Madonsela 'caught Cabinet off guard'
Johannesburg - Cabinet was caught off-guard at Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's release of a probe into allegedly unlawful lease agreements for police office space, government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi was quoted as saying in the Cape Times on Wednesday.
“The executive is disadvantaged right now,” Manyi said.
After Madonsela’s release in February of her first report, Against the Rules, which found a multimillion-rand lease for new Pretoria police headquarters to be unlawful and invalid, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and Cabinet secretary Cassius Lubisi agreed with Madonsela that she would first conclude a separate probe into the proposed Durban police headquarters building.
The Cabinet would then deal with both reports and their recommendations at the same time.
“Now she has decided to do it publicly. Quite frankly, she did it in a manner that was not anticipated by the Cabinet. The executive has not had the time to look at the report and apply its mind and the public is already making pronouncements on what should be done,” Manyi said.
Both reports relate to lease agreements between the department of public works, the police and businessman Roux Shabangu.
She could have managed the timing of the report better by first submitting the Durban report to the Cabinet before making it public, he said.
Her second report, titled Against the Rules Too, was received by the presidency on Thursday, the same day she made her findings public. In that report she said the lease agreed to was three times the going rate and processes had also been improper. It would cost to R1.1bn over 10 years.
“It’s in the public domain with various (people) commentating on it already. We can’t stop that now,” Manyi said. “The public is pronouncing on the matter, while the real people who the report is asking to do something get the report at the same time as the public.”
As far as the government was concerned, those implicated were “innocent”, he said.
The first dealt with a lease for the Middestad building for police headquarters in Pretoria, in which Madonsela also found that processes leading up to the agreement for the R604m lease were improper.
She said the accounting officers in each department were responsible and these were National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele and Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.
Manyi said that by making the reports public, “undue pressure” had been exerted upon the executive, and those implicated in the reports were being prejudiced.
“How much prejudice has this caused for the persons implicated? This was not the perfect route ... to be blunt,” said Manyi.
ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa told Independent Newspapers Parliament should first consider the reports and decide what action should be taken.
A media conference where Cele was expected to have responded to the report, was cancelled twice this week.