Cele seeks probe into police tenders


National police commissioner General Bheki Cele has asked the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate the way certain contracts for construction, uniforms and equipment were granted within the SA Police Service, The Star newspaper reports.

Cele said the SIU probe was in terms of a presidential proclamation signed by President Jacob Zuma in July and August last year. He said he met SIU head Willie Hofmeyr in November 2009 to request an urgent investigation into the supply chain management division, and later learnt that the SIU was sitting with a similar request from the police’s Independent Complaints Directorate, lodged in May 2009.

No reference was made in the article to the public protector’s recent findings that as the accounting officer, Cele, with Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, were accountable for the approval of two multimillion rand leases for police headquarters which the protector said were concluded improperly, the South African Press Association reports. According to yesterday’s report, 33 police stations at a cost of R330 million are currently under scrutiny by the SIU as well as three former police generals, who allegedly benefited from R4 billion worth of allegedly irregularly awarded and inflated tenders.

Cele cited three matters: the Inanda police station, which was supposed to cost R15 million, Pienaar police station in Mpumalanga which was to cost R40 million and a police station in KwaMaphumulo, which would cost R7 million to build from foundation to finish. Inanda and Pienaar cost R134 million and KwaMaphumulo was not built.

Other contracts include goods and services provided to the forensic science laboratory; the procurement of certain leases for the police; the procurement of information management systems; the manufacturing and supply of police uniforms and alleged irregularities in awarding a R1 billion radio communications tender in the Eastern Cape.
“The SAPS has nothing to show for the more than R900 million that has already been spent on a contract to provide radio communication services to the Eastern Cape, yet more money was being allocated to this contract despite the fact that no one could tell me, as the accounting officer, why this service was needed in the SAPS in the first place,” Cele was quoted as saying.

He said police leadership had also decided to use retrenched textile workers to provide uniforms for the police, but then found that a contract to a private company, which had expired when the decision was taken, was extended to expire in 2013.

He said the extraordinarily high cost of police stations needed to be investigated and that police stations built by one company, Midway Two, had paid up to four times the original amount, according to The Star. Cele said: “To say I was shocked by the state of affairs in this division would be the understatement of the century. Contracts were signed without any members of the bid committee actually sitting down for a meeting. Instead, members of the committee would sign their approval of tender awards from wherever they each would be at a particular point in time. Some of the contracts were signed in 2009 and only meant to be effective from April 2012,” Cele said.

The report named three former policemen as being investigated: Lieutenant General Hamilton Hlela, a deputy national police commissioner and head of the police’s supply chain management; Lieutenant General Matthews Siwundla and Major General Stefanus Terblanche. Cele decided to remove them from the supply chain environment and so Hlela and Terblanche offered to resign and Siwundla asked for early retirement. “I signed the directive terminating their services for one reason only: To bring efficiencies to the service,” he said.

When contacted for comment, Hlela and Siwundla said there were no irregularities with the contracts.

The Star reported that SIU spokesperson Karam Singh confirmed the investigation was focused on the officials and would only say the unit was aware of the allegations against Midway Two.

Cele has cancelled two press briefings intended to provide an official response to the protector’s findings. Media queries on the matter were removed from the police and redirected to government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi, and then to newly appointed spokesperson for Zuma, Mac Maharaj.

On the eve of a press conference by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, thought to have been to provide her findings on the lease probe, The Star ran a report that Madonsela was about to be arrested for corruption but Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Cele said this was a surprise to them. Maharaj told SAPA yesterday that processes relating to Madonsela’s report were under way.

The relevant ministers have been written to by Zuma so that internal processes could be taken up with “urgency and seriousness”. Asked when a response would be made public, he could not say, but it would be within timelines set down. “We are clear that we are treating the public protector’s report as a serious report,” said Maharaj.