IEC’s offices partly owned by the boss’s business partner

2012-04-28 16:47

The Independent Electoral ­Commission’s R320 million office lease, in which Manaka Property Investment has a backdoor stake, faces renewed scrutiny.

City Press confirmed this week that one of the Manaka directors was a business partner of IEC chair Pansy Tlakula. Tlakula played a role in the IEC’s new lease ­acquisition.

Parliament’s finance portfolio committee chairperson Thaba Mufamadi’s company, Manaka Property Investments, owns a 20% stake in the trust that owns the Riverside Office Park.

Riverside is the Centurion office park in which the IEC has been renting more than 9 700 square metres of office and storage space since September 2010.

Mufamadi and Tlakula are listed as fellow directors in three separate companies involving a mining logistics company called Lehotsa. Three of the four are still recorded in online company records as ­being active.

Tlakula and the IEC denied that this relationship constituted a ­conflict of interest.

However, IEC spokesperson Lydia Young told City Press that Tlakula had been part of the committee that evaluated the bid for Riverside to be considered as the new premises while she was still chief electoral officer.

At the time, another entity – Abland – had competed for the tender and had been one of two recommended by the IEC committee on which Tlakula sat to be considered for the contract.

Abland won the bid but ultimately represented the Riverside Office Park Trust in which Manaka – and Mufamadi – had a stake.

The lease has already been the subject of a complaint to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela by ­United Democratic Movement ­leader Bantu Holomisa.

The Riverside Office Park lease deal was signed in August 2009, with an initial monthly rental of ­some R1.5 million in 2010. The rental increases by 9% annually, which means that currently the IEC pays nearly R1.9 million a month.

City Press has established that Tlakula, who was elevated to IEC chair last year, has been Mufamadi’s business partner in Lehotsa Investment since 2006.

Tlakula said the decision to award the contract was taken by the IEC, not the organisation’s ­executive committee, on which she served at the time.

She said Manaka was not involved in the bidding and she had no knowledge of their involvement in any way.

Tlakula said the committee submitted the proposals for ­Riverside and another rival bid to the Commission without any ­indication of a preference and the commission approved the move to Riverside Office Park.

“I had no knowledge of Manaka’s involvement and I think they got involved through a consortium at a later stage. But I didn’t have anything to do with the awarding of the contract,” said Tlakula.

She said Lehotsa Investment has been dormant since 2007 and that she had declared her business interests. Mufamadi denied that Tlakula was a business associate because, he said, Lehotsa was ­dormant.

He said he had never discussed the lease with Tlakula, and said that as Manaka’s chairperson he was not involved in Manaka’s ­operational affairs or any negotiations for contracts.

Jannie Moolman, a director in the office park trust’s majority­ ­shareholder, East and West Investments, as well as a director of ­Manaka, said he was not aware of Tlakula and Mufamadi’s business relationship.

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