Pretoria - Former public works minister Geoff Doidge and deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu may take the fall for the R206 million in upgrades carried out at President Jacob Zuma’s home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
A report released by Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi on Thursday says Doidge and Bogopane-Zulu had contact with contractors on the site.
The two were in office in 2009 when the project started.
Doidge was replaced by Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde in 2011 after he tried to can the deals facilitated by former police chief General Bheki Cele and involving businessman Roux Shabangu. Doidge suspended the R1.8 billion Pretoria lease with Roux after getting an independent legal opinion declaring it invalid.
Zuma replaced him with Mahlangu-Nkabinde, who reinstated the leases, despite getting another legal opinion that reached the same conclusion.
Bogopane-Zulu is now the deputy minister for women, children and people with disabilities.
The 51-page security cluster ministers’ report said supply chain management regulations had not been followed in procuring services for the Nkandla project.
It was found that “former minister Doidge and Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu attended and presided over site meetings, and in some instances interacted with contractors involved in the project”.
“This was reflected in the minutes, memos generated by Public Works officials and from evidence of three officials and one contractor who raised uneasiness with the involvement of the executive in the project.”
The report recommends that the role of Doidge and Bogopane-Zulu be “further investigated and clarified”.
The Public Works Department said some of the other senior officials who were involved when the project started had resigned or been fired.
They include Cathy Motsisi, who left the department in 2011, and Public Works acting director-general Solly Malebye.
There were many irregularities in the appointment of contractors and procurement of goods for the upgrading of the homestead, the report said.
“For instance, large variation orders and the high percentages spent on consultancy fees point to the possibility of overpricing and collusion,” Nxesi said.
The supply chain irregularities related to the appointment of service providers and procurement of goods and services, he said.
The report was compiled by the interministerial team tasked with probing the upgrade at Zuma’s private homestead at Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Nxesi said Zuma had known nothing about the costs involved.
“The president cannot know about the costs… there was no way that he could (have been) told about the cost of this project,” he said.
Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said the Special Investigating Unit would probe the matter and bring to book any officials - even those no longer at the department - accused of wrongdoing.
Zuma has published a proclamation giving the SIU power to probe the matter. The auditor-general is undertaking a forensic investigation and Nxesi has written asking the SAPS to look into criminal probes. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is to release her report in January.
Nxesi insisted no government funds were used to renovate the homestead. “President Zuma did not ask for security installations. As per normal procedure, the SAPS and Department of Defence conducted a security assessment, as per their mandate… no state funds were used to build the president’s private residence…”
Justifying the upgrades, Nxesi said the area was violent and members of the Zuma family had been attacked on three occasions. There had been two incidents involving arson and one of Zuma’s wives had been assaulted and a house burgled.
The SANDF’s Dr Vejay-nand Ramlakan said all the upgrades were warranted. “None of this was nice to have. It was necessary to have paving around the home because the terrain was inhospitable. Normal patrol vehicles cannot patrol properly.”
The astro turf field was not built by the government but by an NGO as part of the 2010 soccer World Cup legacy projects, Ramlakan said.
He also defended the building of a clinic at Zuma’s home, saying there were no services in the area. A KwaZulu-Natal Health Department report said it would take about 90 minutes for emergency services to get to Zuma’s home if needed, he said. The clinic, which is not yet open for use by community members, cost R11m.
According to the report, the family began renovations to the three houses on the 3.8-hectare property in 2008 before Zuma was elected as head of state. When he was inaugurated in 2009, the first house had built up to roof level; the second was at roof level, but the roof had not been put on, and the third house was just below roof level.
Public Works took over the project when Zuma was elected president.
The report said the project was estimated to cost about R27m before assessments by the defence force and police. The costs rose to R206m. The state paid only R71m for security upgrades at the residences. The state paid more than R135m for accommodation for security staff, a helipad, the clinic and a crew pavilion, among other things.