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Deon de Lange
The auditor-general has confirmed media reports that a police slush fund was used to build a security wall around the private residence of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, but has cleared the minister of any wrongdoing.
Mthethwa asked the AG to investigate the matter after City Press reported in April that about R200 000 from the crime intelligence secret account was used to upgrade the security features at Mthethwa’s home in KwaNbonambi, KwaZulu-Natal.
At the time, the minister denied that “any sources of public funds” were used for the renovations.
But in a report released yesterday, the AGSA confirmed that “the wall around the minister’s private property was built using secret service funds from SAPS: Crime Intelligence”.
The security wall was built during 2010 and 2011 after a risk assessment ordered by controversial and suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli found the security measures at Mthethwa’s home to be “inadequate”. The assessment was undertaken by Brigadier T Tshika, from the division’s counter-intelligence unit, and the construction project went ahead under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel DG Naidoo.
Naidoo successfully requested three payments from the slush fund totalling R195 581 to proceed with the project, which included the security wall, the construction of a walk-in safe and the installation of encryption software on Mthethwa’s personal computers.
“No evidence could be provided to indicate that the minister was involved in giving the instruction to conduct a risk assessment on his private property or was involved during the risk assessment process.
“There is no evidence that indicates that the minister knew that the wall was being erected using secret service funds”, the AGSA report concluded.
The AGSA also found that there was “no evidence that links the minister to the contravention of the policy and procedures related to the secret service fund”.
However, Mthethwa was rapped over the knuckles for not knowing that the slush fund was used to pay for his wall.
The AGSA also cleared Mthethwa of allegations that he drove a Mercedes-Benz SUV between March 2010 and June last year which had also been bought using the crime intelligence slush fund.
City Press had reported that the same vehicle was later used by crime intelligence finance chief Major-General Solly Lazarus – also since suspended – before finding its way into Mdluli’s hands, who reportedly used the vehicle whenever he was in Cape Town.
However it is not clear why the auditor-general relied only on the verbal evidence – and recollections – of Mthethwa’s bodyguards in relation to the SUV matter when these claims were initially contained in an investigation document compiled by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation – the Hawks. The auditor-general referred all further enquiries to the minister’s office.
Mthethwa welcomed the findings yesterday: “Today, I feel vindicated because the truth has been confirmed”.
DA MP and police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard responded sceptically to the AGSA report yesterday, saying she found it hard to believe that Mthethwa “did not know what was going on at his own house, did not know that a wall was being built around it and did not ask who was footing the bill”.
Kohler Barnard said she would be pursuing the matter further by submitting parliamentary questions to the minister to determine who he thought was paying for the renovations.