Nkandla upgrades enriched Zuma family – SIU

2014-09-12 15:56

The Special Investigating Unit has found that President Jacob Zuma was enriched by state-funded improvements to his Nkandla home, but placed the blame for the project ballooning into “unacceptable extravagance” on his architect Minenhle Makhanya.

It said its eight-month investigation showed that, through Makhanya’s doing, the state suffered massive losses and many people were enriched, including Zuma and his family in the sense that the value of their home was enhanced.

“Clearly, to the extent that these claims are well-founded, the president and his family were enriched,” the watchdog unit said in a report tabled in Parliament today.

But unlike the Public Protector, who found Zuma was liable to pay a portion of the cost, the SIU concluded that the best way of recovering R155 million misspent at Nkandla was to claim it from Makhanya.

“Makhanya inter alia increased the scope and extent of the works by designing and authorising items that were not required for security purposes,” said the SIU.

As a result of this, the cost of the project “soared from an initial estimate of some R27 million to some R216 million”.

The unit said it faced the choice of claiming the damages and losses suffered by the department of public works from a number of people who were enriched, or to seek to recover the full amount from Makhanya himself.

“We chose the latter option,” it said.

The SIU filed a civil claim for R155.3 million against Makhanya in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on August 11.

He has hired high-profile lawyers to contest the matter.

The SIU report recalls events in 2009 which blurred the lines between a standard state project to improve security at Nkandla after Zuma became president, and his private plans for improvements to the home where he plans to retire.

It said that the then acting director-general of public works, Solomon Malebye, agreed that the people who had already been hired by Zuma also be appointed by the department to oversee the public security project.

This led to the appointment of four private firms, including Minenhle Makhanya Architects, and to Makhanya becoming the “principal agent” for the whole project.

Igoda Projects was appointed as the electrical engineer on the basis that it was already working for Zuma.

The SIU referred to the four firms as the “private professional team” and noted that, with Malebye’s blessing, the team “had complete control over the project”.

It said that after the police and defence force formally set out all their requirements for security upgrades at Nkandla, Makhanya expanded the project, including in ways that were not requested and had nothing to do with safety.

“Some of these items would in any case not qualify as security requirements. In other instances, much more was provided than had been requested, in terms of number and size,” said the SIU.

“In yet other cases, reasonable modesty made way for unacceptable extravagance.”

The watchdog unit, which began investigating state spending at Nkandla in December, said the manner in which the team was appointed and the “almost unchecked powers” given to it were of grave concern.

It said the state departments involved, in particular public works, simply ceded their powers and abdicated their responsibilities.

“The sad result is that a project that could have been undertaken at a cost of some R60.6 million ended up costing about R216 million. By any standard this is a large sum of money.

“The public concern is accordingly understandable.”

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