S.Africa fraud buster slams top cop over lease deal

14th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A corruption investigator ruled Thursday that South Africa's national police chief was guilty of "maladministration" in a lease deal that saw police try to pay three times the market rate for a building.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela slammed Police Commissioner Bheki Cele for his handling of the deal, which saw police offer 1.16 billion rand ($169 million, 119 million euros) to a politically connected real estate magnate for a 10-year lease that her investigators found was worth less than one third that amount.

"The failure of the national commissioner to ensure that the procurement process complied with the said legal requirements... resulted in the invalid conclusion of the lease agreement to the detriment of the state, and therefore constituted maladministration," she said in a briefing on her office's report on the deal.

Madonsela said her team had found no evidence of criminality but ruled the agreement was illegitimate and unlawful.

She said Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa should discipline the police chief, and also called on President Jacob Zuma to consider taking action against Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde for failing to cooperate with her investigation.

The deal involved a bid to lease a new police headquarters in the eastern port city of Durban from Roux Shabangu, a real estate tycoon who has described himself as a friend of the president.

Madonsela's investigation came on the heels of an earlier probe into a similar lease deal in Pretoria that found Cele guilty of misconduct for trying to lease a national police heaquarters from Shabangu at an inflated price.

That investigation found the police had rejected a deal to rent the same space at a lower price from a previous owner, costing taxpayers an extra 12.2 million rand in the first year of the lease.

© 2011 AFP

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