Cele must go, urges DA
The DA has called on the country’s police chief, Bheki Cele, to resign, after yet more damning allegations of irregularities around a R500 million deal to relocate police headquarters to a central Pretoria building.
The Sunday Times reported that official documents submitted to the Special Investigating Unit and the Public Protector claimed Cele’s deal with businessman Roux Shabangu to relocate police headquarters was illegal and should have been cancelled through an urgent high court application.
According to the report, the state investigation revealed that Cele personally identified Sanlam Middestad as the new police headquarters one week before a needs assessment was done.
It also found that Department of Public Works officials were pressured by the police to push through the deal, and that public works officials should have faced disciplinary action for their role in the deal.
The report alleged that the police had rejected a much cheaper offer to lease the same building a year earlier, and that Shabangu had negotiated the deal directly with the police, instead of with the Department of Public Works.
It also claimed that the lease may have been doctored after it was signed, increasing the rental from R2.8 million a month to R3.3 million.
The deal should not have been approved because it contravened the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury regulations, the report stated.
The investigation also looked into the police’s claim that there was not enough time to put the lease out to tender as it urgently needed bigger office space for the World Cup communications centre, but it was found that the Sanlam Middestad building was substandard and needed “substantial renovations”.
Cele had also told staff there was no money available for the lease, but the next day, funds were apparently approved.
DA spokeswoman on police, Dianne Kohler-Barnard, said Cele had “almost certainly” misled Parliament on the deal, because the report contradicted his denials of any irregularities.
She said this was made worse by the findings that the deal had contravened several laws.
“Cele’s reputation has now been terminally compromised. We believe he can no longer carry out his duties in good faith. He needs to stand down from his position and be replaced with a commissioner who has the experience and integrity to tackle the major issues facing our police service,” she said.
Advocate Paul Hoffman, from the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, who laid the initial complaint with the Public Protector about the lease deal, said he hoped Cele would be redeployed in a political position, “where his talents are stronger”, than continue as a commissioner of police, which required him to have sound knowledge of the law and the constitution.
Public Protector spokesman Oupa Segalwe said he could not talk about the submissions made to the Public Protector and the Special Investigations Unit for the investigation, but said the information in the Sunday Times report “does not represent the Public Protector and the SIU’s findings in the matter as the report is still being finalised”.
Public Works spokesman Obakeng Modikoe had promised to comment as soon as he could, but had not done so before Sunday night.
Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde decided to honour the contract soon after taking office last year after her predecessor, Geoff Doidge, put the deal on ice pending the investigation.
Cele’s spokesman, McIntosh Polela, reportedly said the police would wait for the Public Protector to finish her investigation and he declined to comment further. - Political Bureau