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Zuma's 'most qualified' finmin had help with assignments - report

Oct 20 2016 15:33
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma’s self-claimed “most qualified finance minister that has ever served" – Des van Rooyen – allegedly had help from parliamentary staff with his academic work.

A former Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) employee made the allegation in his Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) case against the PBO, who he claimed overlooked him for promotion because he refused to assist MPs with their academic work.

The former employee, whose identity is known to Fin24, but wish to remain anonymous, also made this submission to former public protector Thuli Madonsela for her state capture report, according to a report in Business Day on Thursday.

In his submission, which Business Day has a copy of, the individual said two members of the PBO wrote Van Rooyen’s assignments while he was studying. This was during Van Rooyen’s tenure as the whip of the standing committee on finance in 2014.

He accused PBO director Mohammed Jahed of using staff to help MPs with academic and political work.

Jahed told Fin24 on Thursday that the allegation is “devoid of any truth”.

“I have never instructed PBO staff to undertake personal academic work or studies for any person including politicians,” he said in an emailed response to Fin24.

“I am not aware of any of my staff undertaking academic work for any politician or person, however, (if) any of my staff undertook academic work for any person it would be at their own discretion,” he said. “I have no control over what my staff do in their personal time.”

About himself, Jahed said he “does not regard supervising any student as a conflict of interest”.

“People, generally, including politicians and officials at Parliament, are aware that I have been in academia and continually approach me for advice regarding their studies. I will not turn away any person seeking guidance and advice as far as academic pursuance is concerned.”

Zuma came under intense pressure after the market reacted negatively to his appointment of Van Rooyen as finance minister in December 2015.

In February, he defended his appointment of Van Rooyen, saying he was more qualified for the job than former finance minister Trevor Manuel, Nhlanhla Nene and the current minister, Pravin Gordhan.

READ: Van Rooyen was highly qualified for finance job, says Zuma

"That thing caused such havoc and people think Zuma just woke up one day and took a decision," Zuma said.

"You know Des van Rooyen is my comrade, MK for that matter, he's a trained finance and economic comrade and more qualified than any minister I have ever appointed in the finance issue."

Van Rooyen and Zuma last week launched court applications to stop Madonsela from releasing her report into state capture, while the Guptas threatened legal action. A compromise was reached, where the report would be preserved until after a judge has ruled on the indictment application.

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