THE latest statements on state spending on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home have raised more questions than they have provided answers.
Apart from anything else, in 2010 it was estimated that the upgrade of Nkandla would cost the state some R6.4-million. How did this increase by 3400% in just two years?
Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi acknowledged this week that the price variations on Nkandla went way beyond the permissible 20% limit. Indeed, 3000% certainly falls into the “way beyond” category but it requires a lot more explanation than was provided.
Nxesi also acknowledged some irregularities in appointing service providers and in the procurement of goods and services; and violations of supply chain management procedures and treasury prescripts.
In the light of these – that may have inflated the price – how can Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa claim the spending was justifiable?
The claim that the president himself was not involved in the matter is ludicrous. Not only is there the 2010 letter to Zuma from Public Works providing exhaustive details about progress on the Nkandla security project, but since Nxesi says Zuma regularly used the residence, surely any homeowner would want to sign off on such vast construction.
And if Zuma did not, then who did, and according to what criteria?
The bottom line however, is that spending R206-million on security upgrades is, in a developing country such as ours, morally indefensible. It is time Zuma and his ministers answered some real questions. Who were the consultants and contractors? What was their mandate and what exactly did each charge for their services?
The government is spending a further R1.4-billion from the public purse on “upgrading” official residences of the president, deputy president and cabinet ministers in Cape Town and Pretoria. Given that one already luxurious ministerial home alone will cost some R15-million to upgrade, similar questions need to be answered on who is doing the building and why the prices are so high. And why are the upgrades necessary?
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and auditor-general Terence Nombembe say their own investigations into the Nkandla affair will continue – despite the findings of the Nxesi’s in-house team.
We look forward to their reports.