Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Chantelle Benjamin

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is being probed by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in at least five different areas for misuse of funds and supply chain management irregularities believed to be worth billions of rands.

The Hawks are assisting the SIU with a number of investigations, including the probe into the police’s information communications (ICT) division.

The Hawks involvement in the ICT probe was announced by Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa on 9 May during a debate in the national assembly on his budget vote.

Mthethwa said “allegations of tender mismanagement, irregular expenditure, and lack of return on investment” with regard to this division had been brought to his attention.

It's both alarming and ironic that the police, tasked with reducing the country’s high crime rate, are the subject of these investigations, which span a seven-year period.

The investigations range from probes into the building of police stations, to questionable procurement contracts for police uniforms and ICT equipment valued at almost R3-billion.

The R1.6-billion police lease deal, involving SAPS headquarters in Middestad and the Transnet building in KwaZulu-Natal, which led to the suspension of Police Commissioner Bheki Cele, is only a small part of the investigation which has now been extended.

This was after the initial probe revealed contraventions beyond the period stipulated in the original proclamation.

The investigation was requested after whistleblowers raised the alarm about irregularities in spending and supply chain management, and SAPS decided there was sufficient evidence to warrant a probe.

Cele met with then head of the SIU Willie Hofmeyr in November 2009 to raise his concern about procurement violations within the SAPS that had come to his attention.

Police annual report: 476 charged for corruption

The extent of contraventions within the SAPS is revealed in their annual report for the 2010/11 financial year. During this period 476 members were charged for corruption, defeating ends of justice, fraud, aiding an escapee, bribery and extortion in terms of the department’s disciplinary regulations, in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, 2004. It could be argued that on a positive note, the investigating and the number of staff members charged suggests the SAPS appears to be making serious efforts to bring errant officers to book.

The SIU, in its presentation to parliament in April, said the SAPS investigation, including the extension, is expected to be completed by mid-2013.

The investigation, involving Cele and the lease deals regarding the Middestad and the Transnet buildings has been completed, with the assistance of the Public Protector.

The SIU told parliament that it had referred a number of cases to the Hawks for possible criminal prosecution.

Focus on supply chain management fraud

In line with government’s stated intention of eliminating widespread supply chain management fraud, estimated to be costing the country billions of rands, the SIU concentrated on irregularities in this regard.

The SIU, in its presentation to parliament in April, said the SAPS investigation, including the extension, is expected to be completed by mid-2013.

Specific procurement contracts, including those for uniforms and ICT equipment are being investigated.

The unit is also looking at irregularities in the building and maintenance of 33 police stations exceeding R330-million, as well as the leasing of buildings by the SAPS through the Department of Public Works. This includes the extension of the Wachthuis building in Pretoria.

It is also looking into conflict of interest allegations.

There are already some indications from investigations that the SAPS did not have the authority to build its own police stations and may have violated tender processes in this case.

The SAPS annual report said of the 476 staff members charged with various offences, 263 were suspended, 215 without salary and 48 with salary.

On corruption charges alone, 479 corruption charges were brought against members, three of which were charged with more than one crime.

Tip of iceberg or sizeable clean-up?

Corruption Watch head David Lewis said while the request for an investigation by SAPS leadership is encouraging, it’s hoped the investigation will bring an end to corruption within the police service.

“There is a ‘glass half full, glass half empty’ aspect to this,” he said.

“On the one hand, it’s evidence of the extent of corruption in the police service. There’s been ample evidence of this from other sources including our investigation into the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, and the widely reported abuse of the police slush fund.

“And it is not clear, he said, “whether the SIU’s successes represent the tip of the iceberg or a substantial clean-up”.

“On the other hand, it is evidence of the SIU’s willingness and ability to take action against an institution as powerful as the police. It’s also evidence of how important it is to have a corruption-busting force that is independent of the police chain of command,” he said.

The SIU investigation into the Department of Human Settlements has also been extended and now covers contraventions to 5 March 2012.

The SIU told parliament that the housing subsidy investigation was in the process of being wrapped up, while the probe into housing contracts is scheduled to continue to the end of April 2013.

Eskom probe

Another national investigation involves Eskom. The go-ahead for the probe was given in February and covers the period 1 January 2006 to 7 February 2012. A completion date is still under discussion between Eskom and the SIU.

SIU spokesperson Marika Muller said this is the first time a state-owned enterprise has approached the SIU for an investigation to be held.

The Eskom investigation, which will be conducted with the assistance of the parastatal’s in-house forensic team, is likely to focus on its coal procurement, transport services and undisclosed interests in companies doing business with Eskom.

Gauteng health probe into graft worth R1bn

A R1-billion investigation into corruption and fraud involving the Gauteng Health Department is expected to be completed by the end of 2012 and is expected to lead to a number of prosecutions.

By December 2011, three cases of fraud had been opened against officials. It recovered hundreds of thousands of rands in duplicate payments.

The SIU is investigating 11 contracts awarded between January 2006 and 14 May 2010, as well as the irregular issuing of tenders, cases of alleged conflict of interest and fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The SIU’s investigation into the department’s finances and tenders was requested by national treasury following investigations by the auditor-general and Gobodo Chartered Accountants.

In 2009, the auditor-general uncovered unauthorised spending of more than R1-billion, and could not obtain sufficient evidence for expenditure of R971-million.

The Gobodo report, which is believed to contain damning evidence, has never been made public.

Corruption Watch has made a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application for access to the Gobodo report, which is expected to name officials involved and provide insight into fees paid for consultants and contracts in which correct tender procedures were not followed.

Muller said the SIU had recovered R77 874 and R414 481 in duplicate payments.

She said two companies involved had acknowledged the debt and committed to refund the department.

"So far three cases of fraud have been registered with the SAPS against a number of senior officials," she said.

However, she refused to name the officials.

SIU’s new commissions

The SIU has also taken on a number of new commissions, including Midvaal local municipality, Gauteng, Department of Roads and Transport, the Eastern Cape, Kopanong local municipality, Free State province, Swellendam local municipality, Western Cape, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs’ Water for All project, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo province.

According to the SIU presentation to parliament in April, the unit recovered R127-million in three quarters of the 2011/12 period and uncovered procurement contract problems to the value of R1.9-billion.



It’s highly alarming – and ironic – that the police service, tasked with reducing SA’s high crime rate, is at the heart of a probe into irregularities worth billions of rands.