/ 14 October 2016

Hawks probe leaves treasury’s Kenneth Brown unfazed

Curiouser and curiouser: Kenneth Brown won’t be drawn on the large amounts paid into his home loan account
Curiouser and curiouser: Kenneth Brown won’t be drawn on the large amounts paid into his home loan account

The state’s chief procurement officer, Kenneth Brown, is not having sleepless nights worrying about corruption allegations levelled against him that are being investigated by the Hawks.

In an interview, the top-level treasury official said he would not speculate on who was behind the allegations but “deep down, I know why”.

Two weeks ago, he was thrust into the spotlight over large deposits that had been made into his home loan account.

Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi, the president of the Progressive Professionals Forum, said someone had left an envelope under his door containing personal details about Brown.

Last week, the Mail & Guardian received a similar dossier, which among other things shows that several payments had been made into his home loan account for a property in the exclusive Pebble Rock Golf Village in Pretoria.

The banking records cover a period between 2012 and 2015, during which large and smaller payments were made into the account. They include a teller transfer of R206 567 in June 2013.

In July of the same year, R200 000 was deposited and then R60 000, followed by R23 000. In March 2014, two amounts of R50 000 were credited. In total, for the period reflected in the statements, R1-million was credited.

Though Brown agrees that the documents are his and that the house in question exists, he would not say why such large deposits were made. “I can see the excitement because there are these bank records, the ones you have shown me. They are mine. It would be interesting to know what you are doing with them.

“This thing is with the police and I cannot divulge anything … I may tell you things implicating myself. When the right time comes, this story will become very clear and every cent in that will become very clear.”

The treasury has asked Manyi for a copy of the dossier so that it can investigate the claims.

A point of contention and confusion is that, when Manyi first made the revelations, he said the statements were from Standard Bank – but they are actually from Absa.

Treasury correspondence with Manyi that Brown showed to the M&G pledges “to provide you [Manyi] with a sworn affidavit that this Standard Bank mortgage account does not have cash or credit transfers as claimed, other than his [Brown’s] salary”.

Brown believes people are clutching at straws and says it has become difficult for him to respond to every allegation. “For me, the fact that someone else is referring to a different bank mortgage and you have another one, what is it that I am supposed to explain?”

Yolisa Tyantsi, the spokesperson for the treasury, said all it could do under the circumstances was to wait for the Hawks to conduct their inquiry.

“It is confusing because he [Manyi] is the one that started it, saying that the statements are from Standard Bank, yet they are from Absa. This is why we cannot even engage on the matter.

“We don’t have the information, and that’s why we are now relying on getting exactly what’s in front of the authorities so we know what we need to take action on as the department,” Tyantsi said.

Hangwani Mulaudzi, the spokesperson for the Hawks, said the inquiry into Brown’s financial affairs was in its initial stage and the unit was trying to verify the documents in the dossier it had been given.

But he would not comment on allegations that the Hawks had already requested and received permission to access Brown’s Absa accounts under the Financial Intelligence Centre Act. “I won’t speculate,” Brown responded when asked why he and his wife’s home loans and vehicle purchases were under scrutiny.

But these revelations come against the backdrop of his family ties, also included in the dossier, which are alleged to have something to do with the deposits.

It is alleged that his wife, Odette Brown, is the sister of Margaret-Ann Diedricks, the director general of the water and sanitation department until four months ago. Odette’s brother is Riccardo Diedricks, who has done consulting work for companies that received contracts from the provincial and national water affairs departments.

All three siblings have denied any dodgy dealings involving the water departments and the treasury.

Brown said his current and previous positions haven’t allowed him to sit on any adjudication boards or have any say in tenders in any departments.

“It is improper for me to sit on any adjudication board. We have concluded big contracts but my role is to say that people must go and do research around any tenders we need. I only hear of the contract when I am told it has already been awarded,” he said.

“I don’t get involved in any tender in departments related to the work we do. I don’t have authority to sit in another department’s tender process at all.”

Margaret-Ann Diedricks said she had no idea who her brother’s business associates are. “I was not even in the departments at the time water contracts like those of Sweetwater and Giyani were made. I have had no involvement with anything to do with my brother or his associates getting any contracts,” she added.

Meanwhile, Brown has made it clear that he is waging a war against corruption. “And it must be fought without fear, favour or prejudice. If it so happens that I am found to be corrupt, I must be dealt with,” he said.