Controversial IEC office park lease in courts' hands

2015-10-14 10:24
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Cape Town - Getting out of a lease is never easy, but for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) the headache over its controversial Riverside rental in Centurion is now in the hands of the courts, Parliament's committee on Home Affairs heard on Tuesday.

“It is the only way - we looked at this legally, and the legal opinion is [this] is the route we have to go through,” said deputy chief electoral officer Terry Tselane at the presentation of the IEC's audit report for 2014/15 to the committee.

“We might make arrangements for alternative office space, or negotiate for the lowering of the lease in line with market value.”

In 2013, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that the procurement of the 10-year-lease was flawed and that Chief Electoral Officer Pansy Tlakula, who had an unblemished record until the lease was signed on her watch, had also not declared a relationship with one of the directors of a company with interests in the office park.

For the period under review, the procedurally flawed transaction for the offices in Centurion which costs over R30m a year, was one of few blips in the report presented by the commission.

“We are trying to finalise it through the courts, then it will be easier to negotiate the way out,” said Tselane of the Riverside action.

Looking at all options

African National Congress MP Thandiwe Kenye asked whether it was possible to ask Treasury for permission to separate the expenditure on the controversial lease, as it would be a blot on the IEC's audit until it was resolved.

But Tselane said the issue of the irregular expenditure would continue until it was resolved by legal means. “We have looked at all options.”

The committee was assured that regardless of the outcome, elections would not be affected.

“If anything were to happen to us regarding office space, it would be an inconvenience for us, but it does not mean that the elections would not take place.”

R1.5bn received by way of parliamentary review

The treasury also commissioned a report, and added that the lease amount which has been over R30m a year, was above market value.

Tlakula resigned at the end of September 2014.

Accounting officer Norman Du Plessis and Stephen Langtry as the manager in the office of the chief electoral officer “should each be held responsible for the roles they played that resulted in a procurement process being followed that was not fair, equitable, transparent, competitive or cost effective”  according to the report.

The report covers the period for last year's national and provincial elections which took place with just over 25 million people on the voters' roll at the close of the financial year.

The commission said it received R1.554bn for the year under review by way of a parliamentary grant.

Sundry income, consisting largely of sponsorship income of R20.8m and interest earned of R10m, brought its total income to R1.585bn for the year under review.

Expenditure reflected in the annual financial statements, on the accruals basis, was R1.616bn, leaving a deficit of R31m.

Read more on:    iec  |  pansy tlakula  |  thuli ­madonsela  |  parliament 2015

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