Monthly Archives: June 2017

President Jacob Zuma appoints Justice Theron as Judge of the Constitutional Court

President Jacob Zuma has in terms of section 174 (4) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, and after consulting Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and leaders of parties represented in the National Assembly, appointed Justice Leona Vale…

Government sets record straight on SABC probe

Pretoria � Government says the article titled SABC promotions to be probed in house, which appeared in The Times on Wednesday, has not accurately reflected Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo’s views on the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) probe into the SABC.

The Times Live article dated 28 June 2017 titled SABC promotions to be probed in house failed entirely to capture the context and intent of the Minister of Communications in her input on the work proposed to be undertaken by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) at the SABC, said the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) on Thursday.

The GCIS said after the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the SABC Board Inquiry and the subsequent appointment of the SABC Interim Board, work is underway to turn around the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Interventions include addressing corporate governance lapses, investigating alleged corruption and maladministration, and correcting the financial position of the entity.

The SABC board has been in talks with the SIU on the investigations and subsequently, the SIU has approached the President for a proclamation that would enable them to commence their work.

Minister Dlodlo recently attended a meeting as part of the oversight work of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) at the SABC. This meeting included the SABC Interim Board and the SIU. The meeting discussed the role and mandate of the SIU in the investigative work that they will undertake at the SABC.

The meeting discussed the capacity and strength of the internal forensic unit and its role in supporting the work of the SIU. In assessing the internal forensic unit, it was found that this unit was severely understaffed and incapacitated.

The Minister’s intervention was to impress upon the Interim Board the need to urgently capacitate that unit from a personnel point of view. In addition, the SIU work at the SABC should be leveraged to enhance the technical capacity of this unit to enable them to implement some of the recommendations that will emanate from the SIU’s report, once the investigation is completed.

It was in that context that a proposal was made that matters, which can be handled by the internal forensic unit, should be handled as such. This, it was felt, would also assist the SIU to focus on major issues, inter alia, including unlawfully awarded contracts, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and irregularly awarded bonuses, said the GCIS.

As part of a comprehensive change management process, Minister Dlodlo undertook to facilitate a team of experts to be seconded from the public service to assist in strategic management areas where weaknesses have been identified.

It remains the Minister’s view that the collapse of human resources systems has largely contributed to the current challenges at the SABC. The Minister has noted that there are skilled people available within the SABC, however, bad management practices and a culture of impunity have made it difficult for them to carry out their work efficiently.

The Minister’s approach is to champion a change management process at the SABC in line with her role as the shareholder representative. This approach is aimed at utilising these processes to revitalise governance frameworks, structures, systems, and procedures to ensure that once these processes are complete, the SABC will be able to deliver on its mandate.

We must also be cognisant of the fact that the SIU operates on a cost recovery basis. While the public appreciates the huge responsibility to undo years of pillaging of resources, we must take care not to be profligate.

On the irregular expenditure that was condoned, the Minister advised that this should not be investigated, in view of the cost factor. We have a responsibility to apply our minds in the means we employ to achieve our strategic objectives and ensure a correlation between these two, the GCIS said.

Source: South Africa Government News Agency

Thailand, China to Sign $5 Billion Rail Infrastructure Agreement

BANGKOK � In a major boost to Thailand’s transportation infrastructure, the military government is set to sign a more than $5 billion agreement with China for a high-speed rail network.

The first stage of the rail, the 252 kilometers from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima, is a key step in a line that, once complete, will stretch more than 1,260 kilometers to Kunming, in China’s Yunnan province. The next stages will reach the Thai border with Laos.

Analysts see the rail line as an extension of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, expanding regional trade and investment. The project also highlights China’s growing regional influence.

The agreement, expected to be signed in July, follows almost two years of delays in negotiations, with final details of the contract still to be made public.

The deal has also raised widespread criticism of the government’s use of powerful clauses in an interim charter.

Economic boost for Thailand

Economists say investment in Thailand’s rail infrastructure needs to be a priority.

Pavida Pananond, an associate professor of business studies at Thammasat University, said general improvements to Thailand’s transportation network are welcome.

Several other countries, including Japan and South Korea, have put forward transportation plans and proposals for rail systems in recent years.

“It’s good for Thailand and it’s good for Thai business. I would say a clear ‘yes’ because Thailand is in dire need of better infrastructure, especially with regard to transport,” Pavida said.

Thailand, she said, faces high transportation logistics costs due to a reliance on roads.

Talks surrounding the Sino-Thai rail agreement have been bogged down for over two years due to disputes over land access to China, debate over interest charges on loans from Chinese banks, and the eligibility of Chinese engineers and architects to work on the project.

Professor of economics Somphob Manarangsan said the rail project offers the region significant economic potential and a boost in Chinese foreign direct investment.

He said Thailand is also looking to China to invest in the government-backed Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) that is targeting regional foreign investment.

“Thailand wants them [China] to move their regional supply chain outside of China to the mainland of ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] area, which has Thailand at the hub, connecting to CLMV [Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam],” he told VOA.

The rail network includes a 410-kilometer section through Laos, in which China is contributing 70 percent of the total $5.8 billion cost. Laos sees the rail line as vital to enable it to export goods to the Thai seaport of Laem Chabang, near Bangkok.

Special powers raise concern

But the project has come under increasing criticism in Thailand after the military government, in power since May 2014, insisted on using powers under Section 44 of the interim charter that give the government absolute authority in policy application.

The government claims the use of the special power was to ensure Chinese investment, expertise, technology and equipment.

Former army chief and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told local media the use of the charter powers was to clear legal hurdles in the Thai-Sino rail project, “not a special favor to China but to Thailand’s benefit.”

But the use of the laws was challenged by organizations of Thai professional engineers and architects who said Chinese engineers were not registered to work in Thailand.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, in a commentary, said Thailand should press for open bidding on the project to ensure the country ended up with the “best bid with the best value.”

“Instead, opting for the Chinese plan is poised to violate a slew of Thai laws and undermine the government’s own good governance agenda,” Thitinan said.

Besides exemptions to Chinese engineers and architects working on the project, the charter articles also exempt state procurement laws and environmental regulations covering forest reserves, which will be set aside for the line’s construction.

Thammasat University’s Pavida said other concerns include levels of transparency on the agreement.

“People don’t know the details. People haven’t seen much information on the potential benefit, and partly, this is because the feasibility study has been done by the Chinese,” she said.

“So, if you look at that and the Chinese try to sell their technology and then we let them do the feasibility study, so they would say, ‘yes, it is feasible.’ So that’s one of the reasons why people do not have trust in the rush into this,” she said.

Analysts said the government’s push to sign an agreement comes as Thai’s Prayut is due to visit China in September to attend meetings of the BRICS � Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa � forum in Xiamen.

Source: Voice of America

UNODC, Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of Southern Africa meet to discuss national strategies

Illicit trafficking is among the most challenging forms of crime in Southern Africa. As an integral part of organised crime networks, illicit trafficking facilitates the spread of contraband and it generates considerable profits for individuals and gro…