Following a Mail & Guardian report that presented proof of impropriety in the awarding of South Africa’s prisons’ contracts, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) on Wednesday called for an inquiry into the Department of Correctional Services.
The party said President Kgalema Motlanthe must launch an urgent commission of inquiry into the alleged corruption within the department.
“In spite of endless seminars, new policies and plans, corruption has become endemic within the Department of Correctional Services — as money, deals and favours are spread around the political elite and its connections,” read a statement from IFP correctional services spokesperson Sybil Seaton.
Last Sunday the department placed expensive advertisements in three national newspapers, urging anyone with proof of impropriety in the awarding of the contracts to inform South Africa’s law enforcement agencies.
The M&G presented the proof in a report on Friday. Confidential documents and correspondence leaked to the newspaper suggest a highly improper relationship between the department and controversial facilities management group Bosasa.
The M&G revealed that Bosasa, which has received nearly R3-billion in contracts from Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour’s department:
- Had confidential documents leaked to it by the department’s former chief financial officer and Balfour confidant Patrick Gillingham;
- Had access to tender documents for major prison projects before they were advertised; and
- Spied on senior correctional services officials, including the department’s chief deputy commissioner of security, Willem Damons, and his subordinate, Tonie Venter, during a 2006 prisons department security workshop at a Drakensberg hotel.
Bosasa is headed by Eastern Cape businessman Gavin Watson, whose family had close ties with the Eastern Cape ANC during the struggle years, when the Watson brothers became famous for refusing to play rugby for a whites-only Springbok team.
The group also runs the controversial Lindela repatriation camp for the Department of Home Affairs and has large contracts with the South African Post Office, Airports Company of South Africa and the departments of justice and transport.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has been probing Bosasa since 2006 and raided its offices in December. Three weeks after the raid the company was re-awarded the massive prisons catering contract it landed in 2004.
The IFP said: “The ethical degeneration within the department of correctional services cannot be allowed to continue, and we must now expose and eliminate the corrupt practices within the department.”
The allegations were brought to Parliament’s attention by correctional services director-general Vernie Petersen.
Petersen suspended Gillingham in September after receiving a preliminary SIU report. Petersen was later transferred to the sports department in what was widely seen as a reprisal for his opposition to Balfour’s attempts to extend the 2004 contract.
Balfour also wanted Gillingham to head the tender committee awarding the new contract, while Petersen insisted that Gillingham not be involved.
“It has become very clear that the ruling party and in this case, the department of correctional services, do not look kindly on those who expose wrongdoers. It is now very clear to the IFP that Mr Petersen was probing too deep into the pit of corruption,” said Seaton.
The IFP said it believed that alongside the many successes of the country’s transformation ran a parallel story of corrupt elected representatives and government officials.
“The IFP stands for a universal crackdown on all instances of corruption which must be exposed and punished harshly.”
Annexure A: Email from Patrick Gillingham to Angelo Agrizzi in which he comments on a report by chief deputy commissioner Willem Damons about a tender for x-ray scanners
Annexure B: Email from Agrizzi to Gillingham with price specifications for TV systems tender published a week later
Annexure C: Email from Agrizzi to Gillingham with suggestions about promoting Bosasa
Annexure D: Anonymous letter to Dennis Bloem emailed by Agrizzi to Gillingham
Annexure E: Email from Agrizzi to Gillingham with evaluation sheet for Waterval catering tender