Police HQ: Minister ignored legal advice
Adriaan Basson and Mariechen Waldner, City Press
Pretoria - Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde ignored two senior counsel opinions when she revalidated the leasing agreement between her department and the Roux Property Fund for a multimillion-rand police building.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela revealed this at a news conference in Pretoria on Tuesday at which she also instructed the Cabinet to urgently interrogate Mahlangu-Nkabinde on her decision to reinstate the R500m contract after it was cancelled by Geoff Doidge, her predecessor.
Doidge was fired by President Jacob Zuma as part of his Cabinet reshuffle at the end of October last year.
Shortly after assuming office, Mahlangu-Nkabinde obtained a legal opinion from a senior advocate on the legality of the contract between public works and Roux Property Fund. This, after Doidge already obtained a senior counsel opinion, confirming the deal was null and void.
Madonsela also asked the office of the State attorney to look at the contract.
The State attorney said the lease was enforceable, but senior advocate Pat Ellis submitted his opinion to Mahlangu-Nkabinde on November 22, stating the lease agreement was unlawful.
On the same day Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s department advised Nedbank, the financier of Roux Property Fund, that the deal is continuing.
Madonsela said on Tuesday her office did not find any proof of criminal conduct, but would refer her report to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the National Treasury to investigate further.
In a letter submitted by Gordhan to Madonsela after seeing her draft report on the matter, he wrote: “The National Treasury supports the further review of the lease agreement as a matter of urgency. This may include, if necessary, the initiation of criminal prosecution.
“Madonsela’s report also criticises the secretive culture of the police which led to officials merely approving the deal without asking questions.
“It was evident throughout the investigation that a number of the officials interviewed expressed their reservations with the process followed by the SAPS to procure the lease.
"However, they were reluctant to raise their concerns with their superiors due to the culture of the SAPS in terms of which instructions are followed and not questioned.
“Former deputy national police commissioner Hamilton Hlela amplified the point in his interview with Madonsela, stressing that “he was unwilling to question the decisions and instructions of the national commissioner (Cele)”.