‘I made an honest mistake’ – Pansy Tlakula

2014-05-02 15:44

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Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Pansy Tlakula has contradicted herself about the “honest mistake” she made that led to the awarding of the controversial R320m lease to her business partner, the Electoral Court has heard.

Advocate David Unterhalter, representing the multiparty forum that wants Tlakula axed by the inquiry, said the reasons given by Tlakula in her submission to Parliament a few months ago regarding her conduct were different to those she had given the Electoral Court.

In her affidavit filed this week, Tlakula apologises for an “honest mistake” made when she deviated from the full tender process, but this contradicts what she had told Parliament – that she had the “discretionary” powers to deviate from tender processes.

This contradiction, according to Unterhalter, showed that Tlakula “chose” an unlawful tender process to acquire office space for the IEC.

“The respondent (Tlakula) now seeks to justify to this court why her actions were a mistake, not breaking the law. She now says to this court that when she took the decision to deviate from the tender processes, she did not insist that the tender process be a full one. That tells you everything you need to know about her misconduct,” said Unterhalter.

He said Tlakula’s “alarm bells” should have rung during a tender adjudication meeting at which Abland – the company in which she and ANC MP Thaba Mufamadi had a stake and that won the tender – presented their tender proposal to the IEC.

Unterhalter has argued that Tlakula should have recused herself from all further meetings that had to do with the tender.

“She has told this court that when she realised that Mufamadi and their company was involved in the bid she ‘made nothing of this’. She should have disclosed that Mufamadi is her business partner but she did nothing. Instead, she tells the court that she had no obligation to disclose this business relationship because their company had made no money since it was founded and she did not financially benefit from it. But she alerted nobody, she said nothing. This is astonishing.

“She then deliberately instituted a distorted and dubious tender process and chose not to abide by the law. When a cheif executive chooses not to apply the law, such a person commits misconduct. The IEC, which is tasked with running elections, has somebody running it who arbitrarily chooses not to follow the law,” said Unterhalter.

He said Tlakula was attempting to justify her actions and blame other IEC employees for the lease scandal by claiming that she was not present when some of the decisions were taken on the tender.

“She’s the accounting officer and the buck stops with her. It doesn’t matter that others were complicit in this. When the occupation date was postponed from April 1 2011 to August 1 2011 – that gave Abland an unfair advantage because Abland had already changed the occupation date they had promised to August. What she should have done was to go back to all the other bidders that had been disqualified on the basis that they could not meet the 1 April deadline and tell the bidders about the new deadline and also began a new process. But she didn’t,” said Unterhalter.

Unterhalter has told the court that Tlakula had tried to justify her deviation from tender processes, the Public Finance Management Act and National Treasury regulations by using the 2011 municipal elections as the basis for the “urgency” of moving offices before the elections.

But as it turned out, the 2011 municipal elections took place two years after Tlakula took the decision to deviate from tender processes in 2009 and the IEC only occupied the new offices after the elections.

Unterhalter said Tlakula had a knack for deviating from tender processes as she also deviated from these in the IEC “turnkey” project worth millions of rand.

The hearing – sitting in the North Gauteng High Court – continues.

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