The looting of intelligence agencies flourished as politics …
Intelligence Inspector General Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe testifies at the state capture investigation on May 12, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is reported that the Commission heard evidence related to the State Security Agency. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)
Members of intelligence agencies must feel invincible. Agents looted money for covert operations and thwarted investigations by outclassing documents. Politicians knew what was going on but seemed more concerned with targeting the intelligence watchdog than improving accountability.
One of the most surprising aspects of Inspector General of Intelligence Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe’s testimony to the Zondo Commission is that for some MPs the revelations would not have been surprising at all.
Dintwe, who testified Wednesday, has held the post for four years and has repeatedly informed Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) that members of the State Security Agency (SSA) and Crime Intelligence brazenly stole money intended for secret activities. operations. They either kept it to themselves, used it to fund ANC factions and even funded parallel intelligence operations.
Legitimate intelligence services need cash. Agents use it for covert operations to pay for sources and for services that require a level of secrecy. Members of the SSA and Crime Intelligence abused this system because, well, they knew they could get away with it.
Zondo has already heard proof on how hundreds of millions of rand were allegedly diverted from the SSA to fund projects for the benefit of former President Jacob Zuma.
“What I can confirm is that money has been stolen, and we are talking about a lot of money, taken with suitcases, others are lost, and people have never really been held accountable. of that money, “Dintwe told Zondo on Wednesday.
He described a common scenario. Senior officials who are not active in operations, a finance director, for example, would send a junior officer, “the runner,” who can access funds to find sources, to raise large sums of money.
The CFO would order the agent to pretend the money was for a source and then hand it over to his boss, never knowing if there was a source or what happened to the cash. In his example, Dintwe said the runner and the CFO knew their actions were corrupt.
“Our findings are that this money has been used for other things that could actually harm our national security,” Dintwe said.
While much of the testimony linked to intelligence agencies has focused on embezzled funds to support the ANC’s Zuma faction, Dintwe said the loot was used to fund various ANC factions and fuel the ANC. political tensions.
“So it’s like different people took money to fund different factions?” asked Associate Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
“That is correct, Mr. Chairman.”
A member of the SSA, protector of a political director, claimed 9 million rand for international travel over three years, while evidence showed the director had never been to the claimed destinations. In another transaction, an agent took $ 200,000 in cash to pay a source. The supposed source would sign off to say she received the payment, but that signature was the only explanation for how the money was being used.
“There is only one signature, no letterhead, nothing and we are talking huge sums of money,” Dintwe said.
The Office of the Inspector General of Intelligence can investigate allegations of corruption and irregularity in intelligence agencies while the Independent Police Investigations Directorate (Ipid) and Hawks investigate criminal cases for prosecution. In theory, that is.
In practice, the intelligence community has used rather effective strategies to ensure that members are never held accountable for their large-scale theft. First, they refuse to cooperate with Ipid and the Hawks, claiming that the Inspector General of Intelligence has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate their agencies.
Dintwe’s office makes recommendations and does not initiate criminal proceedings. He described the assertion by SSA and Crime Intelligence leaders that his office has exclusive jurisdiction as “nonsense,” which they use because they know his office is weak and its recommendations can be ignored. .
Then they refuse to give evidence to investigators, claiming that the information is classified.
“Members of my office and I were only allowed restricted or managed access to information from directors general and other department heads, as evidenced by prolonged delays and the lack of response to our numerous requests for information. “Dintwe said in his statement to the Zondo Commission.
He described it as a “constructive rejection,” where intelligence officials over-classify information to stifle investigations. For example, a senior executive faced prosecution for using cash funds, intended for covert operations, to pay for the shortfall on the trade-in for his private vehicle. The prosecution was discontinued as the relevant documents were deemed confidential.
“It’s not intelligence at all. It is purely crime and theft of public funds, ”said Dintwe.
Intelligence agency cash funds are unaudited. Dintwe’s office was in discussions with the late Auditor General Kimi Makwetu about working together to verify secret funds, but the inspector general said his office had neither the mandate nor the skills to conduct such an audit.
The leader of the evidence, Paul Pretorius SC, asked: “So this very category of funds that you have investigated and which you have shown to be the source of a lot of corruption and blatant looting and theft, like you said it, is concealed from the Auditor General, that’s right? “
“That is correct, Mr. Chairman,” Dintwe said.
The issue of auditing funds was raised at JSCI. Heads of intelligence agencies had examined how other countries were responding to the challenge of auditing secret spy funds and, according to Dintwe, told the committee they had found a suitable model.
They suggested following the example of an African country where the Auditor General had no role in such audits. The country they wanted to track was ranked last in Africa on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Dintwe said.
“I think this has led to a lot of embezzlement because the services had the audacity to tell us to oversight bodies and a parliamentary committee how they should be audited and how they should be held accountable,” he said. -he adds.
Dintwe said the JSCI had not fulfilled its oversight role. JSCI was quiet while Zondo heard testimonies that intelligence agencies were looted to enrich their members and fund ANC factions. The committee doubled down on its unsubstantiated allegations that its activities must remain secret, even though Dintwe faced a assault opposition from several cabinet members for trying to do their job.
The testimony at the Zondo Commission about the large-scale looting of intelligence agencies was explosive, but, if called upon to testify, JSCI members cannot claim ignorance, Dintwe said. He told them repeatedly what was going on and they did not act.
Dintwe, whose term ends in 2022, said he believed his office had failed in its tenure. He admitted he could have pushed harder, possibly going to court more often to seek access to confidential documents and struggled to improve accountability of intelligence agencies.
While Dintwe has certainly made more progress than his predecessor, the late lawyer Faith Radebe, Zondo said he appreciated the Inspector General’s willingness to shoulder his responsibilities.
“I will be absent from this office on March 15, 2022 but I will be the happiest man if my successor reap the rewards, if there are any, in terms of strengthening this control mechanism, which is very crucial for intelligence space. Dintwe said. DM