ICD pleads ignorance over lease

2011-11-15 15:33

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Cape Town - The police's independent complaints directorate (ICD) was sent packing by MPs on Tuesday after pleading ignorance on the inflated cost of its new offices.

The watchdog body said it was kept in the dark by the department of public works on the R10.6m/year rent for the City Forum offices in Pretoria.

"The ICD did not have a copy of the lease," spokesperson Moses Dlamini told Parliament's portfolio committee on police.

"Public works indicated that the cost charges would be communicated to the ICD in due course."

The offices were leased from empowerment property mogul Roux Shabangu.

It emerged that the IDC moved into the building at 114 Vermeulen Street in September without having asked whether the rent would exceed its annual lease budget of R6.1m.

The building covers 7614m² - double the floor space the ICD requires.

ICD officials said they merely signed the organisation's needs assessment. The actual lease was inked by public works.

"They go and sign the contract with the landlord based on what we can afford," acting programme manager Matthews Sesoko said.

No copy of lease

Dlamini added: "After we moved in, we struggled to get a copy of the lease."

The ICD finally obtained a copy last November and has paid the pro rata rent that it owed for last year.

It can cover the full R10.6m rent for this year, but will not have enough money to do so next year and has asked the Treasury for additional funding to be able to meet its future obligations on the Shabangu lease.

Executive director Francois Beukman said he has also solicited legal opinion on the validity of the service level agreement with public works relating to the lease deal, and the possibility of having it rescinded.

Committee chairperson Sindi Chikunga cut the meeting short, saying she would call public works officials to testify next Tuesday, along with the ICD.

"Surely we need the department of public works to be here. The information you have given us is shocking," she said.

She also castigated the ICD for taking occupation of new offices without enquiring about the rental cost and said the deal was going to result in a waste of public money.

"I'm not sure I'm very impressed with the ICD as well. I don't understand why the ICD would take things so much for granted. My grandmother who has never been to school would not do it."

She said she should appeal to the Treasury not to approve the funding to make up the shortfall on the rent due to Shabangu.

"It's waste. I would lobby Treasury not to give you this money."
The Democratic Alliance has asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to probe the lease.

DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said on Tuesday she would write to Chikunga to demand the portfolio committee call Shabangu to explain "what has become a deeply suspicious relationship" between him and public works.

The ICD's lease is the third contract with Shabangu that has landed government departments in trouble, after those for police headquarters in Pretoria and Durban that were declared unlawful by the public protector.

The findings led to the sacking of public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and the suspension of police commissioner Bheki Cele.

The ICD's claims that it did not sign the lease, but only the needs assessment echoed the line Cele took when he appeared before the portfolio committee earlier this year to explain his role in the headquarters lease saga.

- SAPA
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