Under-fire Cele contradicts himself
Pretoria - Suspended police chief Bheki Cele contradicted evidence on Thursday that he had earlier given to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
This related to the identification of a Durban building earmarked for the police's new offices.
"I don't know who identified the building," Cele said on his second day under cross-examination by evidence leader Viwe Notshe.
"But I know there are some SAPS [SA Police Service] officials who visited the site."
According to Madonsela, he said his former deputy and procurement head Hamilton Hlela did the identification.
Cele accepted that there was a contradiction in his testimony.
"You told the Public Protector that Hlela came to you with a building in mind," said Notshe.
"Correct," responded Cele after being warned by the board about the danger of being evasive when answering questions.
He said he had not identified either of the buildings - Sanlam Middestad in Pretoria and Transnet in Durban - as Hlela claimed on Wednesday.
Both buildings are owned by property mogul Roux Shabangu.
Cele denied instructing Hlela to issue a procurement notice for the Transnet building.
It later emerged that no money was available when Cele approved funding to lease the Transnet building.
"As a matter of fact, there were no funds available," Cele said when pressed by board chairman Jake Moloi.
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."
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 possibility 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 Hlela to see to it that the CFO perused the memorandum.
This was before he could confirm funding with the department of public works, which oversees the tender process.
He said he could not remember which areas were re-prioritised to pay the lease for the building.
He was asked about his failure to ensure that proper tender processes were followed.
"It was my hope they will be followed," he said.
Cele 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 "it would have cost several millions".
At the time, what mattered was the availability of the building, rather than funding, he said.
Cele was quizzed on Thursday over alterations made to the police's original needs analysis for office space.
Moloi asked Cele why the police requisition, initially indicating 21 000m², was changed to 25 000m².
Cele replied: "We had a new policy in the police that our stations needed to be equipped with gyms. That is how the original need for the space was changed."
The hearing was postponed to Monday.