Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency/ANA

Johannesburg - The Competition Commission has spent R14.9 million on protection services after its senior officials were subjected to a spate of criminal acts and breaches of security at its premises from June last year.

This was revealed by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel in a written reply to a parliamentary question from the DA’s Michael Cardo.

Cardo had enquired about members of the commission's executive committee who received VIP protection services in the past five financial years.

He also asked about the cost and the duration of the services.

Patel said he had been advised by Competition Commission commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele that: “In the course of carrying out its responsibilities, it is privy to commercially sensitive information which may result in significant competition penalties being imposed on affected parties and the possibility of criminal charges being brought against individuals.

"In addition, significant vested interests in the economy may be affected by the work of the commission.”

He added that the commission and its senior staff were subject to a spate of criminal acts.

“The source and purpose of which is not yet apparent in spite of these having been reported to the law enforcement agencies, which warranted, in the opinion of the commission, the provision of security to a limited number of senior officials to ensure the safety of persons and sensitive information.”

Patel named at least two incidents where the deputy commissioner and chief financial officer were victims of crime as well as breaches at the commission's premises.

“On May 25 last year, the deputy commissioner, while returning from a work assignment, was held at gunpoint and his work computer laptop, tablet and mobile phone, among other things, were taken.

“On August 8 last year there was a security breach at the commission's premises and two laptops containing sensitive evidence were stolen from the cartels division. This followed incidents where laptops and mobile phones belonging to, among others, the commissioner were stolen under what the commissioner described as mysterious circumstances,” Patel said.

He added the chief financial officer was robbed at gunpoint on September 9 last year.

Patel said the commission provided private security to four senior staff and commissioned a security assessment by a private service provider.

“The report pointed to some security gaps in the security of the commissioner, the deputy commissioner and the divisional manager for cartels. “Further work is also being done on IT security systems and further upgrades will be done subject to budget availability,” Patel said.

The police were now providing security to former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, who heads the market inquiry into private healthcare, at the commission’s request. Patel said R14.9m was paid for the various protection services, with R14.6m paid between June last year and March this year.

A total of R373 304 was paid between April and August this year. Patel added that the State Security Agency was approached to further investigate the criminal incidents and undertook a comprehensive assessment on the security requirements.

“The detailed security assessments will inform any further decisions on this matter, including whether to continue with security measures and the appropriate level of such services.”

Political Bureau