Calls for SA president to act on corruption report

9 August 2011

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10 August 2011 | Angeline Albert 

Anti-corruption campaigners have demanded a response from President Jacob Zuma to a highly critical report on the procurement of leases for police buildings in South Africa.

The report by the Public Protector South Africa looked into allegations of unlawful conduct by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the South African Police Service (SAPS).

In a statement made this week, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) said: “While acknowledging the efforts that are being made to investigate and prosecute those engaging in these activities, more needs to be done to turn the tide against this scourge. We look forward to the president’s formal response to the reports of the public protector.”

The public protector’s report says buildings were identified as suitable for police use prior to a demand management process being conducted. It also found “no legitimate” justification for deviating from an open tender process and criticised the exclusive negotiations between SAPS’ procurement staff and one service provider.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report covered SAPS’ purchase of leases for two buildings: the Transnet building in Durban – a lease worth R1.16 billion (£96.3 million) over 10 years – and the Middestad building in Pretoria – worth R614 million (£51.9 million) over the same period. The buildings required major and costly refurbishment, and were leased at a rate much higher than the market rate.

With reference to the Middestad building, the report said the DPW (which awards contracts on behalf of government) failed to follow proper procurement procedures. It is accused of allowing SAPS to negotiate directly with one supplier and then signing the deal. The public protector said the result was an “improper and unlawful” lease agreement.

Madonsela said: “By negotiating with a single service provider, to the exclusion of the DPW and other potential service providers, the procurement process was compromised and the constitutional requirement of competitiveness was thus not complied with."

In response, the minister of public works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde admitted: “It would have been prudent to test the market by going out on an open tender in a manner envisaged by section 217 of the constitution.”

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU)  has been scrutinising contracts relating to 33 police stations in South Africa since August last year.

In a statement, the SIU told SM: “No person in the SAPS is excluded from the investigation. However, it is focused on those officials within the procurement division.”

Other SAPS contracts under investigation include goods procured for the Forensic Science Laboratory, the purchase of information management systems and police uniforms.

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