The affordable education loan option
Pretoria - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has recommended that Parliament consider taking action against Independent Electoral Commission chairwoman Pansy Tlakula.
Tlakula had a “grossly irregular” role in the procurement of the Riverside Office Park building in Centurion for the IEC's head office, the protector said in Pretoria on Monday.
In a probe into the matter, Madonsela found improper conduct and maladministration on Tlakula's part, and a conflict of interest involving a co-director, with whom she was accused of being romantically involved.
“The Speaker of Parliament... (should) consider whether action should be taken against advocate Tlakula for her role in the procurement... in light of the undisclosed and unmanaged conflict of interest and her contravention of the procurement laws and prescripts...,” Madonsela's report stated.
She recommended that the IEC review its agreement with Abland, which was awarded the contract to lease the Riverside Office Park building.
Tlakula is accused of having a romantic relationship with Parliament's finance portfolio committee chairman Thaba Mufamadi, who owns a 20 percent stake in Abland by virtue of their co-directorship in Lehotsa Investments (Pty) Limited.
Allegations about their romantic involvement were not investigated as there was no “tangible” evidence.
The whistleblower employee denied the allegation when interviewed by the protector's office.
But, Madonsela found that Tlakula had failed to disclose her business relationship with Mufamadi to the bidding team, which compromised her independence and objectivity.
“Tlakula was highly involved in initiation, evaluation and adjudication of the bids for the procurement of the building,” said Madonsela.
“The ideal way that advocate Tlakula could have mitigated and managed this conflict was through declaration of the relationship and recusal from the procurement process.”
Tlakula was investigated after United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa alleged irregularities in the procurement of the new building, the validity of lease agreements, and various payments to Abland.
Madonsela found that advance payments amounting to R1 653 215.46 were made by the IEC to Abland for the office premises, in contravention of the contract between Abland and the IEC, which required the procurement be subjected to an open market.
The protector also found that over R6 million was paid for the IEC's old offices that stood empty between October 2010 and July 2011. But the amount was refunded to the IEC, without interest.
The financial loss to the commission in terms of interest was because there was no termination clause in the lease agreement.
Madonsela described this as a “haphazard handling” and “possibly reckless use of public funds”.
She found no evidence of an “irregular” payment of R22m paid by the commission in March 2010.
“An amount of R22 603 374.00 was approved as an amount for the fitting out budget in respect of the second addendum between the Riverside Office Park Trust and the commission... This amount was to be rentalised over the period of the lease.”