Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cele was 'solely responsible'

19 June, 2011

Police chief General Bheki Cele has failed to convince public protector Thuli Madonsela that his hands are clean in the R1.1-billion Durban leasing scandal.

In her latest report, Madonsela rejects Cele's excuse that he relied on his procurement officials to handle the lease.

Cele had withdrawn all delegating of contracts over R500000 and " was therefore solely responsible to ensure that the procurement of the lease complied", her report says. ''The view of the National Commissioner that he was reliant upon the advice and decisions of senior (police officials) for his approval of the procurement ... cannot be accepted."

The Sunday Times previously exposed how Cele drove a similar irregular lease deal worth R500-million to move the police's top brass to a building owned by Roux Shabangu in Pretoria.
The report says: "According to the documentation provided, both the buildings were identified by the SAPS (national commissioner)."

It details how the police started negotiating with Shabangu "prior to the Department of Public Works becoming involved in the procurement process, as was required. The national commissioner further conceded that, as the accounting officer, he took full responsibility for the procurement of the lease, irrespective of the involvement of other officials."

Madonsela and her investigators grilled Cele on April 18 this year. The police chief claimed "there were sufficient funds" for the Durban lease but "could not explain where exactly the additional funds were to be diverted from".

Investigators found "there was no evidence that the SAPS planned or budgeted for either of the leases".

"At the time the procurement of the lease was initiated, both the SAPS lease and capital work budgets were significantly overextended," the report says.

Public works and police officials admitted there "was no legitimate urgency in procuring the lease", the report finds.

Cele denied he had ordered the removal from the police portfolio of Durban public works official Irene Nel, who was critical of the procurement processes.

Cele told Madonsela he did not regard it "suspicious" that Shabangu was tipped to get two lease deals worth R1.6-billion "in a very short period of time" without testing the market.

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