Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday released a report titled Over a Barrel, in which she found that none of the allegations of improper conduct in procurement of a piece of parking space, registered as Erf 246 Roggebaai, by the City of Cape Town were substantiated by evidence.
The investigation followed complaints received in March 2012 from the Chief Whip of the majority party in Parliament, Dr Mathole Motshekga.
This was after the Cape Times newspaper reported that the City was set to purchase the property from Naspers Properties (Pty) Ltd at the cost of R106-million. This was reportedly for the expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre (ICC), in which the City is a shareholder.
Dr Motshekga had mentioned that, according to independent property experts quoted in the media, the property was valued at no more than R50-million and that taxpayers would, as a result, have to pay double the property's market value. It was further alleged that the transaction raised "serious" questions regarding the nature of the relationship between the Democratic Alliance and Naspers.
Dr Motshekga had requested the Public Protector to look into whether the deal was above board and of benefit to the people of the City; whether the purchase price in the amount of R106-million was justified; whether there was collusion between the City and Naspers to short-change taxpayers; and whether there were individuals who benefited from the deal or "whose palms were greased" through the deal.
During the investigation, the Public Protector identified two more issues for investigation, namely; whether approval by the City Council was required to consent to and register a height restriction against the property and whether the City, as the prospective purchaser, took charge of the negotiations, which led to the sales agreement.
Following the investigation, which included the procurement of expert services to review the valuation of the property, with the opinion of the said expert being that the City's valuation was sound, the Public Protector found that the transaction between the City and Naspers was above board and generally of benefit to the public.
She found that reports or allegations that the value of the property was no more than R50-million, were not substantiated by the evidence obtained during the investigation.
The Public Protector, however, found that the purchase price of the property was R2-million more than the initial valuation that was obtained by the ICC in August 2010 and R1-million more than the subsequent updated valuation.
No evidence could be found to indicate collusion between the City and Naspers to short-change taxpayers, the report stated. In addition, no evidence of individuals improperly benefiting through the transaction could be found.
Article continues on page two: the officials of the City failed to obtain approval from the City Council prior to concluding an agreement with Naspers to register a height restriction...