Cele admits signing without questioning

2012-03-07 22:38

Pretoria - Suspended national police chief Bheki Cele occasionally signed off on official documents from his deputies without scrutinising them, a board of inquiry into allegations of misconduct against him heard on Wednesday.

Cele made the admission during his testimony in the investigation to establish whether he violated procurement regulations on two police lease agreements.

Cross-examined by evidence leader Viwe Notshe, he explained that he had entrusted his deputies to make of certain decisions, which he did not question, and would sign documents "as prepared".

"There would have to be a serious reason for me to go through the whole preparation of a DDG [deputy director general]," he said.

"In the police we have a number of DDGs. All my five deputies are DDGs."

As the head of the police, Cele was a director general.

"There must be something that provokes for me to scrutinise a document, but it cannot be a norm. I take the document with the understanding that it was prepared by a DDG. It would be abnormal for every DG to re-read and start afresh on documents prepared by his DDG."

Inquiry chairperson Judge Jack Moloi asking Cele if he would sign papers by his DDG even if they were for his resignation.

"I am lost. Do you just sign whatever comes from the DDGs?," Moloi asked.

"There are other documents, in other circumstances, that need to be engaged, but not all," Cele replied.

"Under certain circumstances, I would move up in the understanding of a particular document at a given time," he said.

The questions were directed at establishing whether Cele, as the departmental accounting officer, understood the financial prescripts accompanying the running the department's financial services.

Cele said he understood his responsibilities well and that he applied his mind to the prioritisation of projects.

Asked whether the SA Police Service adhered to fair, transparent and competitive procurement procedures in that it invited tenders, Cele said police headquarters identified a sole service provider at "certain times" and under "certain conditions".

Dubious character

In his testimony, Cele portrayed his former deputy and procurement head Hamilton Hlela as a dubious character who did things behind his back and did not follow proper procedures.

Cele said he had come close to signing a R3bn public-private-partneship deal for the construction of new police headquarters at a site in Pretoria.

Being from Durban, he was fairly new in Pretoria when his former deputy and procurement head Hamilton Hlela encouraged him to sign the contract on the bonnet of a car, three weeks after he took office.

At the time, the police were on a month-to-month lease at Wachthuis, which had inadequate space.

Cele said the issue of police accommodation had been discussed a long time before he was appointed as commissioner by President Jacob Zuma in July 2009.

The urgent need for accommodation was triggered by the World Cup, because an efficient and effective communications team needed office space, he said when asked why he had approached a senior police official, Martha Stander, about the accommodation issue at an official function on March 24 2010.

"The issue has been there since around 2004 and 2005. I found it there," Cele said.

He said it came up during an informal chat with Stander, who referred him to Hlela about procurement issues. Stander testified on Tuesday.

"We were just chatting. When it comes to processes, I would speak to one person necessary," he said.

Cele said decided not to sign the contract to build new headquarters, after applying his mind to the matter. He considered building a new police station instead.

He said he had considered the fact that only four police stations had been built in KwaZulu-Natal since 1994.

"Hlela said to me the PPP [public-private-partnership] wouldn't like that."

"There are many other things I can tell you [about him]," he said.

Big omissions

Cele said a few weeks after the PPP contract fell through, Hlela wanted him to sign an R8m contract to renovate his office and that of the ministry. This also fell through.

Cele said this and other incidents led to him approach the Special Investigating Unit to investigate the police's procurement department.

He said he was further alarmed by "big omissions" by Hlela, who he claimed had "forgotten" to inform him that he had extended the lease agreement at the Wachthuis building, which the police were due to vacate.

Questioned about his failure to disclose this earlier, Hlela said it had been known since July 28 2009, the day before Cele was appointed.

Cele said he had been "taken aback" at Hlela's revelation, made about four months after his appointment.

"No general at the time at Mahlamba Ndlopfu [the president's official residence in Pretoria] raised the issue," Cele said in reference to the day he was sworn in.

The hearing continues on Thursday.

  • gunofmine - 2012-03-07 22:48

    innocent till proven guilty i guess- and the lies just keep cropping up...

      Donovan - 2012-03-08 00:09

      Presumed, presumed, presumed. NOT 'innocent until proven guilty'. If you're guilty, you're guilty - but the principle is that you are PRESUMED innocent until proven guilty. And at the very least, this pimp can now be presumed guilty of incompetence.

      Ben - 2012-03-08 04:54

      According to his testimony Hlela should be investigated too. If there was no benefit for Hlela, why did he urge Cele to sign documents involving large payments. All financial transactions authorised by senior officials in govt departments should be viewed in this light.

      Gees - 2012-03-08 07:21

      Since when is ignorance an excuse

  • richard1967 - 2012-03-07 22:55

    If he was so careless then maybe he should stand down from his job. Why did he not get a legal team to check it first. The country can not afford such carelessness.

      Sally Lewitt - 2012-03-07 23:35


      Susan - 2012-03-08 12:28

      I agree, he should take full blame for his incompetence..

  • Larry - 2012-03-08 02:47

    What a load of rubbish, from another Lying incompetent toad.

  • Mzwandile - 2012-03-08 03:30

    As a DG signing documents without reading is a total disgrace - that calls for instant dismissal. No wonder most department still have qualified audits and useless expenditure reports. The signs of incompetency were always there anyway, remember at some stage he went to parliament portfolio committee to requesting additional funds for his budget without motivation and the knowledge of the Minister. Arrogant bastard - he must go. Hlela must also be probed, it look like he took advantage of this paluka's incompetence to enrich himselve.

  • Wesley - 2012-03-08 04:21

    Cele, I know people that were fired because they signed documents and also use the excuse of not reading before signing, but then again that is in the real world, not the ANC lala land

  • Dennis - 2012-03-08 05:00

    Not too bright this one ne' !!

      Fussed - 2012-03-08 08:23

      He thought so, his father called him son at one stage

  • Roger - 2012-03-08 05:52

    If he knew there was "issues" and read and refused to sign documents from 2004/5, why did he not read later documents knowing all this? First he says he does not sign after reading documents from his deputy, then does not read and signs documents later on? Cele is clearly trapped in his own web of lies.

  • Kevin - 2012-03-08 06:21

    If you signed it ,you are accountable . That's why they gave you that ridiculous salary cheque you never earned. Leeuwkop ,leeuwkop here I come.

  • jurgen.eksteen - 2012-03-08 06:21

    Just look at that fine leadership!!! You just signed ... so anyone could be in control of the police, you just signed. Please keep him from his own finances, because it will be gone in a year.

  • Lekgwakgwa - 2012-03-08 06:31

    It is show that we dont have leaders,why the sign taxpayers money without reading documents please wakeup ministers.

  • Helmut - 2012-03-08 07:20

    He may be thick,. but he learnt one thing from our government (president and ministers) - when you know you stuffed up find somebody to blame it on, so you don't have to accept responsibility. Everybody in government plays that game. That, combined with incompetence, is why the country finds itself in the present mess.

  • Rob - 2012-03-08 07:33

    The principle that the head cannot read all the detail of everything he signs is surely OK, but what he should be doing is: Selecting the important stuff (based on whatever priorities make items important in the job) and reading/understanding it thouroughly Asking his deputies to flag documents that they believe may become, or are already, important...and reading/understanding them thouroughly Asking his deputies to flag individual points of importance within less important documents and reading/understanding them thouroughly. So what is the verdict on this man's diligence, competence, and ability?

  • Silvana - 2012-03-08 07:35

    The very fact that he signs official documents without reading through them, makes him incompetent for that position. Typical Peter Principle in action.

  • Marion - 2012-03-08 07:38

    This is why executives in corporates attend speed reading courses. So that they can read through every document. Don't think he's the only one in government who signs 'in good faith'. Wonder what the Special Investigations unit found out about Hlela...

  • Jabulani Lucky Mokomane - 2012-03-08 07:38

    Let's admit that Cele has not studied PFMA. But he was good at his work,wasn't he?

  • Grant - 2012-03-08 08:36

    Cele will still be drawing full pay until the enquiry is concluded which could take years after appeals etc. He should have been fired and charged long ago. Zuma seems to make a habit of appointing incompetant people. I doubt if Malema would make a worse president.

  • Melody - 2012-03-08 09:01

    Give him a break, the man can't read - just signs his name

  • rowan.maulson - 2012-03-08 09:49

    Sorry Cele my boy... Claiming you just signed stuff given to you does not get you off the hook... You signed it, you are responsible.

  • Khangelani - 2012-03-25 01:34

    what i cn cy is mr b cele the ex commisioner is unfit for the postion of being an accounting officer,being an acconting officer or any constitutional institution manager should be responsible an answerable for his/her actions, u cant just say "u dnt knw" or you trusted them you must be answerable, but in terms on internal responsibilities outside the offices,he has done his with collegues,i cant comment about retired hlela cause hes out of the good public officials book but if we can push to hard on him as the witnes mannythings wil come out in that department we are tired of our monies or public funds to be utilised in effiently,thank you

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