Officials, not politicians blamed for Nkandla

2014-09-14 11:23
Nkandla (Giordano Stolley, Sapa)

Nkandla (Giordano Stolley, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Three former directors-general and at least 12 senior officials are set to be the fall guys over the Nkandla drama, while the politicians involved will probably get off scot-free, according to the Sunday Independent.

The newspaper reports that the Special Investigating Unit’s final report, tabled in Parliament on Friday, states that senior officials handed complete control over planning, costing, implementation and oversight with regards to the security upgrade of President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home to his architect, Minenhle Makhanya.

In doing so, the costs and scope of the project ballooned – eventually getting out of control.

Misconduct charges

The former directors-general at the department of public works are Solomon Malebye, Sam Vukela and Siviwe Dongwana. All three could face financial misconduct charges for failing to protect the public purse. Other senior officials face disciplinary action.

However, the newspaper reports that a SIU probe into the finances of the officials show none of them benefited financially from their actions. This raises the question of why they would have risked their careers, and in the case of the DGs, possible imprisonment, in relation to this saga, reports the Sunday Independent.

Political interference has been named as one possible reason with the newspaper reporting that at least two of the officials allegedly claim they were threatened with the loss of their jobs if they failed to comply with requests to make certain appointments.

On Friday News24 reported that the SIU found that Zuma was enriched by state-funded improvements to his Nkandla home, but placed the blame for the project ballooning into "unacceptable extravagance" on his architect Makhanya.

It said its eight-month investigation showed that, through Makhanya's doing, the state suffered massive losses and many people were enriched, including Zuma and his family, in the sense that the value of their home was enhanced.

"Clearly, to the extent that these claims are well-founded, the president and his family were enriched," the watchdog unit said in the report.

But unlike the Public Protector, who found Zuma was liable to pay a portion of the cost, the SIU concluded that the best way of recovering R155m misspent at Nkandla was to claim it from Makhanya.

"Makhanya inter alia increased the scope and extent of the works by designing and authorising items that were not required for security purposes," the SIU said in the report.

Four private firms

As a result of this, the cost of the project "soared from an initial estimate of some R27m to some R216m".

The unit said it faced a choice of claiming the damages and losses suffered by the department of public works from an array of people who were enriched, or to seek to recover the full amount from Makhanya himself.

"We chose the latter option," it said.

The SIU filed a civil claim for R155.3m against Makhanya in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on 11 August.

He has hired high profile lawyers to contest the matter.

The SIU report recalls events in 2009 which blurred the lines between a standard state project to improve security at Nkandla after Zuma became president, and his private plans for improvements to the home where he plans to retire.

It said that the then acting director general of public works, Malebye, agreed that the people who had already been hired by Zuma also be appointed by the department to oversee the public security project.

This led to the appointment of four private firms, including Minenhle Makhanya Architects, and to Makhanya becoming the "principal agent" for the whole project.

Igoda Projects was appointed as the electrical engineer on the basis that it was already working for Zuma.

Unacceptable extravagance

The SIU referred to the four firms as the "private professional team" and noted that, with Malebye's blessing, the team "had complete control over the project".

It said that after the police and defence force formally set out all their requirements for security upgrades at Nkandla, Makhanya expanded the project, including in ways that were not requested and had nothing to do with safety.

"Some of these items would in any case not qualify as security requirements. In other instances, much more was provided than had been requested, in terms of number and size," the SIU said.

"In yet other cases, reasonable modesty made way for unacceptable extravagance."

The watchdog unit, which began investigating state spending at Nkandla in December, said the manner in which the team was appointed and the "almost unchecked powers" given to it were of grave concern.

It said the state departments involved, in particular public works, simply ceded their powers and abdicated their responsibilities.

"The sad result is that a project that could have been undertaken at a cost of some R60.6m ended up costing about R216m. By any standard this is a large sum of money.

"The public concern is accordingly understandable."

Read more on:    siu  |  jacob zuma  |  minenhle makhanya  |  nkandla upgrade  |  government spending  |  politics

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