Gauteng govt questions Niehaus explanation

The Gauteng government independently discovered that African National Congress (ANC) spokesperson Carl Niehaus had forged a letter to secure a loan, it said on Friday denying that he first brought the matter to its attention by confessing.

“The government would like to state the following that: the alleged incident was detected by the [Gauteng Economic Development Agency] itself, the then chairperson of the board, Mr Keith Khoza, investigated and confronted Mr Niehaus about the allegations, Mr Niehaus resigned from the development agency as soon as the allegations surfaced,” it said.

The Gauteng government did not suffer any losses and “no action could be taken after he resigned”, it said in a statement.

Spokesperson Simon Zwane said the government believed that the matter had been handled in a way where no money had been lost and so there would be no point in taking it further.

“What would the organisation benefit?” he asked. “The situation had been handled and no loss incurred.”

But the Democratic Alliance (DA) believes former Gauteng finance minister Paul Mashatile, now premier, may have committed a criminal offence in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act which makes it an offence not to report a corrupt act to the police.”

Earlier, Niehaus told Talk Radio 702 that he was “under severe pressure” with a debt, reported to be R700 000, which he owed the Rhema church.

He could have been sequestrated and his former wife could have lost her house.

“Under that pressure I made a mistake to produce a letter which was making promises for the possibility that the Gauteng provincial government would rent in certain buildings in the central business district of Johannesburg,” he explained.

“In return for that there was a company who was prepared to provide me with a loan in order to settle the debt that I had with Rhema which had reached the point where it was going to be called in and, as I said, firm legal action was going to be taken.”

But Niehaus said that “within hours” of writing the letter he contacted Mashatile.

“... I said ‘I allowed myself to get into this situation, I have done this, I retract this letter, I apologise, clearly because of the situation which I have been in, I have not been thinking things through clearly, I have done wrong’, and I immediately placed my resignation.”

The Gauteng government believed that the Gauteng Economic Development Agency should be commended for putting in place strong systems that allowed it prevent a possible loss of state funds.

Zwane rejected a call by the DA for a forensic audit to see if anything else had gone awry, saying the government conducted a check after the incident and could find nothing else.
It believed its systems were able to detect fraud.

The ANC is holding a briefing on Friday afternoon on Niehaus, who said he had offered to resign.—Sapa

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