting. "We would find on instances documentation would go amiss or incomplete documents are forwarded by institutions‚" said Fraser.
Bongo said they were now planning to use new technology to expedite the vetting of state employees.
"Since I joined the department we are busy with regulatory framework and taking samples of technology that can do vetting as fast as possible because it is quite a tedious process. The vetting process itself is quite a lengthy process.
But we are happy we can take one or two members to the joint standing committee on intelligence (JSCI) so we can take members through the process to see what are the technological samples we are taking so we can move faster‚" said Bongo. IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the SSA basically admitted to its failure to vet supply chain officials.
"We asked the question that have people been vetted and the answer is a resounding no. Supply chain management is the playground of corruption. That is where corruption takes place. Supply chain is where people are looting funds day in day out‚" said Hlengwa.
DA MP David Ross said they were all concerned at the "lack of progress" in the vetting of supply chain officials.