Living lavishly on the state's account

As the Hawks continue to probe the top echelons of the police’s Crime Intelligence Service (CIS) a picture of what has been happening behind the walls of the division’s head office in Erasmuskloof, Pretoria, is starting to emerge.

Crime intelligence and police sources claimed this week that crime intelligence was South Africa’s biggest mafia.

One officer, who worked with both suspended CIS boss Richard Mdluli, who is now facing murder charges, and the suspended head of the division’s secret services account, Major General Solly Lazarus, said the rot in the division was widespread.

“About 80% of the secret services account is siphoned off illegally and only about 20% is used for legitimate operations,” the source claimed.

The source said that the level of abuse was “unbelievable” and the division “is a world of its own”.

“Last year there were probably only about five legitimate operations—they spend millions on operations that don’t exist.”

Fabricating information
Another source said that “many of the projects are sustained by fabricating information, with the sole purpose of making cash. With this money, personnel can pay for lavish dinners, parties and fancy cars.”

Lazarus declined to comment when approached by the Mail & Guardian last week.

The police would not comment other than to say they would not be drawn into “media debates on information received from unknown sources and allegations thereof.

The South African Police Service management remains confident that the processes currently under way will stabilise and allow the environment to function optimally in the interest of the service.”

Although the size of the account is unclear, sources claim that it contains “billions of rands”. One said that, in 2006, now-redeployed Major General Mark Hankel told him the secret account’s budget exceeded R1-billion.

Bullshit story
Two independent CIS sources said that, although the division’s finances were audited, it “gets away with [fraudulent] claims”. Said one source: “If you want something badly enough, you motivate for it. You write a bullshit story.”

A source explained that the auditors examined “investigation diaries”—registers containing a brief description of the amounts paid from the secret services account for projects.

These diaries use terms such as “operational monies” for “unconventional methods” and the auditors did not question them.

Another source said the auditors did not read all the reports written by the police handler or the actual information that the informant provided, although in some cases they could do so with a senior officer’s permission. “If things in the report are not kosher, or the auditor might spot an irregularity, the report is removed from the file before it is scrutinised.”

All payments from the secret service account are in cash, no matter how large, the source said. The only payments made by electronic transfer are for the purchase of vehicles used by undercover officers.

They don’t care
The intelligence officer said: “They don’t care what you claim for. The admin girls go and collect the cash from the secret services account office.”

A source added that claims submitted to the secret services account office include a source reference number and the signature of the person requesting the funds.

Although the source’s details are not on the computer system, the source reference number is. The claim is then cleared.

Media reports have alleged that the Hawks investigation includes a probe of more than 250 posts allegedly created by top officers.

The intelligence source said senior officers brought many family members into the division and that most were sent to the technical support unit or the agent programme.

The source added that they were put up in expensive hotels in Sandton for three months when they moved to Gauteng from other provinces.

Groceries
Allegations are also rife that intelligence officers claim for everything from furniture to household appliances and groceries for personal use.

One method of covertly siphoning off funds is through the establishment of a new undercover base, usually a home in a residential area, which happens every nine months to a year.

A source said it was not uncommon for the old furniture and appliances to be transferred to the new base, while CIS officers removed the new goods to their homes for personal use.

Two sources said that, because checks and balances were lacking, informants’ fees were easily abused.

Handlers routinely pocketed some of the payments, they said. Payments, based on the perceived value of the information, could be as high as R500 000. “The handler motivates the amount by filling in a form,” a source said. “The bigger the amount, the bigger the handler’s cut.”

Groceries and restaurant meals and even holidays were paid for through the secret service account, said the source, adding: “I’ve eaten loads of groceries paid for by the state.”

Selection process
One insider with first-hand knowledge of the selection process for new positions described the selection panel’s operations as “ridiculous”.

Senior officers would “come with a list of people they wanted to get a job or promotion. In the SAPS it takes years to be promoted; at crime intelligence it happens within weeks or months, all the time.”

Another source claimed that handlers fraudulently listed their relatives as informants and then faked their reports.

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email amabhungane@mg.co.za

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

Sally Evans
Heidi Swart

Heidi Swart

Heidi Swart has a background in social work and social research. She made a career change to journalism in 2010 when she was accepted for a cadetship at Independent Newspapers. This involved a year of in-house training with the Cape Argus and Independent's investigations unit, under the auspices of veteran investigator Ivor Powell. Following this, she worked at the Cape Community Newspapers for six months, a branch of Independent Newspapers. She completed a six-month internship at the Mail & Guardian's centre for investigative journalism, amaBhungane. She is currently the Eugene Saldanha Fellow for social justice reporting.
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