The witness was testifying in the R155 million civil recovery proceedings against Nkandla architect Minenhle Makhanya.
A SPECIALIST from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has revealed that 14 consultants with fraudulent certification were involved in the security upgrades at former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.
The witness, who could not be named as the matter was being held in camera at the Pietermaritzburg High Court, testified in the R155 million civil recovery proceedings against Nkandla architect Minenhle Makhanya.
It was also revealed that the initial budget for upgrades was estimated to be R27 million.
The decision to proceed with the matter in camera came as the Special Tribunal was alerted to information about private security details that would expose former president Jacob Zuma’s security.
In March 2014, former public protector Thuli Madonsela released her final report on upgrades at Zuma’s Nkandla homestead. She found that Zuma and his family had benefited from measures implemented in the name of security.
The “Secure in Comfort” report found that Zuma and his family had unduly benefited from the R246m spent on non-security features at Nkandla – including a swimming pool, kraal, chicken run and visitors’ centre – and that he should pay back part of the money.
A civil claim was instituted against Makhanya after the upgrades at Zuma’s home were found to be excessive.
The matter was first enrolled in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in September 2014, and transferred to the Special Tribunal by agreement of the parties.
The Special Investigating Unit is now seeking to recover an estimated R155m from Makhanya, which is alleged to have been from irregularities in the contract that, it is contended, was awarded and amended several times in alleged violation and disregard to the legislative prescripts governing procurement in public institutions.
The hearing was initially scheduled for July, but was postponed to the end of this month after Makhanya told the Special Tribunal in the case management leading up to the period that he did not have funds to cover the trial costs. He had applied to the Legal Aid Board for legal assistance, which was declined.
Makhanya confirmed to Judge Kantharuby Pillay that he would be representing himself due to his financial situation. He said the SIU was using state funds to fight an ordinary man, while he had run out of resources.
Makhanya raised concerns about the media presence in court since he claimed he has been found guilty in the court of public opinion.
The first witness, who could not be named, testified that in May 2009 the security upgrades project was undertaken. The police and the SANDF were involved in the preparation of the report, and appointed Makhanya as the project manager through the Department of Public Works. According to the witness, the project increased in scope, as did the budget. The regular scope changes increased and ultimately stood at R216m. The first budget was estimated to be R27m.
The adjustments led to the loss of R155m beyond the budgeted amount. The private, professional team was appointed in an irregular manner, according to the witness.
A helicopter pad and an upgrade of the security infrastructure at Zuma’s homestead were included, but were not in the original scope of the work. The funding of the project came from the Department of Public Works, said the witness.
The witness said it would be interesting to know who took the decision to adjust the scope of work that resulted in the damages suffered financially by the state. The witness also said it would be interesting to know what action had been taken against those who implemented it.
The court heard that the proclamation that authorised the SIU came following a recommendation by a ministerial task team. Its immediate mandate was to look at the procurement processes in which irregularities were found.
According to the witness, its investigation found that other state departments were also involved. The SIU investigated several state officials, 15 consultants and contractors appointed by the Department of Public Works, and those who influenced procurement processes.
The witness said 110 interviews were conducted, 59 statements were obtained and 75 bank accounts of public works officials were scrutinised. Investigations revealed that there were several over designs, over-payments and over-charging of amounts, and 14 consultants with fraudulent certificates were found.
The upgrading of the facilities outside the scope of the original work was a problem and resulted in the large-scale increase of the costs, the witness said.
Although the National Treasury’s regulations require that proper planning should be in place and that the procurement should be done in compliance with the law, the witness said that several areas were concerning as there were discrepancies in the procurement processes.
The witness will continue testifying on Tuesday.
– Politican Bureau