Public works mum on probe reports

2011-03-11 11:11

The public works department was mum on news reports today implicating it in more than just the police leasing scandal, to which it has not yet responded either.

The Mail & Guardian newspaper reported that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) was probing abuses at the department of public works’ Prestige Portfolio division at the request of former minister Geoff Doidge, who was sacked two months after bringing in the SIU.

The SIU was not immediately in a position to comment on the report, but said it would respond later.

Doidge at the time said there were allegations of “huge mismanagement”, a “lack of integrity around the procurement”, and “collusion with service providers” in the department.

The Star newspaper said on Wednesday that Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde had asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to revise the findings of her report on an “improper” R500 million lease agreement for the police’s headquarters.

Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s spokesman, Obakeng Modikoe, did not answer his phone or return voice and SMS messages this morning.

Sapa also contacted him on Wednesday for comment on The Star report, to which he requested that an email be sent to him.

Yesterday he confirmed that he had received the email and said he would follow up with his colleagues to get comment.

By today, there was still no response.

The Public Protector’s report was made public last month.

It said National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele had been involved in improper conduct and maladministration for authorising a R500 million lease agreement for a building in Pretoria to serve as the police’s headquarters.

Madonsela also found that the public works department should never have signed the lease agreement.

According to The Star, Mahlangu-Nkabinde called the Public Protector’s report “shallow and superficial” and said it was filled with “inaccuracies, inconsistencies and irregularities”.

The Public Protector’s spokeswoman, Kgalelelo Masibi, reacted to this by saying the minister had ample opportunity to respond before the report was finalised.

“The minister of public works had at least four opportunities to raise concerns with the draft report before its finalisation,” Masibi said in an e-mail to Sapa.

“The Public Protector does not consider it proper to engage in a street dialogue about her findings ... the Public Protector considers her report to be final and any engagement should be about implementation. As far as the Public Protector is concerned, the report speaks for itself,” she added.

Cele has continued to deny any wrongdoing and has complained about media reports saying the Public Protector had found him “guilty” of improper conduct.

Madonsela said Cele’s conduct breached the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act, Treasury regulations, and supply chain management rules and policies.

“This conduct was improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration,” she said.
Last week, police visited the Public Protector’s office – in what spokesman McIntosh Polela called an “unauthorised” operation – and demanded that certain documents pertaining to the report to be handed over to them.

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