Minenhle Makhanya. 200314 Picture: Handout/Supplied

Pietermaritzburg - State investigators have launched a court application claiming more than R155 million in damages from the architect involved in the R246m “security upgrade” at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.

In papers lodged with the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) alleges that Minenhle Makhanya was unlawfully awarded the Nkandla contract, and that his conduct resulted in significant financial losses to the state.

The SIU, which investigates the abuse and corrupt use of state resources, was tasked by the president to investigate the Nkandla debacle after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report of her probe into the project.

The report noted: “The cost analysis shows that the Nkandla Project started from humble beginnings, but soon escalated by more than 200 percent within a year. It is also clear that the uncontrollable escalation took place once the decision-making powers shifted towards Mr Makhanya as the Principal Agent.”

The report said his appointment was improper and did not satisfy legal requirements, and that Makhanya had no security clearance.

Makhanya’s firm was paid R16.5m for its role in the project.

Among the upgrades to Zuma’s private residence were a cattle kraal, chicken coop, a swimming pool, underground bunkers and an amphitheatre.

In terms of the application, the SIU is seeking an order declaring Makhanya’s appointment as the architect and principal agent in respect of the security upgrades at Nkandla invalid.

It has also requested that Makhanya be directed to pay the National Treasury R155 324 516 - the financial loss said to be suffered by the Department of Public Works as a result of Makhanya’s alleged unlawful, wrongful and negligent conduct.

According to court papers, representatives of both the SAPS and SANDF had undertaken site visits to Nkandla in May 2009 to evaluate and determine the security measures required to protect the safety of the president and his family.

Subsequently, after taking the reports by the two state entities into consideration, the department established the cost of the security measures at R27 893 067.

This amount was then authorised and secured, and comprised the only funds the department was legally allowed to spend on the security upgrades.

In August 2009 the department, represented by project manager DJ Rindel, offered to appoint Makhanya as the principal agent to design the construction works, procure the relevant service providers and oversee the Nkandla project, the papers state.

The SIU alleges that Makhanya’s appointment was unlawful, invalid and in breach of the system of procurement for goods and services by public works in terms of the constitution and relevant supply chain management policies and procedures.

The SIU claims that Makhanya’s appointment was not preceded by a competitive bidding or open tender process.

Makhanya was allegedly also not on the department’s list of registered suppliers and was therefore not qualified to be appointed as the principal agent.

The SIU alleges that Makhanya should have known that his appointment was not in accordance with the lawful procurement system and was therefore invalid.

It is further alleged that after his appointment, Makhanya proceeded to authorise and oversee the installation of security measures at Nkandla in excess of and far beyond the assessments determined by the SAPS and the SANDF, and at a cost far more than that which was approved and budgeted for by public works.

By December last year, the cost of the security upgrade had increased to more that R216m - allegedly as a result of unlawful authorisations by Makhanya.

“In exercising his powers, functions and duties, Makhanya varied the scope of works at Nkandla and authorised the construction of structures which were not security measures,” the SIU claims in court papers.

Makhanya was obliged to submit requests for such variations to public works for approval before he could authorise payments for the above upgrades, but he failed to do so, the SIU alleges.

The unit claims that Makhanya also certified payments of invoices submitted by service providers at inflated prices, which resulted in public works overpaying them by millions.

Other claims by the SIU include that Makhanya authorised the construction of guard houses, the control room, and the on-site clinic at Nkandla that were bigger in size than originally budgeted for.

Makhanya has 20 days (from August 11) to file his notice of intention to oppose the application.

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