Johannesburg - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation into the irregular R320 million leasing of the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) Tshwane head offices has claimed its first victim, deputy chief electoral officer Norman du Plessis.
Du Plessis, who is responsible for corporate services including financial management, human resources, legal services and information communications technology, was told to leave the commission by the end of next month.
But IEC deputy chairperson Terry Tselane said Du Plessis turns 65 next month, the commission’s retirement age. He would not comment on the report’s recommendations.
“As recommended by the report, a forensic investigation is being conducted by the National Treasury. The commission wishes to withhold discussions of the public protector’s report until such time that the forensic report has been finalised and studied,” Tselane said.
Du Plessis confirmed his retirement but declined to comment further, saying he was on holiday.
Du Plessis is one of the IEC’s three deputy chief executives. Other deputy chief executives are Dr Nomsa Masuku, responsible for outreach, and Sy Mamabolo, who is in charge of electoral operations.
Du Plessis will be allowed to leave his R1.2 million-a-year job despite a cloud hanging over his head and plans to delay his departure.
The Sunday Independent understands that some of the commission’s bosses wanted him to remain until after next year’s elections because of his experience. However, hardliners insisted that Du Plessis would have to face the music had he agreed to stay.
In August, Madonsela found Du Plessis’s conduct and that of his colleagues, chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya and manager in Moepya’s officer Stephen Langtry, in relation to her information requests and treatment of employees who co-operated in the investigation, to be an issue of concern.
Moepya, Du Plessis and Langtry were requested to furnish Madonsela with the full sets of minutes of the commission’s meetings but by the time the public protector released her report, they had not provided them.
Madonsela recommended disciplinary action against Moepya, Du Plessis and Langtry for their failure to provide her with the budget as well as full sets of minutes of executive committee and IEC meetings in which the procurement of the premises to accommodate the head office was discussed.
This week, Tselane insisted that the IEC was handling matters relating to Madonsela’s report.
The lease of the offices was awarded to property development company Abland, whose black economic empowerment partner is IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula’s former business associate and ANC MP, Thaba Mufamadi.
Madonsela found that Mufamadi’s company, Manaka Property Investments, owns 20 percent of Abland and that Tlakula’s role in the matter amounted to improper conduct and maladministration.
Madonsela also found that Tlakula directed Du Plessis to draft a request for proposals and submit it to her (Tlakula) to sign-off after the lease had been awarded to Menlyn Corporate Park.
The public protector found that this was highly irregular, improper and constituted maladministration.
Earlier this month The Sunday Independent reported that United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa would serve papers on the Electoral Court to lay a formal complaint against Tlakula.
The Treasury is conducting a forensic investigation into the lease agreement, with Madonsela having recommended that chief procurement officer Kenneth Brown commission the probe, which will examine whether the lease and the related expenditure to determine the fair market value of the contract and recover any extravagant expenditure incurred.
In April, Du Plessis told the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on home affairs the IEC had 224 offices and this made it difficult to get an unqualified or clean audit.
At the committee briefing, Du Plessis said the IEC had entered into a lease agreement and the contract did not state as required by the Treasury that certain adjudication rules would apply.
The technical failure was deemed to make the contract and expenditure incurred irregular.