Cops investigated for alleged involvement in multimillion rand PPE tender scandal lose bid to return to work
Pretoria - Crime intelligence head Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs and five other top officials being investigated for their alleged involvement in a multimillion rand personal protective equipment tender scandal lost their urgent court bid to have their suspensions overturned.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, found that the National Commissioner of Police Lieutenant-General Khehla Sithole was within his right to suspend the officials while the investigation against them was under way. In fact, the court said he was obliged to do so by law.
Brigadier Albo Lombard, SAPS section head: intelligence planning and monitoring, acting section head of supply chain management Colonel Isaac Walljee, section commander of vehicle fleet management Colonel Manogran Gopal, acting component head and chief financial officer of secret service account Major-General Maperemisa Lekalakala as well as Colonel Bale Matamela, section commander of procurement secret services account had asked the court to set aside their suspension.
Sithole suspended them last month while the Hawks investigated the claims against them. They are alleged to have violated a number of provisions, regulations and instructions provided for in the procurement regulatory framework.
The suspensions followed after the Inspector General of Intelligence alerted the national commissioner of allegations of procurement irregularities relating to the purchase of personal protective equipment using the secret service account in the Crime Intelligence Division of the SAPS.
It is claimed that the officers used the slush fund meant to finance covert operations to finance the protective equipment in alleged shady deals involving millions.
An internal investigation into the allegations was conducted and the officials implicated subsequently suspended.
They went to court in an urgent bid to be reinstated, declaring that the suspensions were unlawful. The applicants fought for their reinstatement on a technical point in law. They argued that the alleged illegality was premised on the breach of the Intelligence Services Oversight Act.
They argued that the act provided that the national commissioner, as the employer, may not suspend employees until the Inspector General of Intelligence submitted a report to the Minister of Police, who should then recommend their suspensions.
Acting Judge J Minnaar said it was clear that there was an investigation under way and disciplinary processes pending. He said the suspended officials were indeed employees of the SAPS and the national commissioner had the authority to suspend them pending investigation and disciplinary proceedings.
He said until such time as the investigations were concluded, it would be premature to decide whether the alleged misconduct or violations related to intelligence and counter-intelligence or constituted maladministration
For the time being, the judge said, these officials should remain suspended. He not only turned down their application to return to work, but also ordered that they pay the SAPS legal bill regarding this application.