Cronin defends Nxesi over Nkandla

2016-04-20 19:12
Jeremy Cronin (Picture: Supplied)

Jeremy Cronin (Picture: Supplied)

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Cape Town – Public Works Deputy Minister Jeremy Cronin has jumped to the defence of Minister Thulas Nxesi over whether or not he should be reprimanded over the department's role in the saga of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

The minister and his deputy were briefing media ahead of presenting the department’s budget vote to Parliament on Wednesday.

"But the president might still decide to reprimand all of us sitting at this table. That’s his prerogative," Cronin said.

Cronin said Nxesi had been appointed long after the tender processes for Zuma’s Nkandla home had been completed.

Cronin was addressing the question of whether Nxesi should be reprimanded for the Nkandla upgrades, as recommended by the Constitutional Court.

The deputy minister, quoting Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, said the report had not singled out the current minister, as he was not involved.

Madonsela said former public works minister, Geoff Doidge, had acted improperly and failed to adhere to the supply chain management policy framework.

Task team investigated inflated prices

Cronin said, within a year of Nxesi’s appointment, and long before the public protector delivered the results of her investigation, the minister had established a task team to investigate the inflated prices.

"The minister didn’t await the public protector’s report, but proceeded with remedial actions called for by our own task team," he said. This included the disciplining of officials involved, said Cronin.

It was a myth, however, that only junior staff had been disciplined and used as scapegoats, Cronin said.

The deputy minister said the remedial actions were clearly not about Nxesi. "I don’t remember Mr Nxesi categorically saying the president should not pay any money. He might have been in the company of another minister who said that," he said.

Nxesi and Cronin said the department had learnt a lot from Nkandla, including the need to tighten supply chain management processes.

"The lessons we are learning from Nkandla and many other things is we need a modern, professional department of public works. Part of that is dealing with corruption," Cronin said.

'Tight management important'

Nxesi said they had learnt that a project of "this magnitude" should not be relegated to a regional office. "Tight management is very important."

Nxesi said that, going forward, their role was not to argue, but to implement the recommendations as stipulated, without question.

He said the Constitutional Court, which deemed the public protector’s report binding, had brought the matter to finality.

Nxesi would not say whether more upgrades would still be done to Zuma's Nkandla home. He said they would only know once security assessments had been done.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said he had written to the president to inquire when he would be complying with the remedial actions, including the reprimanding of ministers.

"Zuma is clearly dragging his feet in implementing the remedial action contained in the public protector’s report. He has violated the Constitution and shamed the highest office in the land, and should now act without any delay to abide by the Court's ruling," Maimane said.

Read more on:    jeremy cronin  |  thulas nxesi  |  nkandla upgrade

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