A forensic investigator from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has testified that the 14 consultants who worked on the upgrades at former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead had “fraudulent certificates”.
The investigator was testifying at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in the civil recovery proceedings against Nkandla architect Minenhle Makhanya.
The witness can’t be named as the hearing is being heard in camera. This is to ensure confidential security information about Zuma’s homestead is not revealed.
According to the Special Tribunal, the SIU is attempting to recoup at least R155 million from Makhanya. It said there were “irregularities” in the contract to renovate the homestead.
On the first day of the hearings on Monday, the witness also revealed that the initial budget for the Nkandla upgrades was estimated to be R27 million. The cost ballooned to about R246 million.
Zuma was ordered by the Constitutional Court to pay back R7.8 million for upgrades that were not security related. This came after a report by the then public protector Thuli Madonsela. Some of the non-security upgrades included a “fire pool”, amphitheatre, chicken run and helipad.
The funding of the upgrades came from the Department of Public Works, said the witness.
The witness said Makhanya was appointed directly by the Department of Public Works and that the appointment was unlawful, irregular and unprocedural. According to the Special Tribunal, there was no open tender or competitive bidding for the job.
The SIU was asked to investigate the procurement processes involved in the security upgrades. The witness said the unit’s investigations revealed several over-designs, overpayments and overcharging of amounts. It also found 14 consultants with fraudulent certificates.
Court proceedings were first instituted against Makhanya seven years ago but the Special Tribunal said there have been several substantial delays.
“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 hearing was initially scheduled for July but was postponed to end of September after Mr Makhanya told the Special Tribunal… 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,” the tribunal said.
As he claims he cannot afford a lawyer, Makhanya is unrepresented.
The proceedings will be heard by the Special Tribunal from 27 September 2021 until 1 October 2021. Judge Kate Pillay is presiding.
Three more witnesses are expected to testify for the SIU, including an architect, quantity surveyor and forensic investigator.
Compiled by Gareth Cotterell