Sunday, February 27, 2011

Minister complicit in SAPS deal

Minister complicit in SAPS deal
Mahlangu-Nkabinde backed SAPS lease despite two legal opinions that it was unlawful


Hours after receiving a second damning legal opinion on the SA Police Service's lease with businessman Roux Shabangu, Minister of Public Works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde undertook to honour it.


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WRITTEN PROOF: This internal police memo shows that General Bheki Cele personally authorised funding for the R500-million lease based on negotiations with Roux Shabangu which took place six weeks before the Department of Public Works had even been approached to find office space for the SAPS. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said this proved that the SAPS's "involvement in the procurement process was improper"
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The second opinion, by Advocate Pat Ellis - highlighted in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report this week - reads: "I therefore come to the conclusion that the contract concluded with Roux Property Developers is unlawful and therefore invalid."

Shabangu's company secured the 10-year, R500-million lease of its Sanlam Middestad building in Pretoria, which will house various SAPS units, including the top brass, without going to tender.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde also ignored another report, commissioned by her predecessor, Geoff Doidge, from Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, which advised that "a court would likely declare the lease agreement to be invalid".

It adds: "We advise the department to institute an urgent high court application seeking the judicial review and setting aside of its decision to enter into the lease agreement."

Addressing the media in Pretoria on Tuesday at the release of the findings of her investigation, assisted by the Special Investigating Unit into the lease, Madonsela said the minister's response "was inconsistent with the findings of the internal Department of Public Works inquiry and legal opinions obtained from two independent senior counsel".

"The minister's response on the validity of the procurement process could further not be substantiated by evidence submitted and information obtained during the investigation."

The investigation also found that Mahlangu-Nkabinde's decision "to proceed with an invalid lease agreement was improper and unlawful".

"Any expenditure incurred to date, or to be incurred as the result of the implementation of the lease would amount to irregular expenditure."

The minister also disregarded an undertaking by her office to the Public Protector, dated August 10 2010, that "the implementation of the lease agreement shall be suspended pending the outcome of the investigations".

Madonsela recommended that Mahlangu-Nkabinde explain to cabinet "the reckless manner" in which her department dealt with taxpayers' money.

The minister and her department have over the past three weeks failed to answer detailed questions from the Sunday Times.

Yesterday the minister blamed her spokesman, Obakeng Modikoe, for not forwarding them to her: "I have not received the questions. You can do yourself a favour by having some manners," she said.

Asked whether he had forwarded the questions, Modikoe said: "I refuse to answer that now."

Like Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr's findings and Madonsela's report recommends that Sam Vukela, public works' then acting director-general, and other senior officials "that acted in contravention of the law, policy and other prescripts in respect of the procurement processes" should face disciplinary action.

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