[From our archives] Inquiry: Phiyega guilty of fraud, perjury, misconduct

Suspended police commissioner Riah Phiyega. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Suspended police commissioner Riah Phiyega. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Suspended national police commissioner Riah Phiyega on Wednesday found herself in an even more precarious position following the release of two reports – one by MPs that recommends she face another board of inquiry into her conduct, and the other by a ministerial reference group accusing her of, among others, fraud, perjury, and misconduct.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s reference group, established in September last year to probe complaints by senior managers against Phiyega, made some damning findings.

Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on police, Nhleko said Phiyega was found to have committed misconduct with regard to some dodgy human resources practices.

Nhleko said Phiyega’s removal of Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya and Lieutenant General Leah Mofomme after they refused to accept demotion was in contravention of the Labour Relations Act.

“The recommendation by the reference group is that the national commissioner misconducted herself,” the minister said.

With regard to Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, the lieutenant general who acted as national police commissioner before Phiyega’s appointment, the reference group found he was “treated with prejudice and malice” after his acting stint came to an end.

“He had no office allocated to him or people to manage and was made to stay home for more than a year,” the reference group report said.

“He was later made to sign a backdated performance agreement and was scored as having performed well during the period he was at home.”

According to Nhleko this amounted to fraud and misconduct.

The reference group also made findings in respect of the two officers who opened a case of defeating the ends of justice against Phiyega – Brigadier Mzwandile Tiyo and major general Chris Ngcobo. The charges related to Phiyega informing suspended Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer of criminal charges being investigated against him.

“Major-general Ngcobo was charged and Brigadier Tiyo is off sick. Such individuals could not have had their cases administered by the national commissioner or her subordinates, as she had already been conflicted,” the report found.

Disciplinary steps were recommended against Phiyega for tipping off Lamoer about the investigation against him.

Phiyega is also accused of committing “a criminal act of perjury and misconduct by bringing the SAPS into disrepute”.
This finding emanates from a grievance lodged by Mkhwanazi against Phiyega regarding the court action over suspended crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli.

“Lieutenant General Mkhwanazi had informed the national commissioner about the initiation of disciplinary steps against Lieutenant Gen Mdluli, however to his surprise, the national commissioner told the court such steps were not initiated by him and the court found that there was a dereliction of duty by Lieutenant Gen Mkhwanazi,” the report states.

The lack of disciplinary action against Mdluli, and the fact that he has been at home on full pay for more than two years, was regarded as “wasteful and fruitless expenditure” on Phiyega’s part, the reference group found.

The reference group also recommended that KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen be reinstated, upholding his claims that his suspension on fraud charges was unfair.

“Provincial Commissioner [Mmamonnye Ngobeni] needs to answer to the allegations by the DPCI [Hawks]/IPID[Indendent Police Investigative Directorate] and that the suspension of Gen Booysen was unfair and that he must be reinstated.”

In a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Nhleko said that three teams would now be established to implement the recommendations.

One team, led by the acting national police commissioner, would look at the human resource problems besetting SAPS, placing generals who have not been posted, and negotiating exit packages where necessary.

“The second team led by a retired judge or senior advocate should look at formulating charges and having a disciplinary inquiry as recommended by the national director of public prosecutions,” said Nhleko, referring to Phiyega’s conduct when she alerted Lamoer that she was investigating him.

“The last group should be led by a commercial crimes investigator for possible crimes of wasteful expenditure in terms of the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act], wasteful cancellation of tenders, etc.”

Nhleko would not commit to time frames on when the teams would complete their work, except to say it was urgent to rectify the problems within SAPS which have affected morale among the ordinary men and women in blue.

Minutes before Nhleko addressed the portfolio committee, the MPs adopted a report which recommended Phiyega face another board of inquiry into her conduct during a meeting of the Board of Commissioners (BOC), a body consisting of the country’s national and provincial police commissioners, on July 16 and 17.

The MPs report found that Phiyega had participated in discussions on the Farlam Commission recommendations despite there being a “conflict of interest” as she was directly affected by the commission’s report.

In addition, the transcripts show Phiyega had chastised provincial commissioners for their silence following the release of the Farlam commission report, despite members of the BOC denying that Phiyega had pressured them to issue a media statement supporting her.

The report said though the provincial commissioners had attempted to “play down the role of the national commissioner”, she had influenced her subordinates to issue the statement supporting her.

MPs recommended that action, in the form of a board of inquiry, be taken against members of the BOC, which included nine provincial and acting provincial police commissioners, Phiyega’s spokesman Solomon Makgale, two deputy national police commissioners, one divisional commissioner, and one acting divisional commissioner.

The media statement was issued on August 1 while President Zuma was considering whether to institute a probe into Phiyega’s fitness to hold office as recommended by the Farlam Commission which found fault with the police’s handling of the Lonmin strike which led to the deaths of 34 people at Marikana on August 16, 2012.

MPs found the provincial commissioners had acted outside of their mandate by entering the “political terrain” by issuing the statement which was “timed to influence the process initiated by the President”.

“The committee recommends that the relevant executive authorities consider the appointments of boards of inquiry to inquire into the conduct of the relevant provincial commissioners and acting provincial commissioners, who declared their support for the suspended national commissioner in a statement on 1 August 2015 and a second statement on 13 August 2015, or any other appropriate steps.

“The committee finds that the aim of the statement [on August 1] was to influence the decision of President.”

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