Nkandla ten­der was ‘hush and rush’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - BER­NADETTE WOLHUTER

“HUSH and rush” was how a mem­ber of the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit yes­ter­day de­scribed the process of award­ing a mul­ti­mil­lion-rand con­tract for se­cu­rity up­grades at Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home to con­struc­tion com­pany Money Mine 310 CC.

Chris­tian Leg­wabe, the chief foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tor tasked with look­ing into the con­tract, was tes­ti­fy­ing on the sec­ond day of Pub­lic Works of­fi­cial Jayshree Pardesi’s in­ter­nal dis­ci­plinary hear­ing.

Pardesi is charged with mis­con­duct for sign­ing off on the dodgy con­tract – for which Money Mine was the only bid­der – when she was an as­sis­tant di­rec­tor at the de­part­ment’s KZN of­fices in 2010.

Leg­wabe said nor­mally there were sev­eral days be­tween the sit­tings of the Bid Eval­u­a­tion Com­mit­tee (BEC) – which eval­u­ates ten­ders and makes rec­om­men­da­tions – and the Re­gional Bid Ad­ju­di­ca­tion Com­mit­tee (RBAC), which ap­proves or re­jects rec­om­men­da­tions.

But in the case of the Money Mine con­tract and ac­cord­ing to the BEC’s min­utes, it sat at 1pm on June 15, 2010. The RBAC sat on the same day but its min­utes are miss­ing and so it is un­clear what time this was.

“Maybe af­ter they (the BEC) sat, they then went around 2pm or 3pm,” Leg­wabe said. “It’s ab­nor­mal. I would call it ‘hush and rush’.”

Money Mine was awarded the con­tract for work on the fence, the main house and sev­eral ron­dav­els at the res­i­dence, through a “ne­go­ti­ated pro­cure­ment strat­egy” where no one else bids.

A ne­go­ti­ated strat­egy is “the least de­sir­able of all ac­qui­si­tion pro­ce­dures” as it is not open and fair.

It has been sug­gested that Zuma re­quested Money Mine do the work on Nkandla, but Leg­wabe said the pres­i­dent de­nied this.

“We did in­ter­view the pres­i­dent – or sent him a list of ques­tions – and he never gave any­one in­struc­tions to say, ‘Hire Money Mine’,” he said.

Mo­ments ear­lier, how­ever, Leg­wabe read from an in­ter­nal mem­o­ran­dum is­sued be­fore the con­tract was awarded.

“The owner of the prop­erty has ap­pointed a con­trac­tor, Money Mine In­vest­ments, to con­struct new ac­com­mo­da­tion. The sta­tus is that the con­trac­tor is on site and con­struc­tion is 15% com­pleted,” he read.

He ex­plained that be­fore Zuma be­came pres­i­dent, he em­ployed Money Mine to work on his home. Af­ter he be­came pres­i­dent, se­cu­rity of­fi­cials car­ried out an as­sess­ment, con­clud­ing he was “not safe” and said he needed an up­grade.

“Ac­cord­ing to (the project man­ager), the owner (Zuma) re­quested Money Mine to come back and do the work be­cause there was a re­la­tion­ship – a trust re­la­tion­ship or some­thing like that,” Leg­wabe said.

Ap­par­ently, the project man­ager said if Money Mine were to stop work be­fore it was com­plete and to wait fur­ther in­struc­tions, it would re­sult in “a great em­bar­rass­ment to the de­part­ment”.

“(He) was try­ing to do a good name for him­self and the de­part­ment… It was ‘rush-rush’ be­cause he was look­ing at not be­ing em­bar­rassed.”

Be­fore cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, pro­ceed­ings were ad­journed for Pardesi’s le­gal team to se­cure doc­u­ments they needed in light of ev­i­dence the de­part­ment’s lawyer had led.

Pro­ceed­ings will re­sume late next month.

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