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Nkandla report may be withheld from public

Supporters of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma prepare to prevent opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party members from walking towards Zuma's house in Nkandla November 4, 2012. According to local media, the DA has requested details of the 248 million rand ($28.3 million) upgrades to Zuma's house, some 240 km (149 miles) north of Durban. REUTERS/Rogan Ward (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: POLITICS)

Supporters of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma prepare to prevent opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party members from walking towards Zuma's house in Nkandla November 4, 2012. According to local media, the DA has requested details of the 248 million rand ($28.3 million) upgrades to Zuma's house, some 240 km (149 miles) north of Durban. REUTERS/Rogan Ward (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: POLITICS)

Published Mar 14, 2013

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Parliament, Cape Town - The government task team report on R206 million in security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home is to be tabled in Parliament, but it is not clear whether it will be made public.

Speaker Max Sisulu made the announcement in the National Assembly yesterday that Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi had decided to table the report he commissioned last year, in the wake of public outrage over the reported cost of the work on Zuma’s private residence.

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Details were to be published in Parliament’s announcements, tablings and committee reports document today.

Nxesi and a posse of ministers revealed some of the findings of the task team at a media briefing in January, including that R71m of the total had been for security measures and the remainder for “operational requirements” of government departments, such as housing for security staff.

The team had uncovered “irregularities” in the appointment of service providers and the procurement of goods and services that might have inflated the cost by millions.

A total of R48m had been paid to consultants.

The report would be sent to the Special Investigating Unit, the auditor-general and SAPS for them to investigate “any possible acts of criminality”, the ministers said.

But Nxesi has, until now, refused to divulge details of the work, saying this information was classified as it related to Zuma’s security and because Nkandla had been declared a national key point.

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The National Key Points Act – a “dastardly” piece of apartheid-era security legislation that is probably unconstitutional, according to Nxesi’s deputy Jeremy Cronin – makes it an offence to publish information on a declared key point, even though the list of such places is also kept secret.

Yesterday, in written replies to parliamentary questions, Nxesi refused to divulge:

l Details of the bidding process for contracts for the Nkandla work.

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l The procurement strategy document.

l The nature of the “operational costs” incurred.

l Whether other government departments, besides the police, had staff at Nkandla.

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l The names and addresses of companies and consultants involved in the upgrade and the value and nature of each contract.

He said that “to protect the security of the president at his private residence, sensitive security information cannot be made public”, unless a “mechanism consistent with parliamentary rules” was found that would protect Zuma’s security.

Sisulu’s announcement yesterday may indicate such a “mechanism” had been decided on, but this might not involve making the report public.

The DA welcomed the announcement, but said it would push for the “full, unexpurgated report” to be tabled, with no omissions or deletions.

The party wanted it to be tabled in a committee that was open to the public and that members of the public should be able to attend.

Committees dealing with security matters, the joint standing committee on defence and the joint standing committee on intelligence, are closed to the public. The joint committee on ethics and members’ interests is also closed.

Speaker Sisulu can, in exceptional circumstances, give permission for a meeting of a committee to be held behind closed doors.

DA public works spokeswoman Anchen Dreyer said the party also wanted the full report to be debated in the National Assembly and for those implicated in wrongdoing to face the music.

“So long as the spending of R206m on President Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla is concealed under the dark cloud of secrecy, Nkandla will forever remain a symbol of government corruption under the presidency of Mr Jacob Zuma,” Dreyer said.

In another written reply yesterday, Nxesi agreed that the public works minister had oversight responsibility for security upgrades at the homes of members of the executive.

A joint cabinet memorandum of August 13, 2003, relating to these “does not exempt the minister from his oversight role”, nor did it exempt such projects from the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, Nxesi said.

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