President Jacob Zuma’s name was used to push through the security upgrades to his Nkandla residence and influence decisions, according to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) who dubbed it “disturbing”.
In its final 245-page report tabled in Parliament on Friday, the SIU noted several government officials named-dropped Zuma in an effort to have parts of the Nkandla project approved – albeit unlawfully.
The SIU investigation is the the third investigation into the R216-million upgrade to Zuma’s homes.
“There appeared to be a disturbing tendency to invoke the name of the president to move the project along and to influence decisions,” the report stated.
Zuma however denied that he interfered in the process.
Interference in the project
The SIU report noted that public works officials claimed to be threatened by the then minister Geoffrey Doidge and his deputy Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu .
Doidge and Bogopane-Zulu denied any interference in the project.
Bogopane-Zulu said she was providing “political leadership” and was concerned about the delays in the project.
“For example, [Superintendent LF] Linde, in his written request for temporary accommodation for the SAPS [South African Police Service] officials stated that the president wished to use the hut that had previously been used by the SAPS officials. However, Linde later told the SIU that these were his own words and not that of the president,” the report reads.
The report was cautious in making a finding of political interference but, interestingly, noted that it may well be the subject of subsequent court cases.
The SIU further warned against ministers who intervene in matters that are being dealt with by department officials. “They need to be conscious of the fact that such intervention should not be construed as interference.”
Ignorance of laws
The report pointed out that ignorance of laws and regulations on the part of senior officials was a critical factor which led to the overspend.
“Second, however, even when officials were aware of what their obligations were, on a number of occasions they simply failed to fulfil them because of, among other reasons, the absence of moral courage to do the right thing or simply failure to apply their minds to the matter.”
The SIU raised concerns about some officials who “deliberately ignored” rules and regulations and were confident enough to think their decisions would be endorsed.
The Cabinet memo on security upgrades of the president’s homes was also ignored. “This is hardly surprising,” the SIU found. “If public officials are not aware of the regulatory scheme that governs their activities, the chances are high that they would be acting irregularly.”
Other damning findings include:
- The scope of the project “bizarrely” changed constantly until the end;
- The cost estimate for the project was never approved by the minister of state security Siyabonga Cwele nor public works minister Geoffrey Doidge;
- Only two out of 15 contractors appointed through a valid procurement process; and
- Most appointments did not follow an open tender process.
The report noted that the appointment of Zuma’s personal architect, Minenhle Makhanya, to head the project was “most unfortunate”, “ill advised” and “invalid and unlawful”.
The SIU is suing Makhanya for R155-million. It claims the projects would have not costs as much if he complied with the obligations and responsibilities which formed part of his contract with the department of public works.
The SIU also wants three acting directors general – during the time of the upgrade – of the department criminally charged for financial misconduct.
They are Solomon Malebye, Sam Vukela and Siviwe Dongwana.
The SIU has made at least 12 disciplinary referrals and alerted incidents of fraudulent tax certificates.