Biggest Fashion Sale Of The Year! Shop 12 000 Up To 70% OFF!
Johannesburg - COSATU’S graft watchdog, Corruption Watch, is demanding answers on President Jacob Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley’s role in the controversial R10 billion tender to distribute social grants.
In its submission to the Constitutional Court, which heard the matter this week, Corruption Watch asks: “Who did pay Mr Hulley?”
This week, Corruption Watch had sought intervention as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the long drawn case brought by Absa subsidiary AllPay against the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the winning bidder, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).
AllPay lost the multibillion-rand contract to CPS but sought leave to appeal the Supreme Court of Appeal’s March judgment, which among other things admitted there were “inconsequential irregularities” but said these would not have changed the outcome of the tender.
Corruption Watch said Hulley was appointed by Sassa as a strategic adviser for the tender process on an ad hoc basis and for R21 000 a day. However, a senior Sassa official, strategy and business development executive manager Raphaahle Ramokgopa, admitted that Hulley never sent invoices to Sassa and was not paid by the agency.
Ramokgopa said Hulley was not paid “probably as part of his broader relationship with government”, according to court papers.
“What is this ‘broader relationship’ with government?” asks Corruption Watch in its papers filed at the Constitutional Court.
Throughout the court case, there have been claims that Hulley was paid by the winning bidder, CPS, but Sassa and the company denied this.
“The fact that attorney Hulley, who did not act for any of the tenderers, did not send an invoice to Sassa, also does not find any inference of corruption,” Sassa insists.
Hulley declined to comment on the case, saying he was not part of the Constitutional Court proceedings and that the parties involved must deal with the issue.
Corruption Watch accuses Sassa’s Ramokgopa, part of the bid adjudication committee, of not seeking clarity on these questions and allegations from Hulley before filing her answering affidavit.
The watchdog believes Sassa failed to properly investigate allegations of corruption in the tender process and wants the court to order Sassa to probe claims of graft irrespective of the case’s outcome.
Corruption Watch, which recently censured suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi for having sex with a junior staff member, says Sassa’s approach to investigating tender irregularities and corruption is a setback for duties of organs of state.
“Sassa is as much against corruption as anyone, including Corruption Watch,” Sassa says in its response to Corruption Watch.
According to Sassa, when the allegations, albeit hearsay and inference, were disclosed by AllPay after the hearing before the Supreme Court of Appeal, Sassa did interview the source, John Tsalamandris, who dispelled the notion that he had any evidence of corruption in the tender process.
“There is thus no factual evidence of corruption to follow up,” the agency said.
But Corruption Watch insists that even if Sassa purported to investigate corruption allegations, it did so in an inadequate manner.
Corruption Watch says Sassa summoned Tsalamandris, who was secretary of the bid adjudication committee and the bid evaluation committee, to a meeting with chief executive Virginia Petersen and fraud and compliance general manager Renay Ogle. Minutes of the meeting show that Tsalamandris feared for his life and his job at Sassa, according to court papers.
“Petersen questioned Tsalamandris about whether he had any direct evidence of fraud committed within the tender process. Tsalamandris’ response was to claim that no fraud had occurred but that short cuts had been taken in the tender process,” Corruption Watch says.
CPS accused Corruption Watch of advocating for the creation of a special category of evidence – evidence of corruption in tender processes – that should be exempted from the established principles for the admission of new evidence on appeal.
“Though corruption is plainly an important issue and a significant threat to the public interest, it is not the only such issue. Our society faces numerous threats and risks ,” CPS said in its response.
CPS added: “There is no greater reason to establish permissive rules of admissibility for evidence of corruption than there is in respect of evidence of, for example, the abuse of executive power to undermine independent state institutions, or evidence of torture by the police, or evidence of violence against women and children.”
Judgment in the matter was reserved.