Senior public works official to testify in Cele hearing

2012-03-13 08:21

A senior public works official who was instrumental in the police lease deal is expected to testify in the inquiry into suspended police commissioner Bheki Cele’s fitness to hold office today.

The hearing resumes this morning after it ended early because of the unavailability of witnesses yesterday.

Yesterday, the board of inquiry heard that Cele had never consulted his chief financial officer about whether funding was available for the controversial R500 million Middestad building.

This was the startling admission by police chief financial officer Lieutenant-General Stephan Schutte, who said this was outside the normal procurement process that he had been used to.

Schutte told the board of inquiry in Pretoria that funding normally would be sourced first before approval was sought from Cele.

Cele testified earlier that he did not consult Schutte before approving the lease process. He also conceded that his approval of the needs analysis jeopardised the tender process.

Schutte said the cost of the lease wasn’t discussed with him.

State attorney Viwe Notshe, who was leading evidence against Cele, wanted to prove that the suspended commissioner is not fit to return to his post because he did not adhere to the Public Finance Management Act.

Earlier in the day, Cele highlighted that the SAPS had not incurred any expenditure because of his suspension of the lease.

Cele came under fire from the head of inquiry, judge Jake Moloi, who questioned him on why he did not act on concerns raised by public works KwaZulu-Natal chief director Irene Nel and SAPS KZN procurement head Brigadier Alpheus Ngema.

Moloi grilled Cele about why the commissioner ignored the letters from Nel and Ngwenya about the improper processes that had been followed and instead took Nel to task about her “encroachment” into police matters.

Cele responded by saying that he did not expect correspondence from lower level staff members but expected to liaise with suspended director-general Siviwe Dongwana because he was the accounting officer in his department.

Cele conceded that it was “not correct” for SAPS members to meet with the owner of the building, Roux Shabangu, in the absence of officials from public works.

The most glaring contradiction in evidence was presented by General Julius Molefe, who was Cele’s legal advisor at the time,.

Molefe denied that he was given an instruction by Cele to procure the lease as alleged by Cele’s former deputy, Hamilton Hlela.

Molefe claimed it was in fact Hlela who told him about the Middestad building and took him for a visit where they met owners of the building.

Molefe said he was unsure whether he met Shabangu that day.

Cele has denied identifying the building, an allegation that has only been made by Hlela throughout the hearing.

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