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DIS sheds light on Parliamentary committee

DIS PR DIRECTOR: Edward Robert

Opposition MPs have rejected an invitation for their members to sit in the proposed Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Leader of Opposition Legislator, Dumelang Saleshando accused President Mokgweetsi Masisi of attempting to ‘use’ them to legitimise what he termed ‘massive looting and unaccountability’ at the spy agency.

The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA speaks to the Directorate of Intelligence and Services (DIS)’s Director of Public Relations, Edward Robert to learn a little more about the Committee.

Tell us about the Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee.

This is a committee of parliament intended to play oversight function to the DIS.

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The committee, among other things, is expected to examine expenditure, administration and policy undertakings of the Directorate.

How is the Committee appointed and what powers does it possess?

The Intelligence and Security Service Act provides that the President appoints the committee. He makes the appointment after consultation with both the Speaker and Leader of Opposition in Parliament. Further, in appointing the committee, the President is obliged to take into consideration the numerical strength of political parties represented in Parliament.

The committees, according to the DIS Act, enjoys the powers and privileges as all other parliamentary committees set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

The main objection by opposition members is that the committee reports to the President and Parliament has no control over its activities or their findings.

It is correct to say the committee is expected to make an annual report to the President on the discharge of their functions.

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It is equally important to note that Section 40(2) of the DIS act provides for the tabling of the annual report before Parliament by the Minister responsible for intelligence and security.

So it is not entirely correct to suggest the report is insulated from scrutiny by Parliament.

Is it true that the annual report first goes to the President before it goes to Parliament and that the President can cause an alteration of the report before it arrives at Parliament?

I saw such allegations in the media and that too is not entirely correct. The law does not give the President those powers.

In anticipation of situations where the report by the committee would contain a matter whose publication would be prejudicial to the discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Act provides for the Minister to consult with the committee for exclusion of the said matter from the copy of the report to be laid before Parliament.

And when that happens, the Minister is obliged to provide a statement to the House as to the matter that would have been excluded from that copy and the reasons for the decision. You must remember parliamentary committee reports are public documents.

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But parliamentarians would know everything contained in the report and members of the committee would be there to confirm or raise objections on the authenticity of the report being tabled.

We hear opposition MPs appointed into the committee have resigned en masse, which surely renders the committee nonoperational?

The Office of the President is the one handling the matter relating to the appointment of the committee and therefore best placed to comment on the matter.

However, as far as I am concerned the process to appoint members into that committee is ongoing.

The process, as I understand it, is such that prospective members are written letters inviting them to serve in the committee and once they have indicated their availability and all the necessary protocols observed only then can they be considered members.

How do we then begin to talk of resignation even before the process of appointment has been concluded?

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The DIS is often accused of unaccountability and even acting like a law unto itself. Indeed, that is one of the reasons cited by opposition for their reluctance to serve in DIS committees. What is your comment on the matter?

That is the tag we read about in the media. Maybe there is a reason for it.

However, you will recall that upon assuming the reins at the Directorate, the Director General Brigadier, Peter Magosi after getting feedback from stakeholders, including the public and the media, committed himself to restructuring the organisation, injecting professionalism and effectiveness into its operations.

The first thing he promised to do, which he has done, was to invite the Auditor General to examine the books of accounts for the Directorate, something which had not been done since the inception of the organisation.

That process is on. This is not an event or activity. It’s a process!

He then made a call for the Directorate to take seriously its obligation to other legally structured entities meant to provide over sight role to the organisation.

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These include the Parliamentary Accounts Committee before which the Directorate has appeared many times.

The Directorate appears before the committee to account for its general operations as well as financial utilization, among other things.

There is also the Central Intelligence Committee. Its functions include proving guidance to the Directorate on matters relating to national security and intelligence interests.

This structure also approves intelligence and security assessment. This sort of structure provides a check on the scope of the work of the directorate.

Not only that. There is also the National Intelligence Community, charged with the duty to review and coordinate intelligence as well as ensuring that there is inter agency exchange of intelligence.

We have learnt that the process to appoint members of the Tribunal is at advanced stage.

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The Tribunal, whose members are appointed by the President after consulting with the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, is charged with receiving complaints from people who may feel aggrieved by the Directorate.

This structure operates at the level of a High Court and is chaired by a High Court Judge or lawyer who qualifies to be appointed as High Court Judge. A decision of this board can only be appealed at the Court of Appeal.

All these layers of accountability, when fully functional, and the Directorate command wants them operational, are meant to ensure the Directorate is not rogue.

So are we likely to see the DIS Act amended to make the Directorate more professional and accountable?

I have just taken you through administrative processes in place to ensure accountability in the Directorate.

We are adhering to those. Internally, we are having conversation on how we can respond to concerns raised by our stakeholders on identified inadequacies of our Act.

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However, you should know that amendment of laws, including the DIS Act is a preserve of the National Assembly.

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