There was no money, Cele tells inquiry
Pretoria - No money was available when suspended national police commissioner Bheki Cele approved funding to lease a building for police office space in Durban, an inquiry into his conduct heard on Thursday.
"As a matter of fact, there were no funds available," Cele said in Pretoria when pressed by inquiry board chairperson Jake Moloi.
He was being questioned after confirming that he signed a memorandum on June 28 2010, approving funding for the lease of the Transnet building in Durban, while knowing that additional money would have to be found for the deal.
Moloi asked Cele to explain his understanding of an advisory issued by the police's chief financial officer (CFO).
In the note, read out by Moloi, the CFO wrote: "As the national police commissioner approved the lease already, funds will have to be made available with opportunity, meaning that something else will have to be foregone and re-prioritised."
Moloi said: "You knew there were no funds."
He suggested the CFO acted under pressure, as Cele had already signed for funding approval.
Cele replied: "But I also knew there could be re-prioritisation when needed."
Another member of the board of inquiry, Terry Motau SC, said: "You can't acquire something with something you don't have. You first have to look at the funds."
Cele repeated his reply about the possibilities of re-prioritisation. He said there had been no rush to sign the memorandum approving funds for the lease.
Cele said that after signing, he asked his former deputy and police procurement head Hamilton Hlela to see to it that the CFO perused the memorandum.
"I wasn't in a rush. By the time it came to me it should have been canvassed by sister divisions. By the time I signed, I had not spoken to him [the CFO].
"The CFO would have come to me if he needed me, but he did not. We didn't discuss it."
Cele could not say which areas were re-prioritised to pay the lease for the building, claiming he could not remember. He was asked about his failure to ensure that proper tender processes were followed.
"It was my hope they will be followed," Cele said under cross-examination by evidence leader advocate Viwe Notshe.
Cele said he did not know who had identified the Transnet building. He said he had left the checking "in the hands of capable people".
"I saw no reason in asking."
He said there was a pressing need for accommodation because the lease for the Servamus building, worth about R1m a month, was about to expire.
Asked how much the move to the Transnet building would have cost, Cele said he could not remember, but indicated "it would have cost several millions".
At the time, what mattered was the availability of the building, rather than funding, he said.
The hearing was postponed to Monday, when Cele will be re-examined.