Court orders police to hand over several secret documents to Ipid
Pretoria – The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria has ordered the police to hand over several secret documents to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) so the latter can investigate suspected tender fraud and corruption within police ranks.
Ipid, who have been waiting for three years for these documents, and the SAPS have been facing off in court as senior police management have refused to hand over the “highly secret” papers.
National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sithole, among others, maintains the documents are classified and should not be made available to Ipid.
But Judge Norman Davis yesterday ordered the documents be declassified for the purposes of Ipid’s investigations and any subsequent prosecutions.
The access to documents relates to the acquisition of software monitoring capacity and cellphone “grabbing” equipment (and possibly also bullet-proof vests).
SAPS, who are applicants in this matter, claimed the documents constituted “intelligence information that might compromise the national security and the identities of operatives of the intelligence community".
They maintain that Ipid may therefore not demand access to these documents from the SAPS.
The judge pointed out that in terms of the Ipid Act, the police watchdog must investigate all aspects of corruption on the part of members of the SAPS.
The documents sought by Ipid include a case opened at the Brooklyn police station in 2017 relating to suspected fraud and corruption by SAPS Crime Intelligence involving the services from Brainwave Projects.
Ipid's investigations revealed that, during the #FeesMustFall protests in December 2016, SAPS Crime Intelligence paid a company, I-View, R33 million for software aimed at monitoring social media sites, known as “RIPJAR software”.
Neither formal nor emergency tender procedures were followed.
In addition, no application been made to depart from these procedures.
Only two quotations were sourced, not by normal channels, but by an officer in the SAPS Crime Intelligence department.
The quotations were sourced on December 20, 2016 and the R33 million was paid in December 2016, without any agreement in place.
Ipid could find no evidence that the goods or services had in fact been rendered and found no evidence that the RIPJAR software had been installed.
Another suspicious deal concerned a tender designed to encrypt cellphone communications and block surveillance at a cost of R21m.
Ipid is investigating an attempt by the SAPS to buy a “cellphone grabber”, sold on the market for between R7m-R10m, for R45m from I-View.
The deal was aborted by the SAPS after Ipid received a tip-off from a whistle-blower about the possible deal.
Ipid told the court it also obtained video footage of senior SAPS officials meeting at a Pretoria hotel in a bid to conduct the deal.
Senior members of the SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit later said they were being “pushed” into the transaction while no need existed for the procurement of the device.
The third suspicious deal being investigated and for which Ipid needed documentation was for the purchase of bullet-proof vests at R33 000 a vest. This while the market price is between R5 000 and R10 000.
Judge Davis observed no more information was available about this alleged deal.
While the SAPS mostly remained quiet about the tenders and said the information was classified, the court was told some of the devices had to be obtained as the SAPS were told during the ANC national conference held in Johannesburg in 2017 there was a “possible national security threat”.
This answer, the judge said, held flaws as, among other things, it failed to show a link between the interests of the ANC and its national conference and a “national security threat”.
He said the lack of explanation for the refusal by the SAPS to give Ipid access to the documents to investigate these issues was dubious.
No reason was given why these documents were so secret that they could not be handed over, he said.