Tito Mboweni lashes out at public protector over Treasury DG finding

20 February 2019 - 14:36 By Andisiwe Makinana
Finance minster Tito Mboweni ahead of delivering his budget speech in parliament on February 20 2019.
Finance minster Tito Mboweni ahead of delivering his budget speech in parliament on February 20 2019.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Finance minister Tito Mboweni has no confidence in public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane - and will be taking her report on National Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane on judicial review.

Responding to a question during a pre-budget media briefing on Wednesday about whether he still had full confidence in Mogajane, Mboweni responded in the affirmative. And then immediately fired a broadside at Mkhwebane.

In a report published last year, Mkhwebane found that Mogajane had failed to declare a traffic offence conviction when he was being considered for the position of treasury director-general, and recommended that remedial steps be taken against him.

“I think the public protector has a problem. I'm saying this as strongly as I can, knowing fully well that the office of the public protector is a constitutional structure ... but the incumbent [Mkhwebane] has a problem.

“I hope one day I can have a conversation with the incumbent without interfering, but just to advise. She has made a finding that Speedy Dondo [Mogajane] must be disciplined – he has a speeding fine. If I could take an opinion poll here, most of you have speeding fines,” he said.

Mboweni said it was the collective view in the ministry of finance that Mkhwebane's findings were wrong.

“So, I'm taking the decision on review and legal counsel has already drafted the affidavit. I should have signed it yesterday but I didn't have sufficient time,” he added.

Mboweni said Mogajane enjoyed his full confidence. He described him as “a hard-working civil servant and very nice”.

“Sometimes I think he is too Christian, that's why we end up with that speech with full quotations from the Bible,” he said in jest.

At the state of his budget speech on Tuesday, Mboweni quoted from the book of Zechariah.

Mkhwebane issued a report in December on improper conduct regarding Mogajane's application for the position, and his subsequent appointment to the position. She found that Mogajane had failed to disclose a criminal record on the Z83 application form he completed for the position, and that this failure constituted impropriety or dishonesty, and amounted to improper conduct.

She recommended that President Cyril Ramaphosa should take appropriate action against Mogajane for "blatantly and dishonestly" making false representation of material facts in his Z83 form, within 30 days of the report.

Mogajane was found guilty of contravening the Road Traffic Act in Kempton Park in 2011 by engaging in “reckless and negligent driving” and earned himself a criminal record when he paid an admission of guilt fine after being caught speeding.

Last Monday, Ramaphosa has asked higher education minister Naledi Pandor to take disciplinary steps against Mogajane for his failure to disclose a criminal record when he applied for his job.

Mboweni joins a growing list of politicians who have publicly criticised Mkhwebane for her findings. He becomes the second Cabinet minister, after basic education's Angie Motshekga, to speak critically of Mkhwebane in the past three months.

In December, ANC MPs rallied around Mkhwebane and dismissed a complaint by DA chief whip John Steenhuisen to expedite a process to remove Mkhwebane from office. The national assembly's justice committee adopted an ANC resolution that it was premature to institute an investigation into Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office and therefore dismissing Steenhuisen's request.

Steenhuisen wrote to speaker Baleka Mbete last year requesting an inquiry into Mkhwebane's fitness to hold office.

From tough talk on saving Eskom and Sars, to increases on tax on alcohol and cigarettes - we take a look at which aspects of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s 2019 budget will hit close to home.

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