Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The former lead investigator in the Special Investigating Unit’s  (SIU) probe into Bosasa has told the Zondo commission that it was “incomprehensible” why it took 10 years for authorities to start making arrests in connection to the corrupt activity at the company. 

Clinton Oellermann was the lead investigator in the SIU’s two-year investigation into Bosasa which began in 2007 and ended in 2009. 

The SIU had been mandated through a presidential proclamation to investigate allegations of corruption linked to tender contracts awarded by the department of correctional services to the facilities management company. 

The report was handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in 2009 and it highlighted corrupt activity amounting to billions of rands linked to the tenders. It was only this year that the Hawks made arrests related to the report. A number of former Bosasa officials including its former COO Angelo Agrizzi appeared at the commercial crimes court. 

Former correctional services officials Patrick Gillingham and Linda Mti were also charged and released on bail. 

Oellermann was asked by evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius on his thoughts on why it took a decade for authorities to act. Oellermann said he could find no reasonable explanation of why it would have taken 10 years for the case to the brought to court. 

He said he could understand if there was a need for more evidence, but 10 years was far too long.

“It is unique that a matter has taken this long to get to court,” said Oellermann. 

Oellermann also told commission how the Bosasa, now know as African Global Operations, had brought litigation against the SIU in order to stop the unit’s entire investigation. 

As a result, the unit’s investigation was largely affected. This was partially because the SIU’s bosses decided to strike a deal with Bosasa which resulted in the unit agreeing not to interview officials from Bosasa including directors and its CEO Gavin Watson. 

Oellermann said that decision was arrived at by his bosses and that it did curtail the investigation as officials could not be interviewed.

The SIU’s investigation was finalised before this legal litigation was finalised. 

Oellermann was asked by commission chair deputy chief justice Raymond Zonodo why Watson’s name was never mentioned in the SIU investigation. Oellermann explained that they were unable to interview him because of the legal litigation. 

He also said the evidence against Watson was largely hearsay and that witnesses interviewed did mention that Watson often kept his hands from the transactions.

Oellermann said during their investigation into Bosasa, they did find evidence of other possibly questionable contracts that were awarded to Bosasa. These tenders pertained to the department of home affairs and Airports Company South Africa. 

Oellermann was asked if any action was taken in relation to the report when it was handed to the NPA and the department of correctional services. He said the only remedial action that was done was the disciplinary proceedings against Gillingham. 

He said that disciplinary hearing was later cancelled after Gillingham resigned.

"We issued the report to the department and it made a number of conclusions and recommendations and apart from disciplinary proceedings instituted against (Gillingham), I'm not aware of any further recommendations that were implemented by the department," Oellermann said.

The inquiry continues.

IOL