SABC – The Public Works project manager for the controversial upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’sNkandla residence has fingered the president himself in the allegedly irregular awarding of a construction contract.
This has emerged in the disciplinary hearing of another Public Works employee Jayshree Pardesi who is charged with misconduct after being part of the bid adjudication committee decision to award the contract to Money Mine.
The contract was allegedly irregular because the department chose to negotiate a price with Money Mine alone, instead of putting it out to open tender.
The hearing has heard that the president denied the allegation by the project manager and that the official is now also facing disciplinary charges.
Special Investigations Unit member Christian Legwabe has told the committee conducting Jayshree Pardesi’s disciplinary hearing that according to project manager, Jean Rendell, it was President Jacob Zuma himself who wanted Money Mine to get the contract.
Legwabe has testified Rendell told him this when being interviewed during his investigation into the controversial upgrades at the president’s Nkandla residence.
He says Rendell told him that Money Mine was already doing private construction work at the residence and that Zuma felt a relationship of trust had been established.
It was, however, not clear from Legwabe’s evidence how such an instruction to appoint Money Mine was given to him.
Legwabe says it would have been unlawful in terms of the Public Finance Management Act. Rendell could not furnish written proof of such an instruction.
Legwabe says the SIU raised the allegation in a list of questions to the president.
“We did interview the president or sent a list of questions pertaining to a lot of things and he never gave anyone an instruction to say hire Money Mine. So I am happy with his explanation and I’m happy with what Rendell said to me, hence I charged him.”
The upshot was that disciplinary steps are being taken against Rendell, together with Pardesi and eight other Public Works officials.
A civil claim has also been lodged against Money Mine to recover alleged irregular expenditure.
Legwabe has testified that it was clear from the interview with Rendell and memoranda he wrote that he wanted to put the security upgrades out to open tender.
Christian says, “Rendell is an experienced project manager. He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to go for open tender, but for whatever reason, according to him, somebody then said ‘actually, you have to negotiate with Money Mine’.”
Legwabe says even Money Mine was initially under the impression that they were taking part in an open tender.
According to Rendell’s memoranda to the bid adjudication committee, a negotiation strategy to award the contract was already adopted by Public Works in March 2009.
Legwabe has testified that given that the contract was awarded more than a year and a half later in June 2010, there would have been enough time to put it out to open tender.
“So, meaning it has been negotiation between DPW and Money Mine for a very long period and when you look at that period one could have gone for open tender, not a negotiated strategy. Because they had enough time and as you said, there was no catastrophy or any urgency or emergency in this process.”
Legwabe says, as is evident from a memorandum Rendell wrote to the bid adjudication committee in May 2010, a rush job was done.
“He says the risk is currently that the contractor appointed by the principal will have to stop working as soon as all three houses have progressed to above roof height as he would have to wait for further instruction from DPW over the installation of the security upgrade. This will result in a great embarrassment to the department.”
The R6.1 million contract was awarded on the 15th of June 2010 after the bid evaluation committee and the bid adjudication sat on the same day.
Legwabe has called this turn of events abnormal, since the adjudication normally needs time to go through the recommendations.
The disciplinary hearing has been adjourned to the 31st of August.
This is to give the defence an opportunity to gather all the documents regarding a second contract of R38 million that was awarded to Money Mine.