Police commissioner General Bheki Cele was guilty of improper conduct and maladministration when the police authorised a R500 million lease for the Sanlam Middestad Building in Pretoria, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela announced yesterday.
Briefing media in Pretoria, Madonsela initially referred only to “the accounting officer” of the SA Police Service as being guilty of improper conduct.
Asked who this was, Madonsela said Cele, as head of the police, was the accounting officer.
She found the Public Works Department’s accounting officer was also guilty of improper conduct and maladministration.
Madonsela found invalid the lease between the Public Works Department and property tycoon Roux Shabangu’s Roux Property Fund.
In her report, she asked for a National Treasury review to establish what steps could be taken to terminate the lease.
She said that although Cele did not sign the actual lease, he did sign a memorandum dated May 10, 2010, which authorised funding for the lease. The lease was ultimately signed by the Public Works Department.
She said Cele’s conduct breached the constitution, the Public Finance Management Act, Treasury regulations, and supply chain management rules and policies.
Madonsela said Cele was required to “ensure that goods and services are procured in accordance with a system that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective”.
“This conduct was improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration,” she said. She did not find evidence of “an improper relationship” between the Roux Property Fund and the SAPS. There was also no evidence that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was involved in the deal.
Madonsela said a violation of public administration laws did not necessarily amount to a crime. She still had to finalise her report on a building that police wanted to lease in Durban, and expected this report to be finalised in the next month.
Cele’s office said yesterday he felt vindicated by the findings of the Public Protector’s investigation insofar as they cleared him of the “defamatory” allegations published in various media platforms since August 1 that he signed a lease agreement for the building.
“The Public Protector not only stops at finding that General Cele did not sign the lease for Middestad Sanlam Centre, she goes further and vindicates General Cele’s widely disregarded protestations that businessman Roux Shabangu, the owner of Middestad Sanlam Centre, was a stranger to him up until their meeting in June 2010, when Middestad Sanlam Centre had already been selected by the Department of Public Works as the building that the SAPS were going to move into,” it added.
Cele would consult his lawyers to explore what avenues were available to him as he sought redress over the allegations.
The SAPS said it hadn’t received the report. “Once we do so, we will study the voluminous document before we are in a position to pronounce on the contents.”