Police mum on public protector's report
Johannesburg - Police commissioner General Bheki Cele's office on Sunday declined to comment on reports that he was considering interdicting Public Protector Thuli Madonsela from releasing a report into the controversial R500m lease for new police headquarters.
"We were given up to January 23 to respond to the report. We are currently working on the report," Cele's spokesperson Major General Nonkululeko Mbatha said.
She was responding to a City Press report which said Cele was preparing to go "to war" over a report after Madonsela found that he, the police and the department of public works were wrong in signing the multi-million-rand lease agreement for the Middestad building in Pretoria with property tycoon Roux Shabangu.
The Sunday newspaper further alleged that Cele’s chief legal adviser Lieutenant General Julius Molefe and lawyers were interrogating police staff who were interviewed by Madonsela.
It also said that a legal opinion commissioned by former public works minister Geoff Doidge, shortly before he was sacked by President Jacob Zuma, also found the lease agreement with Shabangu to be “null and void” and that Doidge subsequently cancelled the contract.
After being appointed new public works minister, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde obtained a separate legal opinion from a state legal adviser that contradicted the senior counsel opinion obtained by Doidge.
She accepted this opinion and rectified the deal with Shabangu.
"We cannot respond to media before we respond to the Public Protector. If you want comment on this, you should speak to City Press," said Mbatha.
The Public Protector has sent a draft report of a probe to complainant Paul Hoffman, who is director of the SA Institute for Accountability, Cele, the ministers of police and public works and the accounting officers of the police and public works department.
The parties originally had until January 3 to respond.
However, the date was changed after police asked for an extension, "for operational reasons".
The Sunday Times reported a few months ago that the deal had been signed without following public tender procedures, prompting the Hawks and the Public Protector to investigate.
The report will be released to the public in February.