Tlakula says lease report does not call her corrupt

A national treasury report into the procurement process for the Electoral Commission of South Africa's (IEC) head office does not accuse chairperson Pansy Tlakula of corruption, she said on Wednesday.

"Contrary to media reports, the report does not make a finding of corruption or accrual of financial gain against me or any official of the commission," she said in a statement.

The report of the forensic investigation, released on Tuesday, was done by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the treasury on the procurement of the IEC's Riverside Office Park building in Centurion, Pretoria.

The report indicated that the procurement process was not fair, transparent, or cost-effective. It also found that Tlakula did not give guidance or formally inform various people what was expected of them in the process.

"[Advocate] Tlakula, as the [then] chief electoral officer and accounting officer, Mr [Norman] Du Plessis as the deputy chief electoral officer corporate services and Mr [Stephen] Langtry as the manager in the office of the [chief electoral officer] should each be held responsible for the roles they played that resulted in a procurement process being followed that was not fair, equitable, transparent, competitive or cost effective," reads the report's findings.

Tlakula said: "l reiterate that I have not been involved or found guilty of any criminal or corrupt activity. Thus, any reporting to that effect is without foundation and presumably calculated to impugn my integrity."

No response yet
She did not want to respond to the report in full until Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who is the custodian of the report, had addressed issues that she had raised with him relating to the investigation.

The IEC acknowledged and disclosed concerns about non-compliance with procurement prescripts of its own volition in its financial statements for 2010/2011, before any of the probes into the process, she said.

"Where we made mistakes during this process, we disclosed and owned up to them. We have learned from those mistakes."

Tlakula said the IEC had already tightened up its procurement processes to ensure full compliance with regulations.

Furthermore, she was satisfied the non-compliance was unintentional and did not set out to secure improper benefit for anyone involved.

The treasury report followed a recommendation from Madonsela in her own report into the matter, released in August 2013.

Incorrect information
One of the report's findings is that Langtry, Tlakula's then manager in the office of chief executive, provided incorrect information to the bid committee, which resulted in a company that should have been considered for the bid, Khwela City, being excluded.

Abland eventually won the bid, and Tlakula's business partner in a separate company – Thaba Mufamadi – owns a stake in that company. The forensic report said the rental being charged by Abland was not fair market rental.

Too much space is allegedly being leased, resulting in an extra R110-million being spent on the unnecessary space over the 10 years of the lease, while a high rate of rent and operating costs incurs them a further R20.8-million above market norms over the 10-year period.

Madonsela released her report "Inappropriate Moves", which found that the deal was "irregular … and violated procurement rules". Madonsela took particular aim at Tlakula in the report, saying she played a "grossly irregular" role in procuring the Riverside Office Park building in Centurion, Pretoria.

Tlakula has blasted Madonsela's report, which she said contained "factual errors".

On Wednesday she said her review application seeking to have Madonsela's report reviewed and aspects of it set aside was still pending. "I put my faith in the legal system and I believe that my name will be cleared at the end of this drawn out process."

She said the timing of the treasury report release was unfortunate because the IEC preparations for the general elections were at a critical stage. – Additional reporting by Verashni Pillay

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