Lawyers for Julius Malema on Friday complained that the former ANC Youth League leader had not been given a fair opportunity to respond to public protector Thuli Madonsela's report concerning him.
They said it was “disappointing and disconcerting” that Madonsela chose to call him a liar and questioned his integrity on radio.
In a report released on Wednesday, Madonsela found that tenders awarded to On-Point Engineering by the Limpopo transport department were unlawful, improper and constituted maladministration.
It also found there had been a complete failure to vet the company, which was only a month old at the time of tender, and that its bid was "a deliberate and fraudulent misrepresentation".
In addition, the report found that On-Point and Malema had improperly benefited from the contract.
'Not telling the truth'
Speaking before Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice on Friday, Madonsela rejected this claim, saying Malema was “not telling the truth”.
Madonsela said she had not only sent Malema a copy of her preliminary findings – as is her custom with anybody at risk of an adverse finding – but had also given him an opportunity to be interviewed.
He replied in writing and in the negative, Madonsela said, adding she was shocked, therefore, to hear his allegation.
"He responded in writing to say he would not like to be interviewed."
Madonsela said Malema complained to her in mid-August that he had not been interviewed as part of the investigation.
She wrote back to his lawyers within a day that the point of such an interview would be to allow Malema to give any additional information that would "prevent the adverse findings".
Malema then responded two weeks later that he was not available to be interviewed, she said.
Malema responds via lawyers
On Friday afternoon Malema’s lawyers, Brian Kahn Inc (BKI), moved to dismiss Madonsela’s comments.
BKI argued that while the public protector had investigated On-Point for “many months” and interviewed the subjects of the investigation prior to the release of her provisional report, Malema was not among these.
The lawyers said they had received the provisional report from Madonsela's office on August 3 2012 and were given five business days to respond to “a 140-page report that had taken the public protector many months to complete”. They were also given assurances that Madonsela would not be making any negative findings against him or the Ratanang Trust.
In a letter to the public protector, dated August 13, Malema’s lawyer Nicque Galaktiou said the “belated offer” to Malema to respond to the allegations before the final report was completed was “superficial”.
“It will be perceived that our clients were granted an opportunity to respond when in practical reality that is not correct,” she said at the time.
The public protector’s office responded by informing Malema’s lawyers that the deadline for submissions had been extended to the end of August. It offered to interview him before then so that he could comment on the evidence pertaining to him and the Ratanang Family Trust.
But because “a proper and fair process had not been followed”, Malema declined to be interviewed, his lawyers said.
They also questioned why the findings concerning Malema and the Ratanang Family Trust made in the final report differ “so materially” from those made in the provisional report, adding that “these changes interestingly only surfaced after charges had been laid against Mr Malema in September”.
But Madonsela said her investigation and report focused on the R50-million contract awarded to On-Point Engineering by the Limpopo transport department, and not on Malema.
The information showing how money had flowed from On-Point to Malema’s Ratanang Fmaily Trust had come from bank statements, which Malema could not refute in an interview, she said.
Madonsela confirmed that she had formally referred the matter to the Hawks for investigation and recommended that criminal charges be brought. – Additional reporting by Sapa