Department, Cele and cops lashed over rental deal

2011-01-15 21:12

Five sources with knowledge of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on a controversial police leasing agreement told City Press she had found several technical deficiencies in the contract.

The report criticises National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele, the police and the Department of Public Works for signing a faulty contract.

Cele was originally implicated in the deal after he signed off a needs assessment for public works which identified property mogul Roux Shabangu’s ­Middestad building in Pretoria as the only available space ­suitable for the police’s needs.

Under normal circumstances, a state institution would tell ­public works what kind of space it needed, and that department would then source a suitable building.

Cele last year told the Mail & Guardian he did not even know what the Middestad building looked like when he asked public works to negotiate a lease agreement with Shabangu.

He also denied being a friend of Shabangu’s and that he had ­suggested that the police rent ­buildings from Shabangu.

This was contradicted by the former head of procurement for the police, Hamilton Hlela, who told the Sunday Times that Cele “pushed people around” to make sure the police moved into Shabangu’s buildings.

Questions have also been raised about the timing of former public works minister Geoff Doidge’s sacking, in light of his hardline approach to the ­Shabangu deal.

A senior public works source said that Doidge and his ­director-general, Siviwe Dongwana, who was suspended by public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde in December, raised questions about the lease agreement after it was signed off by a Pretoria regional public works manager last July.

They appointed attorneys to scrutinise the contract, particularly in light of ­several changes that had been made to the original agreement.

The law firm obtained an opinion from a senior advocate, who confirmed the deal was “null and void” and could be cancelled.

Dongwana subsequently wrote to Shabangu, informing him of the legal opinion and that the deal was off. Shabangu’s lawyer contested this in a letter to public works and threatened to sue.

This became unnecessary when President Jacob Zuma removed Doidge from the department and replaced him with Mahlangu-Nkabinde.

By yesterday Mahlangu-Nkabinde had not responded to questions sent to her. Doidge could not be reached for comment.

Madonsela’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, declined to ­respond to specific questions. He stressed that they used “multiple ­witnesses and sources of evidence”, as with all their reports.

Shabangu referred City Press to public works.

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