Sunday, January 27, 2013

No evidence public money spent on Nkandla – Nxesi

The government’s investigation into the multi-million rand splurge on President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla has sought to absolve the president of any wrong-doing.

Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said the investigation, which has revealed that the state has paid over R206 million for the upgrades so far, had found “no evidence that public money was spent to build the private residence of the president or that any house belonging to the president was built with public money”.

Nxesi insisted that the Zuma family had paid for the building of the houses.

But the report of the task team, which has not been released for “security” reasons, has found that government tender policies were flouted in the procurement of good and services for the Nkandla project.

For example, the Public Works officials involved did not comply with National Treasury regulations that allow for a variation of only 20% from the approved tender figure.

“There are many officials (involved) at the national department and at the regional level. But for now we don’t want to give out those details,” Nxesi said.

Nxesi, who was flanked by National Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, said investigations into the irregularities would be referred to police, the Auditor-General and the Special Investigating Unit.

The professionals who are found to have acted unethically regarding the expenses of the project would be reported to their professional bodies, he said.

The expenditure on Zuma’s house breaks down as follows:

» R71 212 621.79 for security upgrades, including consultancy fees

» R135 208 022.58 for state departments’ operational needs, including consultancy fees

» The total amount of money spent by the government so far is R206 420 644.37

When pressed for details, Nxesi revealed that the exact amount of money spent on the actual security upgrades was just over R50-million, and over R20-million on consultancy fees.

Nxesi said the money on Zuma’s security was not high compared with what was spent on former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, but would not provide details on how much the state forked out for their private security.

Facilities such as the clinic will become the legacy of the village’s community when Zuma has stepped out of power, he said.

Asked about reports suggesting that Zuma was not aware of the expenses involved in the project, Radebe said Zuma did not sign for anything related to the Nkandla project because he was not involved in the details of the security upgrade.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the party welcomes the findings of the task team as they would “bring to closure the issue of eNkandla that has generated speculative public opinion and has been used to incorrectly attack the president, the ANC, and its government”.

“This report vindicates the President and our belief in the innocence of the President in this regard, on what he consistently said were lies and that he personally built his residence and that the government only built security features that are prescribed in relevant security prescripts,” he said.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is carrying out her own investigation into the Nkandla upgrades.

DA Parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, described the investigation as a “whitewash”, saying it was “a poor attempt to shield President Zuma from being held accountable for this exorbitant waste of public money on his private residence.”

She said the report blamed low-ranking officials instead of addressing the concerns about how Zuma allowed the Nkandla spending to happen.

“The fact that this report will not be made public brings into question its independence and casts a further shadow on the entire scandal.

“I will therefore be calling on Minister Nxesi to table this report in Parliament for it to be fully scrutinized and debated. If he is not prepared to do so, Speaker Max Sisulu must intervene to ensure that this happens without delay,” Mazibuko said.

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