Nkandla splurge flouted tenders

2013-01-28 00:00

THE government’s investigation into the multi-million rand splurge on President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla has sought to absolve the president of any wrong­doing.

Public Works Minister Thulas ­Nxesi said the investigation, which revealed that the state has paid over R206 million for the upgrades so far, had found “no evidence that public money was spent to build the private residence of the president or that any house belonging to the president was built with public money”.

Nxesi insisted the Zuma family had paid to build the houses.

But the task team’s report, which has not been released for “security” reasons, found that government tender policies were flouted in the procurement of goods and services for the project, including irregularities found in the appointment of 15 service providers and consultants.

For example, the Public Works officials involved did not comply with National Treasury regulations that allow for a variation of only 20% from approved tender figures.

“There are many officials [involved] at the national department and at the regional level. But for now we don’t want to give out those details,” Nxesi said.

Nxesi, flanked by National Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, said investigations into the irregularities would be referred to the police, Auditor-General and Special Investigating Unit.

Those found to have acted unethically regarding the project’s expenses would be reported to their professional bodies, he said.

The expenditure on Zuma’s house breaks down as follows:

• R71 212 621,79 for security upgrades, including consultancy fees;

• R135 208 022,58 for state departments’ operational needs, including consultancy fees;

• The total amount of money spent by the government so far is R206 420 644,37.

Pressed for details, Nxesi disclosed that the exact amount spent on actual security upgrades was just over R50 million, and over R20 million on consultancy fees.

Nxesi said this was not high compared with what was spent on former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, but would not say how much the state had forked out for their security.

Facilities such as the clinic would become the legacy of the village’s community when Zuma stepped down, he said.

Radebe said Zuma did not sign for anything related to the Nkandla project because he was not involved in the details of the security upgrade.

Zuma was also not questioned during the investigation.

“There was no need to question the president as it was not part of the terms of reference to question the president,” said Nxesi’s spokesperson, Phillip Masilo.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu welcomed the report, saying it should bring closure to the Nkandla issue, which had been used “to incorrectly attack the president, the ANC, and its government”.

“This report vindicates the president and our belief in the innocence of the president in this regard, on what he consistently said were lies and that he personally built his residence and that the government only built security features that are prescribed in relevant security prescripts,” he said.

Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said Nxesi’s report was a poor attempt to shield Zuma from being held accountable for the “exorbitant waste of public money” on his private residence. She questioned its independence, adding that she would press for Nxesi to table it in Parliament for scrutiny and debate.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa called for an independent commission of inquiry.

Jay Kruuse of the Public Service Accountability Monitor said it was of great concern that an excessive amount was spent on the compound when the country faced service delivery challenges.

Political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu said the Nkandla upgrade came across as if those in power had lost touch with the people on the ground.

“The ANC needs to guard against being perceived as a party that does not take taxpayers seriously,” he said.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is carrying out her own investigation into the Nkandla upgrades.

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