Deputy Public Works Minister Jeremy Cronin is anxious for an explanation on the “clearly outrageous” cost of the R206 million upgrade to President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla.
“It’s clearly outrageous, it’s clearly hard to justify,” Cronin said in response to Talk Radio 702 presenter John Robbie asking him “how do ‘you’ feel?” about it.
“And I would be very anxious for the joint standing committee on intelligence to tell us with a rigorous interrogation, not just for the department of public works, as I say, but also with the security cluster of departments.”
Cronin was responding to concerns raised by DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko that Cronin’s senior, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, had classified a report on how the money was spent by sending it to Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence, which meets behind closed doors and whose members are sworn to secrecy.
The DA had expected it to be tabled in Parliament.
Besides wanting information on the spending, the DA now also wants to know how the document was classified.
Mazibuko said that while the party understood the need to not reveal security information, it believed the issue was not about whether Nkandla was a national key point, but that it was a tender fraud investigation.
The construction of tuck shops and structures unrelated to security were involved.
The committee itself dealt with matters of national security, not tender documents, she said.
Cronin said he did not know how the report had been classified, and had not read it yet.
“We are not trying to cover that up, but at the same time there does need to be sensitivity to what might be legitimate security precautions,” he said.
Cronin said the department had uncovered serious fraud in the tender process.
But it could not make sense of the process without looking at the scope of work required.
It had to put questions to the defence, police, and intelligence departments, because it was not the department of public works that decided on the range of security features, he said.
Parliament would need to decide whether the scope of work could be justified in terms of security.