Police lease debacle gets new spin

2011-12-04 21:30

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Johannesburg - The basis of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's findings on the controversial R500m police headquarters lease has been repudiated.

This after new information was submitted to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria by suspended public works acting director general (DG) Sam Vukela.

Vukela's supplementary affidavit contradicts Madonsela's contention that the Middestad deal was not authorised according to procurement policies.

In September, Vukela filed a founding affidavit, which is heavily reliant on Madonsela's findings, to get the lease with property mogul Roux Shabangu nullified.

In his latest affidavit, Vukela suggests that Madonsela relied on incorrect information, as the reason the Middestad lease was not put out for a competitive process was because the department treated it as an "urgent" matter.

He also claims that he was instructed by his former boss, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, who was fired by President Jacob Zuma in October, not to include information in his founding affidavit that would "gainsay" Madonsela’s findings.

Vukela says the affidavit, filed on Monday, was meant to "disclose certain facts which were omitted from the [founding] affidavit".

He claims that he got involved in the police leasing saga when Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa allegedly complained to then public works minister Geoff Doidge about the department not cooperating with the SAPS on accommodation needs.

He claims that he was asked by Doidge to intervene on May 14 last year.

Mthethwa has refuted the allegations, while Doidge - who is now ambassador to Sri Lanka - refused to comment on the allegations since the matter was before the courts.

Vukela stated: "I was informed by the minister [Doidge] that he had received a complaint [I use the word 'complaint' loosely] from the minister responsible for the SAPS that the [public works department] was not cooperating with the SAPS in regards to office accommodation.

"I was requested by the minister [Doidge] to personally intervene and ensure that the SAPS is given the necessary assistance."

Mthethwa's spokesperson Zweli Mnisi questioned the credibility of Vukela's affidavit, which has also been slated by the State Attorney's office.

Mnisi said: "The minister does not get involved in operational matters of the SAPS. We can’t comment on speculative hearsay which has no proof. If the minister made the complaint in a letter, maybe we could respond. But we don't respond to verbal communication by the minister."

Blamed Cele

Vukela's affidavit sheds light on the goings-on in the department prior to the awarding of the lease.

He also rejects both the department and Madonsela's findings that the contract should have gone out on a "competitive" bid tender process and not a "negotiated process", as alleged in the founding affidavit.

He claims that he delegated powers to the department's special national bid adjudication committee to enter into a "negotiated process" with Shabangu.

According to Vukela, the department "negotiated" 2 415 of the 2 950 lease agreements between 2008 and September this year.

This, Vukela adds, was while only 226 agreements went through the competitive bidding process.

In the first affidavit, Vukela and Mahlangu-Nkabinde laid the blame for the lease debacle at the door of suspended police chief General Bheki Cele and other SAPS officials.

State Attorney Moipone Mosidi slammed Vukela for "irregularly" filling papers without informing the State Attorney's office.

Mosidi said: "He is still an employee of public works and the supplementary affidavit must be filed through us.

"As far as I am concerned, I still represent the department and he is still on oath as acting for the department in this matter.

"How on earth does he supplement the affidavit without consulting the new minister?”

Vukela's lawyer Themba Langa said the new minister, Thulas Nxesi, and Mahlangu-Nkabinde did not object to Vukela's intention to file the supplementary affidavit.

Vukela also alleges that Mahlangu-Nkabinde misled him in a telephonic conversation on September 14 that he would be relieved of his duties as acting director general only when a suitable candidate was appointed.

However, two days later, Mahlangu-Nkabinde suspended Vukela. Vukela claims this was not in "consonance" with their telephonic agreement.

Madonsela has confirmed that Vukela lodged a complaint over his suspension but that the matter has been referred to the public service commission.

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