ANC Criticised Over Accounts Watchdog
Cape Town - The appointment of African National Congress (ANC) MP Vincent Smith as chairman of the standing committee on public accounts has been criticised by the opposition.
It is feared that the move will take the sting out of the watchdog committee, which has in the past played an important role in uncovering corruption and wasteful expenditure.
The committee is responsible for scrutinising the reports of the auditor-general and interrogating government officials on the expenditure of their budgets.
The committee has in the past been chaired by Ken Andrew of the Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party's Gavin Woods and Francois Beukman of the New National Party.
DA spokesman Mike Ellis said that the appointment of an ANC chairman was unprecedented and "and now leaves all of the most important watchdog institutions directly under ANC leadership".
"Parliament's ability to hold the ANC to account is now further undermined."
The highly ambitious Smith is seen in opposition ranks as having been the ANC's instrument in ending the independence of the committee during the probe of alleged irregularities associated with the multibillionrand arms programme.
Smith himself acknowledged the dangers associated with his appointment, but said the committee's functioning would always be under the scrutiny of opposition party members and the media.
"The media will put pressure on the committee to work more thoroughly," Smith said.
"Because of the undue scrutiny, I expect I will have to be very careful about the way I function as chairman."
Woods said that the chairman had the power to decide not to call errant department officials to account for themselves.
Woods, who led the committee when it called for an inquiry into the arms deal, still serves on the committee.
He does not foresee his work on the ANC-dominated committee as being an easy task.
With acknowledgements to Linda Ensor and the Business Day.