The lawyers of former top cop Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane are confident that when his trial continues in May they will be able to punch holes in a forensic report by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) that forms the basis of the state’s case against him.
Phahlane is accused, along with other high-ranking police officials, of fraud and corruption regarding their involvement in a procurement contract that saw the installation of blue lights in police vehicles in Gauteng in 2016 – at a cost of R84 million.
City Press has seen a copy of the response Phahlane is set to submit to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) with regard to Ipid’s forensic report, which was handed to him and his co-accused in the Johannesburg Commercial Crime Court on Tuesday – just before the matter was postponed to May 5.
The former acting national police commissioner and five other high-ranking SA Police Service (SAPS) officials face charges of fraud‚ forgery and uttering (a crime involving a person who knowingly sells, publishes or passes a forged or counterfeit document), which carry a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, just like murder.
Phahlane, who headed the SAPS forensic division before he was appointed as the acting national police commissioner, describes the findings against him as “baseless, malicious, unsubstantiated, devoid of the truth, and thus must be strongly condemned”.
In his submission to the NPA, he points out at least two instances where the purchase order for procurement of services was concluded long after former police minister Fikile Mbalula removed him from office in 2017, but he was still, mysteriously, being cited as the accounting officer responsible.
In one instance, the forensic report says a purchase order of R40 million for the services was signed on June 12 2017 — almost two weeks after Mbalula had instructed Phahlane to “step aside”. Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba was subsequently appointed as the acting national police commissioner.
“It is public knowledge that our client was, effective from June 1 2017, at home, following the baseless allegations against him. Despite the obvious factual information at their disposal in the processing of this report, our client is [expected] to take responsibility,” Phahlane’s lawyers write.
In another instance, a R35 million purchase order was approved in favour of the service provider, Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement, on March 27 2018.
“The current accounting officer, General KJ Sitole, was, and is, still in office when the procurement processes and activities are performed in relation to [the order] … Our client is, since June 1 2017, at home, not rendering any services and/or performing any official duties. Common knowledge dictates that our client cannot under the prevailing circumstances be held liable,” the lawyers say.
Regarding the alleged duplicate payments, Phahlane’s lawyers say that the payments were dated between November 2017 and May 2018, and that “all these transactions are processed with the current accounting officer, General [Khehla] Sitole, in office. Thus, the dragging of our client, while not in office, into any of these transactions is distasteful.”
Regarding the R9 million purchase order dated March 14 2017 — while Phahlane was the acting national police commissioner – the lawyers said: “Our client is at no stage an active participant in the process of the awarding, creation of orders and procurement of goods/ services ... There is no evidence of our client’s participation in any ... signing of any contract/agreement.”
Further, Phahlane’s document reads, there was an attempt to create the impression that he had approved Gauteng’s tender specification for the services, when all he did was to approve the standardised national specifications following approval by the Treasury that the SAPS could initiate its own processes:
“The specifications signed off by our client on September 14 2016 are for the establishment of a national contract to provide for needs on all levels in the SAPS. It is on this basis that once the national standard was set, the provincial commissioner: Gauteng was then directed … to utilise the specifications approved for the broader SAPS.”
Phahlane also points to contradicting findings in the report about the tax compliance status of the service provider, saying that, in one instance, it is recorded that as of November 10 2016, Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement was non-tax compliant – but in another instance, it states that the tax clearance certificate was “valid from 2016 until its expiry on August 15 2017”.
Charges against the company’s owner, Vimpie Manthata, have been provisionally withdrawn. Remaining in the dock are Phahlane, General Deliwe de Lange, Major General Nombhuruza Napo, Lieutenant General Ramahlapi Mokwena, Brigadier Ravi Pillay and Brigadier James Ramanjalum.