The Ministry of Lands and Housing is investigating officers who went against instructions from the ministry leadership and signed a lease agreement with a company owned by property magnate, Sayed Jamali.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Housing, Thato Raphaka, told the Parliament Public Accounts Committee that the landlord already had a copy of a lease after they signed the Head of Lease document.
“The lease was not supposed to have been signed. We are investigating how the officers came to sign the lease because there was an instruction to that effect. It was unfortunate situation,” said Raphaka.
He further revealed that he approached the Attorney General to seek legal advice after he realized that a lease that was binding the government was signed.
Raphaka said the Attorney General advised him that there was no way they were going to get out of the financial obligation because a commitment had already been made. He told the committee that his ministry wanted to cancel the lease agreement since PPADB had refused to be involved because of the procurement procedures which have been flouted.
In his evidence, he noted that the advise that he was given was that cancelling the lease was going to come at a huge cost to government. The ministry then approached the company owned by Jamali in the presence of their lawyer, seeking to withdraw the lease agreement because it was signed prematurely but they could not agree.
Raphaka said that they wanted the lease to be cancelled because they were made to negotiate for a lease agreement while the procurement process did not comply with PPADB procedures.
PPADB Executive Chairperson, Bridget John, told the Public Accounts Committee that the board rejected the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security’s request to be involved in the procurement because both ministries had sealed a deal with Jamali’s company before they engaged PPADB.
She explained that the board rejected the ministry request on the basis that they had signed a lease agreement without following the tender procedures.
John said that they had advised the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security Permanent Secretary, in the presence of Minister Ndelu Seretse, that since the ministry had gone ahead to conclude the deal with the landlord, the board was not going to be involved. “We advised them accordingly and they did not agree with us. Our position has been correct because we had maintained that the procurement procedure was not followed. And that is why we had difficulty with their request,” said John.
She stated that after the meeting, she made a courtesy call informing Seretse that their request failed. The Minister allegedly stated that the Heads of Lease that were signed between the landlord and the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security was not binding.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security’s Seagakweng Tsiane informed the committee that they were advised by the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) that the threshold for the rental of the building could only be allowed through the PPADB involvement. Tsiane said that it was the MTC which stated that the threshold was beyond the limit of P20 million.
She said that it was then that they approached the PPADB, which refused to be involved, maintaining that the matter was already completed.
Tsiane said that the lease has caused many problems after it was signed in 2012. She said that the landlord had already approached them demanding P19 million from them though they had not yet occupied the building.
According to her they are unable to pay the amount because they don’t have money.
Tsiane stated that, initially, they did not know that the building was owned by Jamali when she was quizzed by Kgatleng East MP Isaac Mabiletsa why they were engaging Jamali while he was battling with government before the courts.
“It’s a difficult question. I don’t have an answer for that sir,” said Tsiane.