'Brown envelope' probe dropped

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ebrahim rasool oct 24 Independent Newspapers Former Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool. File photo: Sam Clark

Cape Town - The Hawks have dropped the investigation into the alleged “brown envelope” scandal involving former Cape Argus employees due to insufficient evidence.

Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko this week confirmed that the unit was no longer investigating the case. “There can only be a case if individuals are charged. No one has been charged, thus I cannot confirm that there is an investigation under way. However, if more evidence becomes available, an investigation like this could be re-opened.”

The initial investigation was prompted by an affidavit submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority in 2010 by former Cape Argus journalist Ashley Smith, in which he owned up to allegations that he secretly served as an embedded spin doctor to former premier Ebrahim Rasool while working as a political reporter.

In exchange, he requested indemnity against any possible criminal charges.

Smith confirmed under oath that he and former Cape Argus political editor Joseph Aranes used their positions as full-time staff members to assist Rasool’s campaign against political rivals, and that they received money from a public relations company that obtained provincial government contracts.

Aranes denied the allegations.

Smith’s affidavit further prompted an investigation by the DA-led provincial government into communications contracts awarded during Rasool’s tenure.

Brent Gerber, director-general in the Department of the Premier, also submitted an affidavit to the Hawks in which he urged them to investigate the matter.

In 2011, the Forensic Investigative Unit (FIU) recommended disciplinary action against 45 provincial government employees in connection with tenders awarded to two city communications companies, Inkwenkwezi Communications and Hip Hop Media, both linked to Smith.

In June last year, a report by the provincial FIU, deemed as irregular a R22.8 million communications contract granted to Hip Hop in 2007 for “communications services” to the Department of the Premier.

Premier Helen Zille’s spokesman Zak Mbhele said the forensic investigation had deemed the contract irregular, because of a conflict of interest that was not declared at the bid evaluation stage.

At the time, he said a member of the bid evaluation committee had not declared his interest with Hip Hop.

This week, Gerber said that all internal investigations relating to Hip Hop had been finalised.

Thirty individuals received “cautionary” letters; 13 of those charged have resigned, retired or had their contracts expire; one person was dismissed; one disciplinary hearing is still in progress; and no action was taken against one individual.

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Cape Argus

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