Competition Commission spends R14.9m on VIP security, says Ebrahim Patel

Tembinkosi Bonakele, head of the Competition Commission
Tembinkosi Bonakele, head of the Competition Commission

Last year, executives of the Competition Commission experienced a "spate" of criminal acts, including being held up at gun point and a security breach at the commission's premises.

This led to protection services being appointed at a cost of R14.9m, members of Parliament heard.

DA MP Michael Cardo had asked Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel to provide details on VIP protection services provided to the commission’s executive committee. Patel fielded the questions to Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele, who said over the past year, executives had been victims of crime.

Unsolved crimes

"The Competition Commission and senior staff have been subject to a spate of criminal acts, the source and purpose of which is not yet apparent, in spite of these having been reported to the law-enforcement agencies.

"[This] warranted, in the opinion of the commission, the provision of security to a limited number of senior officials in order to ensure the safety of persons and sensitive information," his reply read.

Bonakele further detailed the criminal acts carried out against him and others. They date back to May 25, 2017, when Deputy Commissioner Hardin Ratshisusu was held at gunpoint "while returning from a work assignment", Bonakele said.

Ratshisusu’s work laptop, tablet and mobile phone, "among other things", were taken, according to Bonakele.

'Sensitive' evidence taken

Then on August 8, 2017 there was a security breach at the commission’s premises, where two laptops "containing sensitive evidence" were stolen from its Cartels Division.

"This followed incidents where laptops and mobile phones belonging to, among others, the Commissioner were stolen under what the Commissioner described as 'mysterious circumstances," the reply read.

Further, on September 9, 2017, Chief Financial Officer Molatlhegi Kgauwe was robbed at gunpoint.

As a result, private security was provided to four senior staff members, and the services of the existing security service provider to the commission premises was terminated.

A security assessment by a private service provider was also commissioned.

Security gaps

"The report pointed to some security gaps in the security of the commissioner, the deputy commissioner and the divisional manager for cartels. Further work is also being done on IT security systems and further upgrades will be done subject to budget availability," Bonakele said.

Bonakele added that the State Security Agency (SSA) was approached to investigate these incidents and has undertaken to assess the security requirements of the commission. The report will be released imminently, Bonakele said.

The South African Police Service was asked to provide security to former Chief Justice Ngcobo, who heads the panel conducting a market inquiry into private health care.

The commission provides vehicles to SAPS assigned to protect Ngcobo, Bonakele explained.

The cost of private security from June 2017 to March 31, 2018 came to R14.6m, and the cost between April 1, 2018 and August 2018 came to R373 304, bringing the total cost to R14.9m.

The detailed security assessments of the SSA will help the commission determine if the current security measures should continue, and what the appropriate level should be, he said.

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