13 officials to face Nkandla music

2014-07-20 15:00

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Thirteen officials, some of whom sat on the committee that decided who to award the Nkandla refurbishment contracts to, have been charged in an internal disciplinary hearing for maladministration related to the R246 million upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s rural homestead.

The Special Investigating Unit, which conducted its own investigations into the Nkandla upgrades scandal, recommended to Public Works the names of officials to be charged in connection with the saga.

They are facing charges related to procurement irregularities and transgressing provisions of the Public Finance Management Act and failure to follow supply chain prescripts.

More officials are expected to face the music in the next coming weeks in connection with Nkandla, according to Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi.

Although the department was reluctant to provide the names of those charged - “to avoid jeopardising the legal process” - some of them are senior managers who sat on the Bid Adjudication Committee that decided on the awarding of tenders for the Nkandla refurbishment.

But there are fears that government officials are being made scapegoats while those who actually benefited financially from the upgrading of Nkandla might get off lightly.

Instituting charges against government officials also raises serious questions about whether Public Protector’s Thuli Mandonsela’s findings that Zuma and his family benefited unduly from the upgrades - and that the President must repay a portion of the non-security related costs - will be acted upon.

Public Works said it was acting on recommendations of the task team established by Nxesi to probe Nkandla irregularities and not on Madonsela’s report.

Nxesi’s legal advisor Phillip Masilo dismissed the idea of officials being made scapegoats: “No official is made a scapegoat, everyone should account for his or her role in the project. Everyone found to have done anything wrong will be dealt with irrespective of the position.

“It should be noted that SIU is investigating everyone including politicians. It is not clear who is a “bigger fish” however it is a fact that senior officials who were involved at the inception of the project are no more in the department e.g Mr Solly Malebye (former DG) Mr Sam Vukela (former Acting DG) Mr Rachard Samuels (former COO) Ms Cathy Motsisi (former CFO) Mr Khanyile ( former Regional Manager). All left the department for various reasons,” Phillip Masilo, Nxesi’s legal adviser.

He did not mention any moves to get Zuma - who has denied benefiting form the upgrades - to pay back some of the money as recommended by Madonsela.

Nxesi’s legal advisor Philip Masilo said those charged were senior people within government. He said, however, that they had obtained legal advice not to release their names at this stage.

“We can’t mention their names or ranks but some of them were in the Bid Adjudication Committee. All of them will have to answer,” he said.

Masilo said the Special Investigating Unit first gave them five names, but later added more names to arrive at thirteen officials who have serious questions to answer on how the Nkandla procurement process was followed. He said the officials had not been suspended and would face charges while still on duty.

“They haven’t been suspended. There’s no need. It’s believed their presence (at work) will not jeopardise the investigation,” Masilo said.

Zuma has already missed a deadline to submit a comprehensive response to Parliament on how he plans to act on Madonsela’s recommendations. He has consistently said he is waiting for the SIU to conclude its investigation before he responds.

Meanwhile two directors of Public Works’Prestige Portfolio, which deals with accommodation for ministers and senior government officials, have been dismissed for irregularities related to the R60 million renovations of ministerial homes in Pretoria.

Noloyiso Ntwana and Vusi Mashiane were charged and dismissed after the SIU found that a contractor renovating ministerial homes in Pretoria had been paid an extra R2.6 million without supporting documentation.

The SIU is also investigating why the pricetag for the renovation of ministerial homes in Cape Town came in at R100 million. Nxesi said he would report to Parliament on this matter once that investigation is complete.

A decision has been taken to cap costs for the renovation of state-owned houses at 30% of the market value of the property.

This to avoid cost overruns on the refurbishment of ministerial properties. It emerged that R15 million had been spent on renovating a house in Cape Town for Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti, much more than the property’s actual value.

Nxesi said due to the expansion of cabinet, they would need to lease or buy additional property to accommodate new ministers.

Public Works spokesman Thami Mchunu said six members of the executive were still awaiting houses. He estimated that it would cost the state R2.5 million per annum to find accommodation for each of them.

Mchunu could not say where they are accommodated at the moment.

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