Government tells parliament about reforms at State Security Agency

01 June 2021 - 15:14
By ZIMASA MATIWANE, zimasa matiwane AND Zimasa Matiwane
Deputy state security minister Zizi Kodwa acknowledged the negative public image of the State Security Agency. File photo.
Image: Masi Losi Deputy state security minister Zizi Kodwa acknowledged the negative public image of the State Security Agency. File photo.

The State Security Agency (SSA) has at last complied with the critical findings of a high level review panel by strengthening accountability and oversight in the hope of transforming the agency and rooting out corrupt members.

This was announced by deputy minister Zizi Kodwa in parliament on Tuesday during the department’s budget vote debate.

He acknowledged the negative public image of the agency and committed to enhancing accountability and transparency to create a fit-for-purpose state security agency. 

“The agency is at an advanced stage in appointing an independent forensic firm to investigate the alleged misconduct,” said Kodwa. 

The high level review report, released two years ago, recommended that the agency  urgently institute forensic and other investigations by competent authorities into  breaches of financial and other controls leading to disciplinary and/or criminal prosecutions.

The deputy minister, however, said the agency has uncovered some elements of corrupt activities among its members, adding that five cases have been referred to the police for further investigation and prosecution.

Kodwa cited weak oversight and management systems as the main contributing factors for ineffective controls to ensure accountability.

He told parliament some of the government’s interventions to capacitate oversight mechanisms to ensure accountability included the filling of posts where no permanent appointments had been made.

We have also made significant progress in stabilising management of the agency to curtail long acting periods, and 70% of vacancies have been filled with the remainder in various stages of recruitment. We are confident that will bring stability and  efficiency,” he said.

The agency, according to Kodwa, has also strengthened its internal audit and risk management mechanisms to ensure good governance and secure public funds. 

The agency’s lack of accountability became a hot topic at the commission investigating state capture after allegations were made that SSA money was used to fuel political tensions.

Opposition MPs, however, were not convinced that structural reforms announced by the deputy minister were adequate to reform the SSA.

DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said despite revelations at the state capture inquiry about the looting of billions of rand at the agency, “disproportionate secrecy”, including keeping members of the committee on intelligence in the dark, continues to stifle accountability, causing serious non-compliance, failure of controls and blatant criminality.

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the agency was so dysfunctional that it could not perform its constitutional duties.

“The greatest threat to national security today is the SSA itself. The agency has to be forced to stabilise and take action against those who have been implicated in the abuse of state resources.

“Despite evidence, there is no single individual who has been fired or prosecuted for corrupt activities of the SSA. It has not improved under the current minister and deputy minister,” he said.