Protector did not find Cele guilty - SAPS
Johannesburg - National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele's office has bemoaned "inaccurate news reporting" on the public protector's report on a R500m lease agreement for new police headquarters.
A statement from the police's national media centre on Thursday said various news reports had found Cele "guilty" of improper conduct after the police authorised the lease for the Sanlam Middestad Building in Pretoria.
"We have taken the time to read the comprehensive report by the office of Ms Thuli Madonsela. Nowhere in the report does the public protector find General Bheki Cele 'guilty' of anything," the statement said.
"We would also request the office of the public protector to challenge the abuse of the word. Such false reporting creates the impression that General Bheki Cele was tried in a court of law, whereas the fact is that the national commissioner has not been accused of criminality."
In her report Madonsela initially referred only to "the accounting officer" of the SA Police Service as being guilty of improper conduct.
Asked who this was, Madonsela said Cele, as head of the police, was the accounting officer.
In her report, Madonsela found the lease between the public works department and property tycoon Roux Shabangu's Roux Property Fund to be invalid.
'Report exonerated Cele'
She asked for a National Treasury review to establish what steps could be taken to terminate the lease. She said that although Cele did not sign the actual lease, he did sign a memorandum dated May 10 2010, which authorised funding for the lease. The lease was ultimately signed by the public works department.
Madonsela said Cele's conduct breached the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act, Treasury regulations and supply chain management rules and policies.
"This conduct was improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration," she said.
Cele's office said however, that the same public protector's report had "totally exonerated" General Cele of having been involved in the signing of the lease.
"Most media have also failed to note that, although the Sunday Times of 1 August 2010 trumpeted 'Brass baffled as top cop suddenly signs lease for new HQ' and went on to state that it was in possession of a 'lease agreement .... signed by Cele", the same public protector's report totally exonerated General Cele of having been involved in the signing of the lease.
"Perhaps a front page correction on this blatant lie would be in order."
The statement said there was a "developing trend" by news organisation using the word "guilty" in association with the protector's findings.
"For example, today's The Times newspaper reads: 'The report was made public last month. It found national police commissioner Bheki Cele guilty of improper conduct and maladministration...'
"We request The Times newspaper, the eNews channel and other media who continue to use this word to show us where it appears in the report or any other correspondence emanating from the office of the public protector."
Cele came under fire from ANC and opposition parties after two police intelligence officers raided the public protector's offices last week.
The officers wanted a document which featured in a Sunday Times report two weeks ago and which Madonsela's office said the police themselves handed over to her for her investigation.
The document related to allegations that Cele was caught up in the improper lease agreement.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa asked Cele to investigate the visit.
The public protector could not immediately be reached for comment.