Protector slams top cop’s World Cup excuse

2011-02-26 16:52

Police General Bheki Cele and his management used the 2010 Fifa World Cup as an excuse to circumvent normal tender procedures in procuring a new head office in ­Pretoria.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found there was never a realistic possibility for the police’s communications department to move into businessman Roux Shabangu’s Middestad building before the tournament kicked off in June last year.

In her scathing 92-page report titled “Against the Rules”, ­Madonsela stated that the police argued for the lease to be concluded on an urgent basis to move its communications department there for the World Cup.

Tender legislation made provision for the state to procure ­services without tender in emergencies.

“The urgency expressed at the time of the initiation of the procurement process (March last year) was based on the unrealistic expectation that certain components could be effectively relocated prior to the commencement of the World Cup, or soon thereafter,” Madonsela wrote.

She slammed the police for using the World Cup excuse after declining an offer to lease the same building at a dramatically reduced rate in October 2009.

Information gathered by ­Madonsela showed that an ­unknown prospective buyer ­offered the Middestad building to the police at R85 a square metre “also for the purposes of the World Cup”.

The police rejected the offer, but started negotiating with Shabangu three months later at a much higher rate of R110 a square metre.

Ultimately the lease agreement signed between the public works department and Roux Property Fund stipulated a cost of R102.60 a square metre.

This, according to Madonsela, meant R12 million could have been saved a year if the lease was concluded with the first prospective buyer.

In his response to Madonsela’s draft report, Cele supported the view that the need for additional office accommodation was urgent.

“However, the fact that the need was urgent did not mean that ­Lieutenant-General (Hamilton) Hlela should not follow the correct procedures which were entirely within his expert knowledge and fell within his areas of responsibility,” Cele stated, effectively shifting the blame for not going out on ­tender to his former deputy.

Hlela was a key witness in ­Madonsela’s probe and stated he only took instructions from Cele and didn’t question them.

He told Madonsela “Cele wanted the communication section to be relocated before the commencement of the World Cup”.

» At Thursday’s press briefing, Cele said the first time he met Shabangu was at the police headquarters at a meeting about the lease.

Last year Cele was quoted as saying he met Shabangu at Gijima chairperson Robert Gumede’s wedding in March last year.

Asked about the discrepancy, Cele’s spokesperson Nonkululeko Mbatha responded: “The gathering you refer to was, as you correctly mention, Robert Gumede’s ­wedding.

As a guest, it would be foolhardy to assume that General Bheki Cele knew everyone at the wedding and that he would ­remember everyone he would have been introduced to.

“To assume that he would use the wedding to discuss his work, or, in this case, the lease, is far-fetched and devoid of logic.”

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