Cele clarifies 'incorrect' reports on rental deal

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pretoria - Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele has clarified "incorrect and worse, misleading" newspaper reports that he was behind a dodgy R500-million lease agreement.

A Sunday newspaper reported that Cele had signed a R500m property rental deal that would see police headquarters move to the Middestad Sanlam centre in Pretoria. The newspaper reported that the deal was not treated as a tender, violating Treasury regulations. Government contracts worth over R500 000 go through a bid process.

"To this day, I remain perturbed about why would a reputable newspaper publicise incorrect and worse misleading information. In addition, I am made a leading figure in the precarious rental deal which has seen analysts and politicians alike baying for my soul," Cele told a media briefing on Tuesday.

He said time would tell if legal action would be taken against the Sunday Times.

The Commissioner said since he was appointed to the SAPS he had concerned himself with issues of governance and it had come as a shock when he was accused of conduct that was in conflict with what he had set out to do.

Explaining why SAPS had to look at other premises, Cele said the organisation had expanded and the Wachthuis building in Pretoria, which currently houses the SAPS, had become over-populated.

This resulted in the SAPS embarking on needs assessment as required by law regulating the leasing of properties by government.

Cele clarified that he had never signed off on any lease agreement as reported by the media, but had signed the needs assessment of the SAPS.

"I have since approved the needs assessment for additional premises to accommodate the SAPS. The needs assessment by the SAPS (purportedly as the lease agreement between me and the service provider by the media) was duly signed off by me. Let me stress that this is where my role as Accounting Officer for the SAPS ends," he added.

The Commissioner also explained that the figure of R500-million was for a lease over a 10 year period.

Cele said he did not know Roux Shabangu, the owner of the Middestad Sanlam Centre, and had met him for the first time a few weeks ago when he made a presentation regarding the new premises.

By this time the Department of Public Works (DPW) had already signed the deal with Shabangu, the Commissioner added.

It was the mandate of DPW to sign off on lease agreements, Cele explained.

In a media statement on Monday, DPW said there was nothing irregular about the lease agreement and clarified that line departments, including the SAPS, did not sign leases with landlords.

"...this is the mandate of the DPW as the landlord of the state, so it was inaccurate to imply that General Cele signed a lease with anyone," the statement said.

Cele, as the Accounting Officer responsible, signed an accommodation needs assessment of the SAPS for the DPW's implementation, the department added.

"Client department's responsibilities are to sign needs assessments as well as funding certificates confirming the availability of funding for their needs. This authorises the DPW to start the process of procurement," the statement continued.

The department said no procurement processes were flouted even though no tenders were awarded as the approach followed by the department was a "negotiated approach" which was completely legal.

"This means that the DPW received urgent needs from the SAPS in this instance, after which it became key that DPW approaches this in a negotiated fashion as provided by the relevant supply chain management prescripts of government. The issue of other bidders therefore falls away," the statement read.

As a growing service, the SAPS needed additional accommodation and it was for this reason that the DPW had acquired the Middestad Sanlam Centre as an addition to the Wachthuis building, DPW added.

"According to a signed lease agreement, the client was expected to occupy the additional Pretoria space anytime as from the 1 November 2010, essentially meaning that both leases (i.e for Wachthuis & Middestad) will run concurrently at market-related rental," the department said.

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