Cele inquiry: Hlela acted on own assumptions

Former deputy police chief and procurement head Hamilton Hlela made several assumptions which he acted on without consultation, the board of inquiry into Bheki Cele’s conduct heard on Monday.

Hlela’s submissions during cross-examination at the hearing in Pretoria came under fire when advocate Vincent Maleka SC, for suspended police commissioner Cele, presented his team’s closing arguments.

“Regarding that incident in Boksburg [on March 24 2010, where Hlela alleges Cele alluded to businessman Roux Shabangu]. Why did he not get the name of the person who was going to call him?” asked Maleka.

He questioned why Hlela did not confirm with Cele if he had sent Shabangu, after getting a call from Shabangu relating to the procurement of Sanlam Middestad building in Pretoria, for police office space.

“He formed his own impressions and does not test those impressions even with the persons affected,” said Maleka.

During cross-examination Hlela told the board that he was told by Cele at a hotel parking lot in Boksburg that “someone” would call him about the procurement of a building with vacant office space.

No need to consult
Hlela testified that only Shabangu contacted him about a building, on the same day. Therefore in his view there was no need to consult Cele about the developments.

Maleka questioned why Hlela had arranged a meeting on March 24 2004 with Shabangu to inspect the Sanlam Middestad building, without consulting Cele.

“If you have a mandate, and you want to test it, you are supposed to go and inquire with your principal.
Naturally you report to your principal,” said Maleka.

Earlier, the evidence-leading team accused Cele of breaching procurement procedures by taking part in the “flawed leasing” of two buildings earmarked for police accommodation.

Evidence leader Mbuyiseli Madlanga dwelled on the July 5 alteration of initial police space requirements in a meeting between Shabangu, Cele and other police officials.

“General Cele wanted that particular building [Sanlam Middestad] to be procured for the police. He identified the building and went ahead to become an active participant in the leasing,” said Madlanga.

“If he seriously has this attitude with regards to supply chain management, with all the respect that is due to him, we submit that he is a menace when it comes to compliance with the Public Finance Management Act and treasury regulations.”

‘Unexplained relationship’
Madlanga said there was an “unexplained relationship” between Cele and Shabangu, which made Cele “compliant to all things Shabangu said”. The unexplained relationship was an undeclared conflict of interest, he submitted.

“Despite having signed a document authorising the procurement of 21 000 square metres, General Cele was going along with his purpose, which was to meet Shabangu’s needs,” said Madlanga.

The space requirement was amended to 25 000 square metres.

Madlanga dismissed suggestions by Cele’s defence team that Hlela had not accused Cele of corruption.

This was up to the inquiry to decide, he said.

“General Hlela’s role was to give evidence and the board is mandated to decide on that,” he said.

Madlanga said Cele had acted dishonestly by not telling Hlela, the former police procurement head, the name of the person who was going to call him about the accommodation procurement.

‘Calculated move’
“It was a calculated move by General Cele. He did not tell General Hlela that Mr Shabangu owns a building and he will call you to discuss procurement processes.

“He was a bit cagey about the identity of the person who would call. That is why he didn’t say who was going to contact General Hlela.

“General’s Cele’s approach [in relation to the two leases] seems to be that he does not have any insight to his responsibilities. He must make sure that from any angle, he is not party to any improper procurement process.

“In this case, he did not only partake in the procurement process, he actually initiated and participated at every step of the way.”

Madlanga said that apart from misconduct, the “gross breach of the Public Finance Management Act alone warrants the board to recommend Cele’s removal from office”.

He argued that the South African Police Service, as an interested party in the accommodation procurement lease, “cannot wash its hands and let the responsibility of stopping the horse from bolting” fall to the public works department alone.

Madlanga said Cele had tried to “wiggle himself out” of responsibility during public protector Thuli Madonsela’s probe into the leasing of Transnet building in Durban.

The board of inquiry, appointed by President Jacob Zuma and chaired by Judge Jake Moloi, is mandated to establish whether Cele acted corruptly, dishonestly, or with an undeclared conflict of interest in relation to two police lease deals signed with Shabangu.

It also has to determine his fitness to hold office, and his capacity to efficiently execute his duties. Such misconduct could warrant a recommendation for his dismissal.—Sapa

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